Just what is bespoke?

Duncan Gilmour, managing director of Screenworks, provides his thoughts on the bespoke clothing industry, as well as some helpful pointers.

Q. What is bespoke?

Quality and accuracy of production have always been two of the greatest challenges faced by customers looking to order clothing. Clothing sizes and quality of production can vary greatly between brands, and even within batches. With more detailing and complicated prints these issues can often be exacerbated. Bespoke has been designed to tackle this issue head on.

Bespoke is the premium of clothing design. The client is able to choose everything, from the fabric, to the colour, the cut and all decoration and embellishments. Every element of the product will be specifically designed to align perfectly with a brand.

These projects will generally have a longer lead-time – ranging from four to 16 weeks depending on the size and complexity of the project. In terms of planning, when it comes to bespoke products, the design stage should generally be given at least 25% of the timeline for the overall project

MOQs will always be higher than with stock and customised, mainly due to the dying and the manufacturing of the garments. Most minimums start from 500 or 1,000 pieces and costs will also be substantially higher, unless an order is in the tens of thousands.

Q. What is customised?

Customised caters for those who are looking for something a bit more unique than general stock clothing.

Clothing or items can be purchased from manufacturers and then numerous techniques can be employed, such as adding branded zippers, neck tape, labels or studs, to alter the stock product to look more in keeping with brand identity or style.

Colour and style are the key limiters here. Creative design and a true understanding of the brand are critical, but if the selected stock garment isn’t available in the desired or corporate colours this approach won’t work. The same goes for style, when you go with customised you can achieve a really bespoke look, but the cut and style of stock garments may not be consistent with the look the client is aiming for, in which case bespoke is best.

Q. In your opinion, what is the difference between stock, customised and bespoke?

Cost, exactness and creativity are the three key differentiators between stock, customised and bespoke clothing. As you take each step up through these processes you can make products more unique and personalised towards a brand.

The price and minimum order quantities (MOQs) will generally increase, but depending on the needs and branding demands it can be essential to invest the time and money into creating products that not only deliver consistently and with precision, but which also enable a brand to differentiate itself.

With stock it’s important to work with a seasoned professional who can meet demands on lead times, consistency and quality. However, when it comes to bespoke clothing it is especially important to choose and research a garment decorator who also has strong creative capabilities and a deep understanding of products, the manufacturing process, and sublimation.

Q. Do you think bespoke clothing side of the industry is growing? If so, why?

The concepts of bespoke and customised clothing have developed rapidly over the past decade. This side of the industry is certainly growing; I’d almost say we have seen a seismic shift.

I mainly attribute this growth to globalisation, which has made bespoke clothing more accessible and affordable to the mass market through dramatically reduced MOQs.

However, UK manufacturing is also witnessing a resurgence in the bespoke clothing market and niche suppliers have seen notable growth over recent years.

CSR demands from clients are becoming a key driver with brands wanting to ensure they know exactly how their products have been manufactured. Really knowing the journey of their garments manufacture is something responsible clients are now placing increasing importance upon. We are seeing increasing requests from clients to leverage control over a larger part of the process, for many knowing how an item is manufactured has become as important as the item itself. And in some instances you hear of clients visiting facilities during production. Times are changing.

For the supplier, it’s about working hand-in-hand with clients from beginning to end – to create both the item and the process that all parties are happy with.

Q. What hints and tips do you have when it comes to offering bespoke?

 I have a few:

  • Ensure you understand the differences between stock, customised and bespoke.
  • Allow for longer lead times.
  • Be mindful of higher MOQs.
  • Be sure to take a creative approach.
  • Be prepared to work closely (hand-in-hand) with the client, from the start to the end of the process.
  • Be confident you can do the best job.

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