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February 2005

Made to Measure—

Dare to differ—individuality is back

Always been happy to follow the crowd? Well now’s the time to stop. Individualism has never been more popular—whether you express it through your clothes, your hair, your shoes or even your home. Yes, made to measure is officially big business. While many retailers are struggling to make ends meet—particularly specialist stores—those offering tailor-made services are doing better than ever. So much so, in fact, that German made-to-measure chain Dolzer is opening its latest branch in Munich this month.

“There’s no doubt that the demand for tailor-made clothes is on the increase,” said a spokesman for the store, which opens at Wilhelm-Wagenfeld-Strasse 16–18 on February 2. “People are really starting to appreciate well-fitting clothes, made from quality fabrics. They’re realizing that you can’t achieve the same look if you buy a standard-size garment, off the rack from a high-street store.”

Perhaps the biggest catalyst for the made-to-measure boom has been the reduction in prices. Whereas tailor-made clothes were, for a long time, something that only the wealthy could afford, the concept has now been brought down to mass-market level, by the likes of Dolzer. Instead of having a garment designed from scratch (Massschneiderei), customers choose a fabric and one of several premade styles, by trying on sample items. Their measurements are then inputted into a computer, and the order sent to a central warehouse. Finished garments arrive several weeks later, when the customer returns for a final fitting. Because this process (Masskonfektion) requires only minimal changes to be made to predesigned clothing, the whole concept is much cheaper than having clothes individually tailored. For example, an individualized, tailor-made suit by Munich couturier Holger Sommer (see would set you back upwards of € 1,900. His Masskonfektion suits, on the other hand, come in for as little as € 500. “Whether you’re 20 or 80, it’s nice to be better dressed,” he said. “And while a lot of people can’t afford proper tailoring, they can run to a few hundred for a suit that has been effectively cut-to-fit.”

There is no coincidence that the advance of technology has helped spur the trend. High-street stores C&A and Loden Frey in Munich have also seized upon the boom, and installed so-called body scanners in their stores, which use lasers to measure customers for a pre-designed suit or shirt.

Even children are getting a look in on the made-to-measure trend. At Thierchen in the Glockenbachviertel Constanze Thiere, Petra Pohl and Sve Rickenberg offer a full range of individually designed clothing for kids. Ok, so garments are not cheap—dress prices, for example, start at € 70. But there is one major advantage for parents: items purchased at the shop can be altered to fit the child a year later, for no extra charge.

When it comes to women, however, the market still has a long way to go. Although individual shops specialize in made-to-measure evening and occasion wear, there is not yet much available in the way of everyday clothes. “Women simply have more complicated and more individual bodies than men,” said Holger Sommer. “As such, the whole concept of adapting ready-made designs by snipping a bit here and a bit there doesn’t really work. For a woman to have a proper tailor-made garment created, she has to be completely open with the tailor, as her body’s hormonal cycle means it changes from week to week and he needs to be able to take account of this.”

One area of clothing where women can achieve individualization is in shoes. At Selve, in Kücherlbäckerstrasse, women can select the shoe style, heel height and shape, color, material and lining to create a unique piece of footwear, with prices ranging from € 200 to € 400 a pair. Of course, if you’re concerned about turning up at a party and discovering someone is wearing shoes with an identical heel or toe, for example, then put your best foot forward and head straight to Mezzacapo in Haidhausen. Here, Italian Domenico Mezzacapo creates leather shoes from scratch, entirely by hand. He begins by taking a blueprint of each foot, from which a wooden last is carved. This remains at the atelier, should you wish to reorder in the future, and forms the basis of your made-to-measure shoe. Prices range from € 400 to € 700, depending on the style and leather chosen, and shoes take between three and five weeks to produce. If you really want to push the boat out, Mezzacapo also makes leather belts and handbags to match. His footwear ranges from classic brogues and ladies’ shoes to shoes for golf, climbing and riding, as well as special pairs commissioned by artists for performances.

But why stop there? There are numerous stores throughout Munich offering made-to-measure kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, anything you like. In fact, the first made-to-measure houses have just been launched on the local market. These work similarly to the Dolzer concept, with customers choosing whether they want a small, medium or large house and then adding on individual features to match their requirements. Because the basic shell is a standard product, manufactured industrially, costs and production time are relatively low. It certainly makes keeping up with the Jones’ a thing of the past! <<<

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