“We are changing the product” said the tailoring assistant quietly as we opened the somewhat minimalist swatch book, usefully categorised by price, to select my fabric. “There will be more of us here soon. We are going to offer double-breasted suits, I think, in the New Year.” I had arranged an appointment for a fitting by telephone at the Regent Street branch of Massimo Dutti, who offer an unsung ‘personal tailoring’ service that I had long wanted to try.
So what exactly is ‘personal tailoring’ as defined by Massimo Dutti? Well, if you are used to attending a traditional tailor and being wrapped in measuring tape, this will be an unusual experience. After selecting your fabric and being asked your chest, waist and shoe size, you are led to a fitting room. Hung in this fitting room is a suit jacket and a pair of trousers, in your selected sizes, cut on the Massimo Dutti Personal Tailoring block. After donning the suit, you step out to meet your tailoring assistant who, quite simply, will judge how well your body fits the block and make adjustments accordingly.
“I think for you this is a pretty good fit!” the assistant spluttered as he examined my back and brushed the shoulders. Having placed three mirrors around me, I was able to confirm or deny all such claims and, despite the fact that I was not as effusive, I couldn’t deny that it was not a bad fit. The assistant then asks questions about how it feels; “Is it comfortable? Is it too tight?” From there, he makes suggestions about alterations. Most of these alterations are standard; shoulder width, waist, armhole size, sleeve width and length, jacket length, lapel size. Where alterations are required, or desired, the jacket is pinned and then measured.
The same process is then adopted for the trousers, with length and width adjusted and measured. Despite the fact that the process feels a lot like buying a suit and then getting it adjusted after the fact, the suit is actually made from scratch to these adjustments. It is a long way from true bespoke, and some distance from higher-end made to measure. The moment you see a ready-made suit in the dressing room, you wonder what you have let yourself in for. However, you still end up with a suit that fits far better than anything off the rack.
Satisfied with the adjustments to the suit’s measurements, you are led back to the Personal Tailoring desk and the book of personalisations. This is one of the biggest value-adds to the product, the tailoring assistant claims. “You can choose pockets, buttons, linings, top-stitching, waistcoat…” To someone experienced with tailoring, it will be a rather boring experience. In some respects, the choices are limited; you can currently only choose between a two or three button single-breasted jacket with a notched lapel, and between flat-front or single pleats for the trousers.
However, the other choices are pretty good. Indeed, some of them are choices that you do not have the option to make at many a tailor. For example, you can choose between a wide range of buttons, in many colours and styles, including natural horn. I selected a dark brown horn to go with the mid-grey nailhead Canali cloth, a rich blue lining, slanted pockets and a ticket pocket (which Massimo Dutti call a ‘matches pocket’), turn ups and single-pleats for the trousers, a five button single-breasted waistcoat (cut a few inches shorter than standard) and braces buttons instead of belt loops. You can also select sleeve lining, trouser pockets and piping for the lining. The best thing? There is no charge for any selection.
As mentioned previously, there are different price levels according to fabric choice. I chose a 100% wool Canali mid-weight fabric from the first tier Basic collection for a three-piece cost of £380, which is pretty reasonable. The second tier fabrics are another £100 and the third tier ‘Luxury’ fabrics are about £200 more. It’s virtually impossible, due to their pricing structure, to spend more than £600.
“First we send it off to be made in Portugal, then it has to go through our head office near Barcelona” the assistant says. “It takes about 30 days” he says with a wince, not realising this is an extraordinarily quick turnaround as far as tailoring goes. And what if there are adjustments that need to be made? What if the suit is a mess? “We ask you to pay 40% deposit now” he explains “but if you are not happy with the suit, we will get it adjusted here in London very quickly before you pay the rest. I will give you a call when the suit is here and we can see. I think it will be early February.”
Early February it is, for Part 2: The Fitting.