Home Fashion Made-to-measure: A fitting style upgrade for India’s formal wear segment

Made-to-measure: A fitting style upgrade for India’s formal wear segment


If fashion is all about glamour, what can be more charismatic than having clothes tailored to your exact specifications? So, it’s only natural that modern fashion preferences, given the newfound penchant for exclusivity, are accelerating towards the utmost personal style upgrade – Made-to- Measure fashion!

Made-to-Measure fashion, once a prerogative of well-heeled style connoisseurs, is fast becoming a growing trend among professional men around the world. Propelled by the gaining penchant for exclusive details, individualised fashion preferences and a desire to stand out in the crowd, made-to-measure fashion has today been impelled to the street level making it accessible to everyone developing their personal brand. “Made-to-Measure has become an international craze in the recent years especially among the Italian brands.

Hong Kong, Dubai, New York and London are the hubs of this growing trend. Even renowned brands like Armani and Parada offers made-to-measure services today, such is the demand of this trend,” says Manoj Mehra, Chairman and Managing Director, Study By Janak.

Sandeep Gonsalves, Director and Co-Founder, SS Homme – Sarah & Sandeep, who keeps a close tab on the international markets to match the standard of service provided by his brand, concurs with this view. “Made-to-measure is experiencing consistent growth internationally and there has not been a reason to conclude that it may decline anytime soon. We see individuals who are opting out of wearing suits to work but then again, millennials are more likely to spend on experiences due to which the volume of purchasing during the festive season is higher,” he says.

While the trend is catching up in India too, the novelty quotient might not be as high as it is in the western world considering India’s illustrated heritage of bespoke fashion.

Especially in formal wear, bespoke was the norm and the only option back in the day in India. The garment industry in India was restricted to small scale manufacturing units and owing to lack of size standardisation, there were few ready-to-wear options for consumers of yesteryears, who preferred to buy ready-to-stitch (RTS) fabric and then have a tailor style it according to their respective size and preferences.

It was only in the 1990s with the entry and expansion of international and domestic apparel brands came the trend of readymade garments which were manufactured with defined specifications on input material, with defined process parameters that promised to give consistent quality – the industrial quality. Over a period of time, as the quantity maturity increased, factories leveraged their economies of scale, better sourcing, product engineering and process engineering to deliver a wide range of apparel choices at a relatively lower cost. With the rising middle class and increasing disposable incomes more people started buying branded clothes of graded sizes that best fitted them. Well, most of them!

For the discerning few, style conscious, financially stable men, ‘off the rack’ RTW could hardly keep up to their expectations. This expectation gradually resulted in made-to-measure services evolving in the high streets of key metros like Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. The made-to-measure market in India is steadily scaling the ranks. The growing sense of perfect fit, awareness of best fabrics, quality international brands and companies offering impeccable made-to-measure products and a higher detail of product understanding, has led to a drastic growth in people’s inclination towards opting for made-to-measure clothing.

“While ready-made garments still dominate the Indian market, mad-to-measure and bespoke tailoring are both rapidly picking up in India. The want for personalised styles, teamed with comfort is what is giving rise to this segment. And with the presence of stylists/experts who guide a customer through the journey, the end-product turns out as per the customer’s wants, even though he/she might not be an expert in that subject,” says Harssh Chheda, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Corporate Collars.

It also is worth mentioning that the made-to-measure concept truly works in favor of formal wear like shirts, trousers, and suits because there are standardized fittings for the same, which can be tweaked according to the customer’s fittings. Moreover, for people in the corporate world, shirts, trousers, and suits personify them and made-to-measure/bespoke tailoring does true justice to it.

At the same time, this, naturally, has opened doors to a slew of new breed of brands and designers that specialise in meeting the suave, modern consumer’s demand for a more anonymous look. It has also given rise to a healthy competition among the established names of this domain to ante up their products and services and be stand out among their peers.

Why Made-to-Measure?

The simplest reason is the FIT! Made-to-measure formal wear is completely customised with utmost attention given to even the tiniest of details. It gives the consumer the best fit for his body type without compromising on the comfort factor, unlike ready-to-wear suits.

“A good fit is the key aspect of the corporate attire. In the case of readymade garments, they are bound to be compromised when it comes to fitting. While some brands use the number system or sizes like small, medium, large, etc., one has to settle for approximation and lack of perfection. Customisation/made-to-measure services score high on this aspect,” says Harssh Chheda.

“One of the primary reasons why people opt for a made-to-measure service is that it gives you a better fit at accessible prices. At Bombay Shirt Company, we allow customers the sheer ease of picking every little detail that goes into their shirt – from fabric to the fit. And that we believe is what makes our service so special – the opportunity to design a shirt that is truly one-of-a-kind,” says Akshay Narvekar, Founder, CEO, Bombay Shirt Company.

It might come as a surprise, but the fit isn’t the sole overriding concern of the made-to-measure enthusiast.

More than the fit, a purposeful sense of individuality and uniqueness is what makes a made-to-measure experience more appealing than a homogeneous high street offering or even the expensive most factory produced apparel. This is fairly pronounced among the growing nouveau riche and the High Net-worth Individuals (HNIs) of India. This section of society, armed with high disposable income and a keen desire for exclusivity, sees the made-to-measure exclusivity an extension of their own personality.

Moreover, made-to-measure is also beginning to grow as a viable option to the increasing number of people who are doing away with fast fashion and opting for more sustainable ways of dressing up.

