Blog: Leonie BarrieWhat’s in a word?

Leonie Barrie | 20 June 2008

What do Scotch whisky, Parma ham, Champagne, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Whitstable oysters have in common? The answer is that they are all legally protected regional names.

But sadly for the tailors on London’s Savile Row, they won’t be swelling these ranks after losing right to use the word “bespoke” to refer exclusively to their own handmade suits.

They might have trade-marked the term “Savile Row bespoke,” and even set out a strict code of practice for its use stipulating that suits should be made entirely by hand, but a ruling by the Advertising Standards Agency now means the name can now by used by any men’s wear retailer.

At the centre of the row is Sartoriani London, which used the term to describe suits that were machine-cut and sewn in Germany to a standard pattern after initial measurements were taken.

In its defence, it said the Oxford English Dictionary defines bespoke as “made to order", and a men's style guide defined it as “from 'to bespeak' ie to order or command. Generally speaking, this means 'made-to-measure' as distinct from 'ready-to-wear' clothes.” 

Sartoriani also quoted this definition from another tailor: “To buy a bespoke suit is to buy a suit that has been cut from a piece of cloth to measurements that we have calculated by analysing your body shape. We are not customising a pre-made suit (sometimes known as made to measure) ... the cut, style, colour, number of buttons etc are all chosen by you.  The suit is therefore made to your exact specifications, and is completely unique to you.”

And it argued its suits were made to order at the customer's demand, to their measurements and specification, rather than merely altering an off-the-peg suit - and that they therefore met the definition of “bespoke.”

These arguments were upheld, much to the disappointment of The Savile Row Bespoke Association which says the ruling marks “the difference between a fine painting and a print.”

UK: Savile Row tailors lose bespoke battle


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