For those at the top of their game – be it horse-riding, kayaking or banking – it helps to be supported by the best. And such leaders soon get to know the best – be it saddler, boat builder or tailor – who can share their expertise, experience and passion for the intricate fields they inhabit, and bring out the best in you, their customer.
When you commission a Jaipur craftsman to make you your very own velvet-lined trunk, a Milanese tailor to make you a two-piece suit or a Turkish luthier to make you a Middle-Eastern oud, you are embarking on a creative journey. With you, and for you, these dream shapers make your piece from scratch, often by hand, using materials of the highest quality, to specifications you have arrived at together. The realisation of your vision is a two-way process designed to create a vehicle that will help you reach your goals.
These dream shapers make your piece from scratch, often by hand, using materials of the highest quality
An intimate understanding
Your maker is attuned to your needs, some intimate and unspoken. There are women who cross continents for a private audience with Poupie, Paris's adored lingerie maker. She has a surname, Cadolle, but her clients don't use it, because Poupie becomes a confidante the moment they step into her crimson and gilt atelier off the Rue Saint-Honoré for the first of several fittings for their hand-stitched bras. Each is achingly, enchantingly expensive. But the fit is so utterly perfect, what do they care?
Purveyors of bespoke will tell you how much they value the conversations that are intrinsic to their creative practice and, like their clients, the chance to interact with the past. Think of Domenico Caraceni, Italy's legendary tailor, who dressed luminaries from Humphrey Bogart and Yves Saint Laurent to Gianni Agnelli. His scions, who continue his tradition of fine bespoke tailoring, are connecting with their national and filial heritage. Their discerning clients, whether Hollywood stars, European royalty or entrepreneurs, want a part of that. It is what they are paying for: an antidote to homogenised, global consumerism whose currency lies in the ready-made and disposable.
Comfort was top of mind for third-generation Italian shoemaker Adriano Stefanelli from Novarra in northern Italy when he created a pair of ruby red loafers for Pope Benedict XVI in size 42. He applied the same techniques when the former pontiff ordered a pair of hiking shoes – also in ruby red – adding a rubber sole with special tread and a thin insole so that his feet would be comfortable while walking outdoors. And so it goes. With bespoke, the maker derives satisfaction from the execution of their craft, and precision is their watchword.
Connecting with greatness
Equally, when country singer Sheryl Crow commissions a made-to-measure acoustic guitar from Gibson, the Nashville-based company that has produced axe legends from the Les Paul to the Hummingbird, she is going for quality of sound, for the feel of the instrument and, of course, for the sheer, heart-stopping beauty of it. She is also connecting to rock ‘n' roll's heroes, from Chuck Berry to Jimmy Page.
Craftmanship isn't just about time travel; it slows down time, too. Take, for example, a heritage Newbery cricket bat. Handmade from fine English willow in the south of England, each cleft is carefully selected, then cut and shaved to achieve optimum balance and performance for the customer's age, weight, height and playing style. Marking its 100th anniversary this year, the company created the prototype for the Gray-Nicolls Scoop, hailed as “the sword in the stone” of all cricket bats, in the 1970s. The patient client, a cricket nostalgist perhaps, or a professional player, knows that the new bat on their rack enables them to rub shoulders with giants.
Bespoke is about connection, with your own passions and goals, and with those who can help you achieve them. That may be a traditional French saddler, who knows how to fashion the perfect link between rider and their horse, or an expert milliner who can capture their client's character in a custom-made hat. Whatever your dream, bespoke guarantees a perfect fit.