The Made-to-Measure Enthusiast

Made-to-Measure fashion is much affordable now as compared to a decade back when the trend was still tethering. Before it becomes affordable in the true sense, the growth was driven by a small set of affluent customers who didn’t not mind paying a premium over ready to wear shirts/suits. The premium paid is viewed by these customers as an investment rather than cost.

But times are a changing and a new consumer section for made-to-measure has risen the ranks. Proliferating awareness, falling prices and most of all, modern India’s newfound penchant for “looking and living good” has culminated into a new and savvy consumer base who exhibits a conscious inclination towards unique, made-to-measure pieces; a part of what is being coined “the new luxury”. This legion of young and dynamic consumers not only harbour a penchant for style and comfort but also has the financial stability to not shop ‘off -the-peg’.

“Office-goers, professionals and businessmen are the predominant segment with a special focus on high ranking officials like CEOs, CFOs, etc., who represent themselves through power dressing. However, with the increasing awareness and affordability, a lot of youngsters are also exploring customized tailoring /made-to-measure services. Influenced by these changes and modern perspective, even ready-made brands are exploring ways to customize apparels in order to better serve their loyal customer base,” says Harssh Chheda.

“The popularity for made-to-measure services is rapidly growing among men who are willing to pay a little extra than what they consider reasonable to have a choice of playing with the fabric, lapels, colours and personalising them as per individual preference. Due to increase in rising aspirations, young adults who wants to try something unusual are particularly attracted because of the extent of personalisation it offers,” says Manoj Mehra.

Today, Millennials are one of the main consumers of the made-tomeasure segment. “They are becoming increasingly aware of the segment. They are extremely fashion conscious and want to give the best impression with their attire at all times, which is why the made-to-measure concept works great for them,” says Sandeep Gonsalves.

Made-to-measure formal fashion wear also enjoy high demand across occasions such as marriages, festivals and business travel. “The target customer for custom-made or bespoke garments are usually grooms and sartorially inclined business professionals. As more and more people understand the pros of bespoke and made-to-measure clothing, they are more likely to opt for these services instead of going to a store and picking up garments off the rack. It is, however, a norm in India amongst wedding attendees to opt for custom made clothing due to the value attached to the additional services offered with the garment,” he adds.

Corporate offices and business meetings have always emphasized on sharp formal dressing codes and the made-to-measure concept fit in very well with modern young corporates.

“Customisation of formal wear is now becoming popular in the corporate world and is ruling the formal wear market today since offices emphasise on sharp dressing codes and this is where made-to-measure fits perfectly,” says Manoj Mehra.

In a nutshell, the made-to-measure brands in India serve a potpourri of age groups, genders and socioeconomic classifications today. There is no specific TG for these services anymore — it can be a young lad, an adult or a complete old man. End of the day, it all boils down to one thing–‘the style and comfort’ that people seek in their garments and the readiness to pay for the same.

Percolation in Smaller Cities

With a rapidly growing middle-class consumer base propelled by rising income, the Indian luxury market is experiencing strong evolution even in the smaller cities. Today, growing awareness of digital facilities amongst youth has lifted the demand of made-to- measure services in smaller cities as well.

“While there is no denying that metros and Tier I cities are the focus markets for made-to-measure and bespoke services, smaller cities have a good amount of business professionals with affordability who follow fashion trends. Additionally, these smaller towns off er lesser variety when it comes to readymade garments, which is a potential advantage for bespoke/ customised services,” asserts Harssh Chheda.

“With the growing urge for made-to-measure and exposure to global brands, the demand of made-to-measure has fuelled all over the nation. The scope is smaller cities is growing at a rapid pace with the growing spending power of the people and is not restricted just to Tier I cities. We are open to expansion and providing our services in smaller cities if they have such retail infrastructures,” says Manoj Mehra.

Made-to-Measure is Costly!

Customised fashion is freedom of choice! And as the saying goes, “Freedom has a price.”

More often than not, made-to-measure services are expensive than ready-made garments but cheaper than bespoke tailoring. In both cases, considering the time and dexterous attention invested in the customising or creating the product to an individual’s specific taste, the extra cost is well justified.

“Made-to-measure and bespoke are two different types of tailoring techniques with completely different price points. Made-to-Measure suits at SS Homme start at Rs 40,000, whereas a bespoke suit can cost anywhere between Rs 60,000 to Rs 3 lakh,” says Sandeep Gonsalves.

But over the years, as the customer base and the market grew, the prices have started to fall. Today, made-to-measure, as it traditionally used to be, is not the exclusive entitlement of the wealthy alone. Brands are increasingly trying to attract the new consumer base with attractive pricing policies.

“With Bombay Shirt Company, our aim has always been to defeat this very idea of made-to-measure being expensive. We off er custom shirts at prices that won’t burn a whole in your pocket. An average shirt starts at Rs 2,090, which is almost at par with prices of ready-to-wear brands,” says Akshay Narvekar.

What the Future Holds
The Indian custom fashion industry is thriving and growing despite the growth of ready-to-wear and branded segment of the apparel market. And as is apparent, the concept of made-to-measure especially in the formal wear segment enjoys nationwide popularity that is growing by the day. With the newer generation coming in, it is only imperative for such a change to take place.

The result is a slew of new brands, including a surprising number of regional and online players, that have emerged in the last few years. This reinforces the demand and potential of made-to-measure services in India. This also implies that, with increased competition, fulfilling consumer needs will be an important success factor for brands that will also have to design their go-to-market plan cautiously, identifying key pain points and ensuring that a superior experience is offered.