Notes On The Modern Interpretation Of Craftsmanship

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Craft; there’s nothing quite like it.

Just think of it. What else can justify the length of time it takes from commission to delivery other than ‘craftsmanship’?

“Thank you sir, this will take two months” the assistant says coolly.

“Ok. Can I pay more to have it done quicker?”

“It won’t be much quicker than that, I’m afraid sir. You see, this is not a fashion emporium. We employ craftsmen.”

“Ah. Ok. So I can’t get this…next week? Surely?”

“No sir. It’s quite impossible. All good things take time. Most of our customers are happy to wait.”

It’s highly ironic that the one thing the wealthiest people value the most in the world is time – and yet that is the one thing they are forced to give up when they purchase the finest clothing money can buy. Of course, any truly rich person would be able to employ their own tailor and cobbler if their heart so desired, removing the irritating objective that most sartorial craftsmen have of ‘attending to other customers.’

But what if you couldn’t justify such an extravagance? What if you were wealthy, used to getting your way, frustrated with how long some things take – particularly in contrast with the length of time it takes a personal concierge to arrange a holiday on the Amalfi coast, arrange drivers to and from the airports and set a chilled bottle of Bolly on the balcony to welcome your arrival – what if your mantra was ‘now’?

In fact, it’s quite amazing that the key segments that high-end tailoring and bespoke shoemaking target are so abysmally intolerant of time wasting: they fast track from lounges to premium cabins without queuing; they fly by helicopter to avoid traffic jams and they never wait for tables at the best restaurants. They’re in a hurry, and whatever they want they wanted yesterday.

And yet they do wait. Not only that, they proudly announce to their chums in the First Class lounge how long it is taking for their suit to be made:

“It’s taking a while but it’s a pretty special order. Stitching is being done by this old lady who takes WEEKS to finish up but her work is impeccable. Ya know, I’d much rather that than a rush job.”

“Oh I’m the same. Mine is taking a little bit longer than yours, but it’s totally bespoke for me. Nothing like this has been made before…sorry, yea…can I get a CHILLED glass of the Taittinger please? And can you make sure it gets here within the next minute, I board soon.”

The thing about craft, and it’s a thing I don’t particularly like, is that it is being used in a peculiarly bourgeoisie fashion by a particularly bourgeoisie group of people to boast about the amount of hours that are being put into a garment that is being made for them. “Oh?” they say “2 months? Yes, just for little old me. I really don’t know why, I’m not that special.”

What craftsmen need to ensure is that they don’t idly follow this Golden Calf and sell their entire meaning and integrity down the river. Craft is craft for craft’s sake; not for the sake of glittering boasts.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. the.excession says:

    “What if you were wealthy, used to getting your way, frustrated with how long some things take – particularly in contrast with the length of time it takes a personal concierge to arrange a holiday on the Amalfi coast, arrange drivers to and from the airports and set a chilled bottle of Bolly on the balcony to welcome your arrival – what if your mantra was ‘now’?”

    People like that need therapy followed by introspection and finally either suicide or a complete change in their way of life.

  2. Ray Frensham says:

    Well, Mr. Excession, I would say: Time is Relative. I would just sit there with my Bolly and watch the world passing me by.

  3. Miami Mike says:

    You ought to try watchmaking. Repairs and parts availability on watches is measured in months, sometimes in years. This is not just for really expensive watches, it can take three to five months to get a hundred dollar mass-merchandised quartz watch fixed. For an industry so intimately involved with the measurement of time, they are astonishingly unconcerned with it. Understand that I am not whinging about waiting to get “my” watch fixed, I get paid to fix watches and I’m in the business. If you need anything the LEAST bit unusual, you’re going to wait forever. Even “standard” items can take months to arrive.

  4. Sachin Vaish says:

    Dear all,

    I appreciate this article expressing the frustration of the writer for waiting for longer than he would care to for his hand-crafted clothes. However, as a service provider of the same, I must defend the craftsmen’s habit of demanding time. I think it is more often to do with the fact that the product would actually take time to make and that there are other orders in process, and less to do with just the craftsman showing an attitude. Of course as far as the attitude of the “bourgeoisie” people showing off, I have less respect for them. Again, I must say that at the end of the day, besides having a passion for what we do, we are also in the business to earn a living, and at the high end of the market, if it is this showing-off attitude from our clients that brings us our daily bread (and wine), so be it!