I had a conversation with Joe Hemrajani of MyTailor about laser measuring for shirts and tailored clothing the other day, and it raised an interesting if somewhat obscure point in my mind. Now by this we are not talking about the in-store booths at Levi Strauss and others that scan you to tell what ready to wear models will best fit someone with your waistline, chest and inseam. Some of those programs also offer made for the individual clothing with customized features, but the product is clearly not bespoke.
There is however another level to this technology, where a man strips to his underwear and is scanned for up to a hundred individual measurements (which is ten times as many data points as are taken by the typical bespoke tailor). The measurements are entered into a computer-aided design program that - and here is the heart of the matter - creates an individual pattern for the shirt, jacket or other garment in question. And that individual pattern, my friends has historically been the thing that differentiates between bespoke and made to measure clothing.
There can be process differences of course. The bespoke tailor takes fewer measurements expecting to modify his pattern and the garment over the course of several fittings. Most scanner users hope to dispense with fittings altogether by virtue of the laser's increased accuracy, but to me the question arises when a tailor takes the garment produced by that scan and makes any required adjustments. That is of course the bespoke process to a metaphorical tee.
Scanning technology is probably better suited for shirtmaking than it is to tailored clothing at this time, shirts being considerably simpler than jackets. But the principal cost in the bespoke process is the usually very well paid man who makes the pattern, and the advancing age of many of those men is the principal reason that bespoke tailoring is becoming rarer every year.
There is another element to this of course, which is that someone has to design the garment to be made in the first place. An Anderson & Sheppard pattern has to be different than one from Huntsman if it is to accommodate that house's style. But once designed, perhaps by a specialist, the pattern could be converted into garments indefinitely without the aid of a traditional cutter.
Is it bespoke? Sure sounds like it to me.