Tailoring Technology

What do we think of when we think of tailored, custom made, individualized, bespoke, made-to-order?

We call our KOBA project a “tailor shop for wearable technology”, which implies we offer tailor made technology, and yes this is our plan. But, by pulling apart our KOBA story into four different perspectives (see: Whose Fairytale?) to help us clarify the contents of our story and to then try and consolidate our story-line into a coherent single story with one moral (post to come!).
In doing so, I’ve started to wonder: is our tailor shop really a “tailor” shop, or are we trying to communicate a message that would benefit from a re-working of the meaning of “tailoring”? Or using a different word?

I think we jumped on the word tailoring for all the romantic notions of small-scale handmade workshop production and the face-to-face interactions between maker and customer that it hints at. But what does a tailor-made situation/experience really entail, what image does it convey, and is it really the best carrier of our message(s)?

In the following I describing what could maybe be considered as different levels, or different options of “tailor-made” experiences that I’ve come across in literature, the Internet and my own experience. I’m not sure I like this way of organizing them (from “High” to “No”), but there does appear to be a strong tendency that correlates tailoring with monetary value and thus they could be scaled to range from almost unaffordable high-end to no-cost DIY.

NOTE: the following is still work-in-progress!!!

Tailoring Perspectives

*) The High-End: expensive/exclusive experience
– Super custom tailor from woven material to fit (specialized in one clothing item)
– Ferrari custom car interior

*) The Upper-End: custom-made versions of the everyday
– Levis tailored jeans and other items
– Architect designs your house
– Interior design
– Jewelry

*)The Personal-End (no way of it not being tailored?)
– Dental work (fillings, crowns…)
– Prosthesis
– Hairdresser

*) The Practical-End: repair/upcycle
– Bike repair
– Shoe repair
– Car repair
– Meal plans?

*) The Desire-End: gift for a friend, inventive/curious handmade goods
– Craft items (not “tailored to the person”, but tailored from the material)

*) No-Cost DIY-End: relying heavily on sharing of information
– Handmade for a friend (if the person receiving the items does not know about it, and no measurements were taken, is it tailored?)

1) The High-End: expensive/exclusive experience (money is the question!)

The best quality materials, made into the best quality product that fits perfectly. This is considered pure luxury. Are we proposing that this luxury no longer be exclusive to those with money? This goes towards the end of “mass-customization” – affordable customisation because the machine processes are able to produce unique results.
Perfect individual customization beyond pure practical benefit? The experience, the brand, the show…

“Bespoke tailoring is about more than clothes, it’s a way of life: celebrating the very best that the human hand can make and that money can buy.”
—> Make an appointment (https://www.huntsmansavilerow.com/)

“It is hard to be unimpressed by the miracle of tailoring: how a set of figures read off a measuring tape and translated into a paper pattern, becomes something that almost lives – a second skin in which to feel supremely comfortable” Nick Foulkes

“Generally, it takes more than 80 man hours to produce a bespoke suit. “
He shows me some of the “fun” stuff they have done, including a two-piece dinner suit for a dachshund. “Bespoke is a serious trade but we also have fun,”

NOTE: You can even fly to Scotland to have your own tween fabric woven from which you can then have your suit tailored!

Behind the scenes at ferrari’s exclusive tailor-made facility:
>> https://www.designboom.com/technology/behind-the-scenes-at-ferraris-exclusive-tailor-made-facility-11-04-2013/

Look, their showroom also has demonstrators and patterns hanging.

2) The Upper-End: custom-made versions of the everyday

For some this could be tailoring something for a special occasion, for others who can afford it, it might be common to have everything made to order this way.

When i first moved to berlin, after living in my flat for over a year without real furniture (makeshift shelves and cloths in boxes), I found myself stopping to look in at some of the designer furniture shops where furniture was custom built, often from old mateirals or creatively reassembled (upcycled) from other items like crates, wine boxes, construction plywood. I liked some of the designs and kept telling myself I could make these things myself. But, knowing I would need to take the time and that time is money, what if I indulged in the tailor-made experience of having something custom made. Paying a fellow craftsperson/designer for their work, and in exchange not only getting a useful piece of furniture but also the experience. I never ended up indulging in this option, and I think the main reasons were time, indecision and money. Even though i would no have to build the item myself, I would need to commit to making time to place the order and deal with receiving it. I would also have to decide what to have made – not an easy thing”! And, I would have to be okay to spend the money – an easy reason to put it off for later.

Levi’s tailor shop (2011)
>> http://explore.levi.com/news/design/levis-makers-tailor-shop/

Making Jeans By Hand with Levi’s Master Tailor:
>> https://youtu.be/4h1scc0xvjA

Levi’s Meatpacking – Tailor Shop | Behind The Scenes Video:
>> https://www.freshnessmag.com/2011/11/30/levis-meatpacking-tailor-shop-behind-the-scenes-video/#!

3) The Desire-End: gift for a friend, inventive/interesting handmade goods

Lower price range as these items are more whimsical less fully functional items you can justify spending money on. Items often sold at crafts markets?

4) The Practical-End: repair/upcycle (alteration tailor, shoe repair, cell-phone repair…)

My own experiance here has often been with bike and shoe repair shops. I rely on my bike for daily transport, without it i am imobile, thus it is important to fix breaks quickly and how much it will cost is based on materials plus hourly rate of about 80 Euro/hour (inclusive 19% MwSt.!).

5) No-Cost DIY-End: relying heavily on sharing of information, open source, community workshops

Buy the pattern, take the workshop, invest time to learn and make something yourself.


Given these interpretations of what tailoring and a tailoring experience could be, is the use of the word “tailor shop” still apt? If we are more concerned with the following issues, is there maybe a better “opening line” for our endeavor?

The issues we’re concerned with:

Technology Diversity: providing a place for technological dreams/desires/ideas/invention to be made for you, and this (hopefully) resulting in crazy/strange/unusual things that would otherwise never have been made.

Transparency: showing how technology is made by literally opening up what goes on inside the workshop for all to see through the shop windows. Emphasizing that for people to be creative, they need access to knowledge and ways to understand how things are made…

Longevity: creating technology that will last a life-time (it may break and need to be altered, updated, completely changed – but this is what access to a local tailor shop would provide: a place to have all these things done)


Collecting references to projects/works that deal with tailoring.

I took part in this project during a one month stay in Ljubljana in 2016. The project wants to raise awareness about fast fashion production and consumption by providing a series of designed shirts for loan. If you take part you receive one of the shirts in the current collection for a loan period after which you send it on to the next person. You get the experience of wearing a unique, well made clothing items unlike what you might usually wear. For me this experience made me want to know more about the designer who had made the shirt I was wearing and by the end of the month I wanted to commission a custom shirt from her (which I have unfortunately not done yet).
>> http://www.shirting.si/what-is/

PIFpack Workshop at ANSELMA