Made-to-measure is not bespoke: Massimo Piazza6 min read . Updated: 27 Dec 2014, 09:09 PM IST
The director of Brooks Brothers speaks about some popular misconceptions about made-to-measure suits
The first thing that one notices upon meeting Massimo Piazza is that he looks young for his experience. “Many people ask me that question," Piazza says. “When I tell them I am 42 and I have been in the industry for close to two decades, they all ask me if I started in kindergarten." Piazza is director for international made-to-measure at Brooks Brothers, the American premium menswear brand. Piazza spoke to Mint Indulge about his line of work, some popular misconceptions about made-to-measure and where most men go wrong while suiting up, among other things. Edited excerpts:
How does a person get a perfect made-to-measure suit?
Perfection is something you achieve when you’re happy with what you are wearing. What is perfect for me may not be perfect for the customer. For example, I can fit a client in a suit and tell him that, to me, the waist needs to be a certain dimension and the jacket too, but he can overrule me saying: “But I like it a little trimmer or a little more comfortable."
So made-to-measure is mostly about giving the client a fit in a selection of fabric that is for his body, as per his liking and his comfort, so he feels that something has been specially crafted for him.
Looks are also important. You should look the part of the occasion you’re wearing the suit for.
If a person walks into your boutique, what should he know or expect?
Made-to-measure is an extension of the inventory of a store with unlimited possibilities to personalize it according to the likes of the client; for example, if you want a particular trouser in double pleats when the store has only flat fronts in those colours and designs.
Another thing that you need to know is that we don’t copy other brands’ styles. So if you come in and say to me, “look this is a jacket I bought from XY brand. Make another like that," that is not happening. I am going to make you a jacket that fits you well, and if you so wish, you can buy it, but we are not copying any other brands’ style. You can’t go to BMW and ask them to make a car for you that looks like a Mercedes. It’s the same idea.
How much time does it take to make a suit?
From the time a person gives measurement and places an order to the time it is shipped back in India, it takes around six-eight weeks. Nothing is made in India. Everything is made in the US or in our factories overseas (Italy, Thailand, etc.).
What is the aesthetic difference between a ready-to-wear and a made-to-measure suit?
There is no difference, really, aesthetically. The fabric is the same for both. But then, it is all about the dimension and the style. Whether you want a notched lapel or a peaked lapel. The style of lapel is different in a made-to-measure suit from the style of lapel in a ready-to-wear one. So you modify and existing pattern and you personalize it in terms of the details.
What is the biggest misconception about made-to-measure?
That it’s bespoke. It is not, it is made-to-measure. We start from an existing pattern and that pattern gets modified before being cut to fit your specifications. That’s made-to-measure. Bespoke is different. In that, there is a tailor who creates a pattern around your body from scratch.
You have travelled across the world. how are men in india different from elsewhere?
Indian men are very specific to their request and they want a suit more to the body. Not too tight, but definitely not too blousy. They have the same interest in comfort as in the look of a particular suit.
How do you find out what kind of suit will look good on who?
Well, from the moment a customer walks into a store, we look at what he is wearing and how. Start to understand his lifestyle and his needs. For example, if there is a lawyer, he would look for something formal to wear to court. For an engineer who works mostly in the field, we would look for something sturdier. For someone who travels two days a week, we would look for fabric that is lightweight and that he can just crumple and throw in the bin and then wear it right out of the bin later.
So it is like you start to have a conversation with a client, you try to understand what he is looking for, how many suits he has in his wardrobe and things like that. For example, if someone comes up and tells me he has a couple of suits, I am not going to show him something very fancy because he is still building a wardrobe. But if somebody comes and tells me, “look, I have more suits in my wardrobe than your store in New York City", then I have to look for something fancy for him. And then, of course, there are people who want only grey and blue, and there are some who are always ready to experiment.
What is the one thing you love about your job and the one thing that you hate about it?
The satisfaction that you see in the customer when they find that one fabric they were looking for and the fitting they always wanted. I love the fact that I get to meet different people, get to know them and hear interesting stories. These are things that I love. And the one thing I hate is getting up early to catch a flight.
What’s the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part is to understand and visualize how this customer is going to wear this suit that I am making for him. Understanding his needs. Fabric is easy.
Have you ever had a dissatisfied customer?
Oh, many. See, a dissatisfied customer is always part of the game. It depends on how you handle it. You need to work in a way that you get a brand ambassador out of a dissatisfied customer. You need to understand why he is dissatisfied. There might be some misunderstanding. So you have to revisit the entire process and beyond and make him happy.
What has your job taught you?
To always listen to clients. It has also taught me how to handle a problematic situation tactically and how to find out positives in the most negative circumstances.
What do most men do wrong when it comes to suiting?
Again, everything is personal. But in the general sense, many men keep their trousers too long. They button too many buttons. On a three-button (suit), you button the centre, and sometimes the top one, and in case of a two-buttoned suit, you button only the top. Never button the bottom one.
What are the current trends?
Blues are getting lighter. So no more dark shades of blue. Up to the last few years ago, we were selling the dark midnight shade of blue, but now we are selling much lighter shades. In terms of patterns, tone-on-tone, ministripes, pleats, anything that has some texture, but not very bold, are in fashion these days.
In terms of styles, suits and jackets are mostly two-buttoned and trousers are for, the greater majority, without pleats.