The return of custom-made fashion

Bespoke, made-to-measure, or tailored – for this season and beyond, clothes are sharp, neat, and perfectly fitted.

By Christine van Deemter
The return of custom-made fashion
The return of custom-made fashion

On the couture catwalks, Valentino and Christian Dior announced it with knife-sharp pleats and sharp collars that drew focus to the face. South African wunderkind designer Thebe Magugu’s pleat back jacket is a double-breasted creation with a matching spliced pleated skirt, no doubt giving its wearer a confident strut. The return of impeccable tailoring was also heralded on the most recent Paris catwalks, with oversized blazers at Stella McCartney and full-length leather coats at Saint Laurent. 

But this season, tailored looks don’t mean stiff banker chic – instead, it’s a subtle rebuttal of the slouchy athleisure of the last few years. We’ve kicked our stretched-out leggings into the corner. No more soup stains on sweatpants and oversized hoodies – it’s time to get back to looking sharp. And nothing makes you feel more put-together than a perfectly measured and fit piece of clothing. 

The human touch

“Having clothes made to your measurements definitely boosts your confidence, as the sizing and styling are tailored to suit you,” says Lezanne Viviers, founder and creative director of Viviers concept clothing brand in Johannesburg. “The result is that you wear these items often, as you were part of the process of creating something perfect for your body and lifestyle.” She has seen an uptick in bespoke orders since the end of the lockdown, with more people keen to rediscover pure artistry and the human touch. Before mass industrialisation, made-to-measure was the only way to make clothing, with seamstresses and tailors hand-stitching to order. But with the advent of machinery – not to mention cheap labour from developing countries – handmade fell out of favour and fast fashion took over. The craft has survived on the luxury fringes of Savile Row, and within the rich heritage of African artistry, where clothing has always been a colourful expression of the continent’s craftsmanship.

Inclusivity, diversity and sustainability

The pandemic hammered home the transience of life, making us re-evaluate all the disposable things in 

our lives – from gruelling office hours to fast fashion. “Our bespoke client service is not only more sustainable, but it is also a much more sensual, creative and personal experience, where we collaborate with our client to make something that suits their lifestyle, personality and budget,” Viviers shares.


Johannesburg-based tailor David Harris agrees, saying people are flocking to his studio for great quality handmade clothing. This movement towards bespoke is all over Instagram too – made-to-measure clothes speak to this generation’s focus on sustainability, inclusivity and diversity. “By investing in made-to-measure items, you are not very likely to dispose of your clothes, but rather to wear them again and again and hopefully pass them on as heirloom pieces, from generation to generation,” Viviers says. Clothing that is tailored to your body and lifestyle is more likely to be made from quality fabric, by artisans who have honed their craft and are compensated for it fairly. It is a slower, more ethical way of creating – with less waste, and for bodies of all sizes. 

Not only for couture clients

Our customer is someone who appreciates the process of having something made exclusively for them from start to finish,” Harris says. “They see the value in choosing their own clothing, not being shown what to wear by big corporations. They have confidence in their own style and take pride in their appearance.”

While tailoring has always been at the heart of couture – that most upper of fashion’s echelons – these days, it is no longer only for the blessed and beautiful. “Whether it is a casual custom linen shirt or a custom three-piece suit – with custom-made it is entirely personal, and the options are endless,” Harris continues. Investing in a bespoke outfit means you will instantly stand out from the cookie-cutter pack all chasing the same Insta-trends. “At Viviers,  we believe in creating and building a wardrobe for our clients that could be restyled to work for many seasons and many occasions,” the designer concludes. It’s time to get back in touch with your clothing – and cherish the effort that goes into creating it. 

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