The destination Saville Row – the Golden Mile of Tailoring – brings to mind sartorial style, clean cut lines, sharp fitted shoulders and immaculate finesse. However, a world in which ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ were an industry, or let alone a concept, didn’t always exist. It’s hard to imagine – but we can date this revolutionary change, whereby people became interested in how they looked and what they wore, back to the 12th century during the Middle Ages in Western Europe. Before this, garments were a thing of practicality; of warmth, of use, of necessity.
The word itself, ‘tailor’, derives from the French tailler (to cut) and the root of ‘sartorial’ can be traced back to Latin sartor meaning to mend or put together. While the occupation of tailoring can be dated back to the early 1100s, it was the time of the Renaissance that really spearheaded trends and what it meant to be ‘fashionable’ when people started to experiment with length, fit, colour and patterns. From this developed the market that has grown into what we know today, as the demand for unique, and extravagant, pieces of clothing became a way of showing off social status and hierarchy.
The tailoring term ‘bespoke’ literally means“ to give order for it to be made” and much like we have seen throughout history, a true tailored and bespoke piece is hand-crafted to fit the customer, from head to toe. Whereby tailor shops used to be run by a master tailor, with journeymen and apprentices on hand to help, nowadays with the development of amazing technology it can mean that digital patterning machines can save hours of production time, streamlining the process of tailoring from measure to manufacture.
As we can see, the demand for tailoring over the past centuries hasn’t weaned. Tailoring is still very much a raison d’etre for the elite and those interested in sartorial influence. While made-to-measure and ready-to-wear are also in the market for ‘tailored-style’ suits, you can’t deny or underrate the creativity and skill of true tailoring.