Are we investing in better quality clothing or are we simply filling our closets?
This is a question that has always beleaguered the fashion industry, but even more so after statistics revealed the average North American consumer tosses 40 kilograms of clothing each year.
If you do the math the results are jarring. More often than not, the human elements that go into making a suit are neither considered nor given much value. From the shearing of sheep to the looming of wool, to design and cutting – the life elements involved in traditional suit manufacturing have been made invisible by Made-In-China fast fashion.
The good news is that locally, we have seen an increase in the number of made-to-measure (MTM) and bespoke tailors – professionals whose work not only reduces ready-to-wear waste, but also results in a perfectly fitted suit.
However, the processes are different.
A made-to-measure suit is machine-cut from an existing pattern and, once made, is adjusted to fit the client, while a bespoke suit is handmade from a custom pattern and involves multiple fittings to ensure that the garment moulds to the client’s body.
The growth of custom tailoring has a lot more to do with individuality than eco-consciousness. Many Millennials aren’t interested in high-street brands, but rather a look and personal brand that is unique.
There are a range of places to go for made-to-measure and bespoke tailoring in Toronto. Here are the top five.
Garrison Bespoke has won both awards and the hearts of the city’s sophisticated dressers thanks to proprietor Michael Nguyen, who isn’t afraid to push the envelope in terms of style or using innovative fabrics.
Take his suits made from moisture-wicking, stretch cotton that allow active and athletic-built men to feel as if they are wearing sweats (they essentially are), but look extremely polished and put together.
His brand is all about “experience” and, he says, his competitors are not other stores but other experiences. “My client decides between buying a suit or taking a trip to Cabo,” he says. Garrison has a relaxed boutique vibe where regular clients are recognized by staff. It’s also one of the few places in the city where you can obtain both MTM and bespoke services.
Address: 374 Bloor West (the Annex)
Price range: from $995 for half canvas and $1,595 for full canvas
Target customer: Not Your Typical Bay Street Guy
Miranda Black is a walking encyclopedia of tailoring knowledge. Her store recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and despite having moved locations along Bloor West, has been a well-regarded fixture in the Annex during that whole time. Watching Black work is inspiring – in one breath she can educate a client on trends, the appropriate fit for a made-to-measure, special occasion suit and make small talk about an upcoming wedding anniversary.
In addition to fit, she has a good sense of stylistic longevity and coming up with something that suits a client’s look.
Address: 21 Trinity (Distillery District) and 62 Bathurst (King West)
Price range: from $895
Target customer: Sartorial Trendsetter
When Melissa Austria opened Gotstyle, it blew a gust of fresh air through the local menswear landscape with its private club feel and well-curated offerings. Twelve years later, Austria has grown Gotstyle into an online and brick-and-mortar empire with a fiercely loyal clientele. On any given day you’ll see clients from white collar and creative fields choosing suit fabrics.
The made-to-measure department is headed by Konstantine Malishevski who is a rarity in the industry. Not only is he a fourth-generation tailor, he has also spent the last 30 years perfecting his craft.
King Bay Custom Clothing
Address: 161 Bay, suite 2700 (Brookfield Place, Financial District)
Price range: from $995
Target customer: The Discerning Dandy
King Bay is one of the few operations in the city that offers made-to-measure, bespoke and custom tailoring.
Custom tailoring is when the sample suit made from a lightweight fabric is then used as the fit garment for the client before making the suit from the chosen fabric. As they say in menswear: measure twice, cut once.
Master clothier Aashif Jamani even has proprietary fabrics that can make only one to four garments per role of fabric – truly upping the ante on one-of-a-kind pieces. One of their most exquisite custom designs was an asymmetrical multi-button jacket worn by Tragically Hip guitarist Rob Baker at the 2017 Juno Awards.
Address: 143 King East (St. Lawrence Market)
Price range: from $699
Target customer: The Hip Yet Fiscally Conscious
It’s hard not to walk into Indochino with preconceived notions pertaining to fit and quality. A company that started off exclusively online and sent clients fit kits that would be used to measure themselves and produce garments costing only few hundred dollars seems too good to be true.
Walk into their Toronto showroom and you might see Ryerson students or men upwards of 60 years old, many of whom have turned to Indochino after a bad made-to-measure experience.
Women comprise an impressive percentage of their clientele. Their patterns are adaptable to the female silhouette – something that is quite difficult to find in Toronto’s tailoring world.