Is Bespoke Fashion the Most Sustainable Idea Yet?

Amy Arani

Bespoke fashion promises to be one of the most sustainable and disruptive ideas in the industry. But can brands deliver personalized, high-quality clothes in a 2-hour shipping and $7 t-shirt world?

The short answer is; no. At least not yet.

But perhaps that’s not a problem. If you’re reading this, you likely value sustainability over speed, and you’re not alone. People want sustainable products.

However, even the most environmentally committed among us have gotten used to things being fast, and if there’s one thing bespoke fashion is not, it’s fast. So why might made-to-measure clothing be the next big thing? To answer that, it's critical to understand how the fashion industry has evolved over time, as well as how we can work slower fashion into our fast-paced lives.

A Brief History of Fashion

Before the first sewing machine was patented in February 1842, big-box behemoths and direct to consumer brands were far in the future. So was a somewhat consistent sizing structure. You couldn’t just go to a store and pull a crinoline off of the rack or buy a cute corset online — you would have needed to either make it yourself or engage a tailor or seamstress.

In 1831, the first ready-made store in the U.S. opened in New York. This led to a cascade of events over the next 100 years, including some shady (to say the least) labor practices. Factory workers experienced horrific events, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 145 people, mostly young girls, in 1911. Unfortunately, cheap, fast fashion still correlates with dangerous working conditions, as we learned in 2013 when the Rana Plaza collapse killed 1100 people in Bangladesh. Which is the main reason BUHO was born. While we are going through our renovation, why not try these brands we love.

Why Consider Ready-to-Wear Alternatives?

Our appetite for clothing is killing people, and it’s destroying our planet. Although thrifting and purchasing eco-conscious clothing are steps in the right direction, microplastics and not-so microplastics are still filling our oceans. Fires are raging. And the trash from our clothing is filling our landfills and being burned into our atmosphere to the tune of one garbage truck per second. That’s where bespoke, or made-to-order fashion, could make a real impact. Since it’s not mass-produced, it creates less waste. 

And it allows people with any kind of body to enjoy thoughtfully designed clothing. The fashion industry is notorious for its sizing problem, and people who don’t fit the standard have few choices. When things are made-to-measure, the only standard is whether it fits.

The resurgence of the atelier isn’t exactly new. Since the early 2010s, bespoke fashion has been quietly making a comeback with brands like eshakti, and quite a few polished menswear brands, including those on London’s famed (and long-established) Savile Row

What About the Price? 

It's true. Made-to-order clothing is not cheap. Although Klarna, Afterpay, and other online payment services help, there’s no getting away from a higher price point. But how much do you already spend on clothes? And how much would a piece that fits your body perfectly be worth?

Tailor-made Meets High Fashion: 4 Brands You Must Know About

Now that you've justified your future purchase, here are four of our favorite womenswear brands.

Maison Cleo

Maison Cleo

Talk about a complete obsession: Maison Cleo makes every piece by hand in France. Couture scrap fabrics and innovative designs combine with your measurements to create wearable art, like the PALMYRE ecru mohair jumper. Their online store is open once per week, on Wednesdays, at 12:30 PM Eastern Time. 

Olivia Rose The Label

Olivia Rose the Label

Olivia Rose Haddock makes every item in her collection by hand in Edinburgh, U.K. She does it all — from sourcing and design to sewing, packing, and writing love notes to her clients. Although she offers standard sizing, all it takes is one email to get a made-to-measure piece.

Fame & Partners

Fame & Partners

Fame & Partners isn’t just a bespoke company (you can find their brand at Free People), but everything can be made-to-order and made-to-measure. Founded in 2014 by former venture capitalist Nyree Corby, they aim to offer tailored clothing with a quick turnaround. We like their minimalist aesthetic and close-to-zero-waste ethos.

Careste

Careste

Careste is high-fashion and direct to consumer. Founded by e-commerce and fashion industry veterans Celeste Markey and Elizabeth Shah, Careste offers made-to-order clothing in 21 sizes and can make anything to-measure. They work with a high-fashion manufacturer and base production in Shanghai. We love that they only use 100% natural fabrics and provide free alterations if your piece doesn't fit perfectly. 

It’s Time to Bring Sewing Back

If couture isn't in your budget, consider making your own clothes! If you don't know how to sew, the magical world of Mary Porter Moore will make you want to learn. In this Lily article, the fashion maven describes how she started — by committing to making 12 garments in 2108. That seems like reasonable ask, right?

It does, until you realize that Mary studied textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design and worked for Diane von Fürstenberg. Here’s a goal for the rest of us. 

How about learning to sew and making one wearable garment in 2020, say a skirt? Sewing opens up a world of eco-friendly possibilities. You can hem your jeans when they’re too long, take in the waist of that incredible jacket you left at the thrift store, or just finally alter the clothes that have been sitting in your car for a year.  

I never learned to sew, because frankly, I was bad at it. But I'm inspired to dust off the sewing machine and give it another try. I'm also close to ordering a silk dress that's been made with love, just for me. If bespoke is the next step in the clothing revolution, I'm all in.