With a background in fashion and garment construction, and having run his own made-to-measure business, Maximillian has fantastic insight into fashion trends and dressing for self expression. To read from the start of this series, click HERE.
After learning about Max’s made-to-measure business I was keen to hear more about customer demands. If Max were to make me a wardrobe I would have a list as tall as me with requests and suggestions as well as things I don’t want. He told me about some of the experiences he has had making clothes specifically for different individuals:
‘I was very lucky in that I promoted myself as making individualised clothing, so, I would occasionally get customers who had concerns about a particular aspect of their body like how their hips looked… and then I would literally get customers come in with pictures of hollywood stars on the red carpet in a particular dress and say “I want that dress!” We would then have a discussion about how realistic that look was for them because often the look that they were bringing to me would bear no relationship to their body type or complexion or personality and so we would have a conversation then and I would suggest to them that really what they are looking for is that they want to feel as good as they believe that person feels when they look at that.’
‘I would say to them okay, yes, technically I can copy this fantasy dress for you – I prefer not to copy – so we can technically do this but in my experience that is not going to give you the emotional satisfaction of what you’re looking for. I can create something new for you which will make you feel as good and as confident as what you believe you are seeing. So, we often had that slight change in conversation.’
I was also interested to know if there were any common issues with sizing across the board. Are standard sizes always too narrow for most people? or too long? Do men’s shirts always sit weird on anyone who isn’t a model? Max’s response was refreshing and made a lot of sense:
‘Everyone is different. In my time working in made-to-measure I never had a client who was what we call standard size. Never. I have to say I had one client, a man, who was supposedly like the perfect size 40 dimensions for a man. According to the ideal size of a size 40 he had the right size shoulders, the right size chest, waist hips. However, even in his case he had broken one of his collar bones so he had one shoulder lopsided.’
‘I guess the first point is that nobody is this perfect fantasy size, or the ideal size. I was looking at a man today while I was in a cafe, who was actually an average height and he was well dressed and he was wearing jeans that had a cuff that had been turned up two maybe three inches. That was his style, but in reality for him to have jeans that fit him he had to turn them up. It was a necessity. He had made that into a stye thing in a way, and that’s acceptable.’
‘In terms of common alterations, I think ultimately altering length is really common. Letting garments out is really common as well, especially at the hips or waist. I was making made-to-measure so my belief is that the clothes should fit the body not the other way around. Actually, I would commonly get women apologising for their figure and I would always be saying to them you really don’t have to apologise because it’s not that you should be fitting into this concept. These are functional items that need to fit you.’
Max explained how this mentality, body fitting the clothes not clothes fitting the body, is a byproduct of mass production of standardised sizes, a necessity of affordable clothing.
‘The reality is that for cost effective off the rack clothing to exist, manufactures have to create a standardised system that is as close as they can get to what people can wear. However it is actually never perfect. We now don’t generally live in a culture where fit is understood properly. It probably was even 50 or 60 years ago when having things custom made or tailor made was more common…’
‘Once I started learning about tailoring and about what fit actually is I just realised – it was quite a shock – walking around the streets realising how ill fitting most of our clothes are. But, you know, that is the byproduct of us now being able to buy affordable clothing. It’s kind of, that aspect of it is kind of related to our concept of what clothing should cost as well. We undervalue the labour.’
I also asked him his thoughts on ‘plus sized’ models and garments. The concept doesn’t make sense to me because I observe that everyone is a different shape and size. We are not divided into ‘normal’ sizes and ‘abnormal’ sizes. Max agreed:
‘I don’t understand why any group of women needs to be separated in that sense because of their size. I don’t understand why that has to occur… ”You ladies are normal and then you ladies are plus size” why is one abnormal? I don’t really see it like that. I used to make a lot of clothes for the whole spectrum of sizes and shapes and enjoyed all of that. I especially used to enjoy making clothes for women who would be termed plus size because they couldn’t get clothes that fitted them properly. They’re often, in terms of ready to wear, being given the options of completely baggy clothes but the reality is they still have shape, you know. I know a lot of clients I used to work with found that quite demoralising and it was a real pleasure to be able to make clothes that fitted them properly.’
Wearing clothes that fit your body well and feel comfortable for you can be one of the most liberating things. Any woman who has finally found a bra that is so comfortable you don’t know you’re wearing it will understand this. Clothing affects how we feel both physically and emotionally. Max truly understands this. He was an inspiration to interview and it was so nourishing to write this series because I feel that I am able to reflect on what I enjoy wearing and what I tell myself I ‘can’t’ wear. I am also inspired to get rid of clothes that dig in or itch me.
As Max says, ‘When someone is confident in what they are wearing, they wear it completely differently too. It was quite empowering for a lot of clients to be able to show themselves in a different way. To contradict what they have been told about themselves. It’s a very empowering thing. I really enjoyed that aspect of clothing.’
I enjoy that too and I hope you do too!