Imagine, if you will, a place of privacy and calm where you can shop for clothing that will be specifically designed and made for you. No crowds or messy changing rooms. No ill-fitting jackets or suits that look as if you borrowed them from your older – or younger – brother. Welcome to the world of bespoke fashion, shopping on your terms to outfit yourself in clothing that reflects your lifestyle and personality – your own personal brand.
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“When you are confident enough to create pieces that can help elevate your own personal brand, that’s a beautiful thing,” says Marlon Durrant, owner of Md Bespoke, a men’s clothing atelier in Yorkville.
Saving time and gaining comfort
Durrant began his bespoke men’s clothing store in 2000. He now has a loyal clientele that wouldn’t think of getting dressed without him. Who are the men that choose to have everything from their shirts and suits to overcoats and underwear (yes, bespoke boxers are a thing) custom made? They are busy CEOs, VPs and executives looking to make a statement without wasting a minute of their time in a retail store. And, they are looking for comfort.
“There are certain clients who appreciate this service more, like tall, large or small men,” explains Durrant. “Men with long arms, long legs, or large men. They have no choice other than to have bespoke to look good and feel good and be comfortable. We also have a lot of clients who are shorter than 5’3”. It’s very hard for them to walk into somewhere and find a suit that fits.”
The architecture of style
Engaging Durrant is like hiring an architect who creates the blueprint for a custom wardrobe that reflects your personality, needs and lifestyle. To do so, he employs a team of craftspeople who become part of the process. That includes taking exact measurements to creating the pattern, cutting the material and putting all the individual pieces together. But before his crew can start, he works his magic to understand what each client needs.
“At Md, there are no fashion trends,” says Durrant. “Although we do our best to look at trends, we are more focused on personal style. We look at a client and say these colours look best on you, let’s do this for fall. Or, let’s do this for summer. Most of the time they [regular clients] say, ‘You know what I like, just get it done’. They want to be focused on their business, not on selecting fabric.”
When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and offices closed down, people began working from home and the dress code shifted. Many of Durrant’s clients headed to cottage country to conduct business. Their conference room windows overlooked the lake instead of Bay Street. Still, the need for custom clothing persisted.
“On our casual side, bespoke for shirts has gone through the roof,” says Durrant. “Since the pandemic, a lot of my clients have extra pandemic weight, which means new clothing. A lot spend time at the cottage and they say, ‘Send me up pajamas, boxers.’ People are kind of bored. Putting on bespoke clothing adds fun.”
The devil is in the details
Most of the fabrics Durrant uses are imported from places like Italy, Scotland, Switzerland and Germany. But when it comes to the real work, everything else is done here in Canada. In fact, it is his commitment to hiring local that has seen him ride the wave through the pandemic.
“All the craftsmanship and quality in detail is done in Canada,” says Durrant. “We are focused on Canada, on Toronto and the clothing being made within Canada.”
Because he doesn’t have to rely on Asia to manufacture the clothing, he can control the turnaround time between making the pattern and delivering the clothing. “Because it’s made here, the process with suits takes four to six weeks. If I have your pattern on file, three weeks.”
For a shirt, if he has the fabric in the warehouse, he could turn it around after the first fitting within 48 hours.
The cost of a full bespoke wardrobe is not for the faint-hearted or shallow pockets. Depending on your needs, a dozen shirts and a few suits can set you back thousands of dollars. A shirt at Md Bespoke is $475 each, with a three-shirt minimum and suits start at $2,500. But there’s something to be said about the allure of what Durrant refers to as “quiet luxury”.
A lot of energy and talent goes into making a custom suit or shirt. At Md Bespoke, it takes a team of six people working on shirts and eight on the suit side to get these articles of clothing to customers. Skilled craftspeople, all of whom live locally, include pattern makers, which is a specialty on its own, cutters, which is an art within itself, as well as “the art of the sew”. Even pressing the final product is separate skill, when all the working parts have been united into the whole.
“A lot of people don’t understand or care about the details and there has been a flood of fast fashion,” says Durrant. “But when people understand quiet luxury, they understand the quality that is going into their garments. Bespoke is investing in your lifestyle and these pieces.”