‘Bespoke’ Loses Its Value. Sniff.

Photo: iStockphoto

These days the word "bespoke" is used to describe everything from olive oil to bedsheets. But the term was coined by Savile Row tailors in London in the 1600s to describe suits made entirely from hand. That means true bespoke tailors don't cut the suits from preexisting patterns (you know, the same way Project Runway forbids its contestants from using patterns). The suits are hand-stitched, cost around $10,000, and are obviously of the utmost quality.

But then tragedy strikes: Some retailers have started calling suits that aren't entirely handmade "bespoke," and a few old-school Savile Row–ers understandably aren't having it. So they reported these retailers to the Advertising Standards Authority. "They're misleading shoppers!" they cried, frantically waving about their tailor chalk. Indeed, Sartoriani's faux-bespoke suits, for example, are cut from patterns, only roughly tailored to the customer, and made mostly by machine in Germany. (And they cost just one-tenth the price of a bespoke suit.)

However, the Telegraph reports the ASA ruled the bespoke term has "moved on" and most customers "would not expect that garment to be entirely handcrafted." Tragic! What of the appreciation for fine fashion? How can we describe such exquisiteness without exquisiteness-specific words? The semantic loss here is crushing — but at least we can count on France not to dilute "couture."

Savile Row tailors lose fight to preserve the term 'bespoke' [Telegraph]
Related: Me, My Suit, and I [NYM]