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Why are bespoke suits so expensive – and are they worth it? London’s Savile Row, tailors to Prince Charles and other celebs, takes around 90 hours to fit and cut a suit

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 07/03/2022 Christian Barker
  • The US$800,000 Diamond Edition suit by Richard Jewels of Manchester and Stuart Hughes of Liverpool is made of cashmere and silk, interwoven with diamonds
  • Ermenegildo Zegna offers a made-to-measure service while British tailor Steven Hitchcock, who outfits Queen Elizabeth's eldest son, says such suits will last 20 years

While opinions differ on what constitutes authentic luxury, it's generally agreed that a true luxury product should be hard to get hold of, crafted by hand, beautiful and of the highest possible quality. Ideally, it should be one-of-a-kind and made to an individual's unique specifications. A gentleman's bespoke suit fulfils all those criteria.

A ready-to-wear suit is cut to fit as broad a variety of consumers as possible, which means that it will rarely, if ever, fit any one person perfectly. The bespoke version, conversely, is made to a pattern created especially for a particular customer. A master tailor drafts and gradually hones this one-off pattern after taking numerous measurements of the client's body and expertly eyeing his posture and figure, detecting flaws and devising ways to best conceal them.

Tweed suits from Savile Row tailor Huntsman. Photo: Handout © Provided by South China Morning Post Tweed suits from Savile Row tailor Huntsman. Photo: Handout

When a client purchases a couture gown, they bow to the designer's aesthetic vision. However, when a suit is commissioned, the client is at liberty to choose from a vast array of options including the cut, cloth, lining, details and structure. This can be overwhelming and there can be the temptation to indulge in inadvisable flights of stylistic fancy. An experienced tailor will guide their client to make prudent choices, resulting in the most flattering garment for that individual customer.

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A top-quality bespoke suit of the sort famously made on London's Savile Row will be artfully handsewn and carefully adjusted over the course of up to five fittings, ensuring it drapes in a way that flatters the client's physique and posture - no matter whether they're short or tall, upstanding or hunched, slim or portly.

Fashion brand Ermenegildo Zegna offers a made-to-measure service. Photo: Handout © Provided by South China Morning Post Fashion brand Ermenegildo Zegna offers a made-to-measure service. Photo: Handout

Typically made using cloth that costs at least US$130 per metre, with still more extravagant materials available, a garment of this type can take up to 90 hours to fit, cut and craft by hand. This helps explain why the price of the finest bespoke suits can range between US$19,000-65,000. The ultimate expression of the art form today is the Diamond Edition suit by Richard Jewels of Manchester and Stuart Hughes of Liverpool, made of cashmere wool and silk, and interwoven with 480 half-carat diamonds, which costs a stunning US$800,000.

A bespoke suit is carefully crafted to flatter a client's physique - and disguise its flaws. Photo: Gieves & Hawkes © Provided by South China Morning Post A bespoke suit is carefully crafted to flatter a client's physique - and disguise its flaws. Photo: Gieves & Hawkes

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The costs may seem high, but in fact represent excellent value. Unlike a factory-made ready-to-wear suit, which inevitably has a short lifespan, a bespoke suit is of sufficient quality that it could potentially be passed down from one generation to the next.

"Some people say bespoke is expensive, but that garment will last you more than 20 years," says leading British tailor Steven Hitchcock, who has outfitted Prince Charles. "Divide the cost by 20 and you basically have a bargain."

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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