Do you think you know what the term custom means?
Over the past 20 years, the US has outsourced the manufacturing of our clothing to other countries. This has created the demand for a quick turnaround for each season and in turn, has made us all a little less flexible when it comes to slow fashion and bespoke construction. No thanks to Amazon for fueling our instant gratification fire.
So, I’d like to take a moment to outline the technical difference between fast fashion and handcrafted pieces made one at a time by us (also called slow fashion) and the time it takes to bring both to you.
Today, the clothing we buy off the rack is called Ready to Wear. This is fast fashion.
Ready to Wear is Defined as:
Ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter (pronounced: [pʁɛ.ta pɔʁ.te]; often abbreviated RTW; “off-the-rack” or “off-the-peg” in casual use) is the term for factory-made clothing, sold in finished condition, in standardized sizes, as distinct from made to measure or bespoke clothing tailored to a particular person’s frame. Off-the-peg is sometimes used for items which are not clothing, such as handbags.
Many shops in our local malls provide ready-to-wear clothing. An assortment of styles, sizes, and colors are ready for you to purchase and walk out that day. Unfortunately, much of what we buy off the rack disintegrates within just a few washings. That’s not a good use of my dollars.
Today, we’re experiencing a resurgence in handcrafted goods. And handcrafting takes time. Handcrafted goods also last several years to several decades. That’s a very good use of my dollars.
Many of the products I handcraft in my shop are ready to purchase same day. Some are not.
Because we make many of our products in batches, we cannot guarantee stock and we offer ordering services. If any of these products are changed in any way (sans personalizing) outside of our normal color and leather choices, including fasteners, straps, and other elements affixed or removed from the original product, this is customizing.
Handcrafting also falls under Bespoke, as in Bespoke Tailoring.
The word “bespoke” itself is derived from the verb “bespeak”, to speak for something, in the specialised meaning “to give order for it to be made”. The term bespoke in fashion is reserved for individually patterned and crafted men’s clothing, analogous to women’s haute couture, in contrast with mass-manufactured ready-to-wear (also called off-the-peg or off-the-rack). The term originated from Savile Row, a street in London considered the “Golden mile of tailoring”.
Additionally, Bespoke clothing is traditionally cut from a pattern drafted from scratch for the customer. This differs from ready-to-wear, that is factory made in finished condition and standardised sizes and bought off the rack. Bespoke clothing is now more expensive and is generally accompanied by a high quality of construction.[n 1]
Fittings are required for both bespoke and made-to-measure. Special notes are made to the customer’s precise measurements and specifications and as a result, it is custom.
Our handcrafted full grain leather belts
Most of our full grain leather belts on the rack are samples for customers to admire and to understand colors, patterns, widths, lengths, and buckles. Some customers have insisted on purchasing the belts right off the rack if the length fits and no adjustment is needed.
The ruling cited the Oxford English Dictionary definition of bespoke as “made to order”, and considered that despite the fact a bespoke suit was “fully hand-made and the pattern cut from scratch, with an intermediary baste stage which involved a first fitting so that adjustments could be made to a half-made suit”,while a suit made-to-measure “would be cut, usually by machine, from an existing pattern, and adjusted according to the customer’s measurements”, “both fully bespoke and made-to-measure suits were “made to order” in that they were made to the customer’s precise measurements and specifications, unlike off-the-peg suits“.
Most customers, however, prefer to have something made just for them: this is custom. Selecting color, pattern, length, buckle, and screw preference is all custom provided the exact need is not found on the rack. With so many variations, it is impossible to have each one represented on the rack.
Because of this infinite scope, we offer customizing on many of our products. Customizing is about taking the customer’s precise measurements in addition to any other preferences to make the product unique to them.
We want you to be happy with the product we make. After all, you have to wear it so it may as well be made the way you want.
So, how do you know what is custom and what isn’t? Let me cite some examples:
- If you shorten the shoe laces by cutting them, this is not custom.
- If you love a bag but want a zipper top instead of a snap, this is custom.
- If you love a bracelet but want a stone on it and a different color, this is custom.
- If you cannot find a belt on the rack that fits you, I have to make you a new one. This is custom.
- Any modifications made after the purchase (not made by me) is not custom.
If I fail to apply a fee to a custom to your order, count yourself lucky.
To Batch or Not to Batch
When products are made specifically for a customer, they are custom products and require a set time to dedicated to hand crafting the product.
When we take your precise measurements and additional specifications that may include color choice, pattern, and other elements, we know that we must set aside time from our shop (in addition to other retail obligations) and nudge batch projects to queue your special project.
In many cases, we’re sandwiching your project behind several other custom projects, a batch project, and then more custom projects. In some cases, we try to craft batches among the custom projects; this is a more efficient use our time. This may mean that your custom product (a belt, for example) may take as long as 5 weeks and perhaps even 8 due to the constraints of our workshop space, hectic schedules, 2 human beings, 24 hours in a day, and this little thing called life.
When and if you do get your treasure under 8 weeks, we can be sure that the planets were aligned just for you.
Then it’s time to thank and dance among our lucky stars!
We take pride in each and every job.
If at any point the job goes awry, I, as the designer and craftsmen have the duty and right to fix the job or begin the project again from scratch. This has happened a few times and I have had to reluctantly inform the customer that such occurrence has happened. In many cases, Mother Nature has much influence over the course of my work. Humidity plays a huge part in the success of any project. Staining, leather, and the way the planets align can work together or against each other.
I am at their mercy.
These are just a few reasons why we assign deadlines before the holidays. In addition to our hectic schedule (this is our selling season), we have major holiday shows and our life to work into mix.
If you require customizing or personalizing for a special occasion, please be aware that we require at least 3 months in advance to get your project in the queue and finished in time for you to present at the party. Even more time if you need to leave days or weeks before the party.
Please remain cognizant of the fact that it’s just the two of us. We do not have a magical warehouse filled with products –we don’t even have a warehouse.
Making products one at a time is the value we bring to you.
Also, we have a life.
Sometimes, we two introverts need a night out.
There are many nights I’m updating the Web site, taking photos of products, optimizing those photos to put up on the web site, sketching up new ideas, hunting for supplies, buying supplies, preparing customer orders for shipment, tripping over boxes and the list goes on.
It’s a good thing I love what I do.
However, I take my business seriously. I also recognize that art and fine craft are not on Mazlow’s Hierachy of Needs. If you think throwing a shit fit because you didn’t get your handbag or belt within your imaginary timeline wins you points, it doesn’t.
We also have extended family (aging parents) that needs tending to. If you can’t cut us some slack (strokes happen) then you have a cold, cold heart and we don’t need to be working together.
That being said, we delight in handcrafting fine art, leather goods, and gifts for you.
We really do.
It’s too bad that I’m forced to write up this post to illuminate the difference between custom and someone’s view of their imaginary timeline and what they feel is unacceptable (under 3 weeks) in this haste makes waste World of ours.
With this knowledge, I hope that you will consider our experience, expertise, aesthetics, and talents when you make a choice to work with us on your next treasure. We guarantee our work and want you to be proud to show off your new treasure.
Lastly, and this bears repeating: there are no refunds for custom orders.
Lisa & Andrew