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kotmj's Tailoring Notes

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There are some parallels between the tailoring industry and the watchmaking industry. I thought I'd touch on one of them. It is an aspect that few people seem to appreciate.


I notice that tailoring industry insiders are quite flexible about who or where or how their clothes get made. No only do they not necessarily make it themselves, with their own hands, but it may not even be made "in-house" by salaried employees. It may be made by a different firm. You see this a lot in the RTW fashion business whose supply chain is intransparent and transient, as in, fast changing.


In the watch manufacturing business, you see pretty much the same thing. The OEM makers draw upon a great deal of suppliers, service providers and manufacturing capabilities which they do not own. Hundreds of firms are involved in the making of a watch. In the masters thesis I wrote many years ago, I think fully 60% of Daimler's revenues are paid out to suppliers. In other words, a Mercedes is really only 40% Daimler and 60% Daimler's suppliers. Having worked for a Daimler supplier, I have an idea of how this cooperation works out and it is not very different from how it works in the tailoring industry. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes the whole industrialised world to make a car.


On the retail customer side, none of this cooperation is obvious. There is the romance of the "manufaktur". They like to think of the OEMs as fully vertically integrated, where every aspect of the watch was conceived, designed and manufactured in-house. In reality, nobody does things like that. It's a strange dream not supportable by reality.


Not just because of cost reasons. To make a very good product requires access to special skills and talent. These people, because of the market value of what they can do, may choose to be self employed, offering their skills to more than one OEM maker. An OEM maker may choose to do it with a salaried employee, but he may not be a star. In which case the product suffers.


Most makers insist more strongly on a great product than on strictly in-house production.


I see a tailor like Tailor On Ten saying they are vertically integrated. One article I think say they make everything in house. It is a very nice house. Looks almost like a Swiss watch "manufaktur".



Extremely few tailors do everything in-house. I got very intrigued with TOT's vertical integration. I wanted to know if they have a busy workshop in the house bustling with coatmakers, trousermakers and shirtmakers. I searched Google images. All I saw was maybe three guys cutting and sewing. They look very young and not very highly paid. I am almost certain the shirts are neither cut nor sewn in house. Trousers also probably not. Jackets may be cut and basted in house, but I am just not certain if the final sewing takes place in that nice bungalow.


In other words, not much production takes place in the manufaktur. It is mostly a retail space.


Not even bntailor owns its production. None of their clothes are sewn by their employees. It doesn't stop them from making great clothes.


I think the most sensible organisation for a tailoring outfit is quality maximization, not vertical integration. It is ok to have a very bespoke supply chain tailored to the craftspeople. Maybe some like to sew from home. Maybe some like to found their own little workshop and deal with you as an independent service provider, not a salaried employee. Whatever arrangement is best for the clothes and the people making them.

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