SBS21: Sustainable practise from a Bespoke Tailor

Nicholas Simon Tailoring

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham and Coventry and Warwickshire Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2021 Sustainable Business Series: Net Zero campaign.

The Sustainable Business Series: Net Zero is the Chamber’s first campaign on environmental sustainability, which aims to share best practice, guidance and knowledge to increase business progress to net zero. In 2021, this involves 5 free online webinars taking place from the end of September and throughout October along with publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content. The campaign will feature a Sustainability Summit on 3rd November

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Aston University, Arup, Morgan Sindall and the University of Birmingham - all webinars and the Summit are free to attend. Interested parties can find out more and register to attend Sustainable Business Series: Net Zero events here, and the Sustainable Business Summit here.

The fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. Approximately 300,000 tonnes of clothing waste is sent to landfill each year in the UK.

At Nicholas Simon Tailoring, I’ve been crafting durable, adaptable and sustainable garments for over 12 years. I’d like to share some of my learnings for enhancing product sustainability so businesses can apply the principles for themselves.

Not only are the bespoke garments I make at Nicholas Simon Tailoring beautiful, but they are also built to last. Extending the life cycle of the product will reduce its emissions through saving on the emissions associated with raw material sourcing, manufacturing, and disposal stages of the product. For example, increasing the lifespan of a t-shirt by 10% in the UK market would reduce around 100,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent and 2000 tonnes of waste per annum in the UK.

When extending the product life cycle, the product must be durable and adaptable. To achieve this, I direct the customer to the best cloth for the garment, I build the garment around their unique figure, and I allow extra cloth to be left in certain areas of the garments so that they can be increased in size if the customer requires. Thinking ahead/long-term and consulting with the customer is critical to extend the product life cycle and ensure the customer is happy.

Customers need to be invested in the product long term. Creating an emotional investment into the product is key, making it bespoke and tailored helps involve them in the creation of the product. Also, you have to make a compelling case, ask yourself:

  • How do you get your customer to emotionally engage with buying the product you sell/create?
  • How do you add value to what it is and to encourage them to buy better, buy smarter and buy less?

The volume of textiles created in this world takes an awful toll on the environment (as the statistics show). It is important to minimise the risk of our bespoke garments from being discarded. Even repurposing items for other interested parties is a good way to keep the product from its end of life, hence extending the life cycle. For example, when customers are looking to dispose of their products, we encourage them to explore if their family, friends or other would be interested in reusing them.

When extending the product life cycle, naturally the prices increase due to higher quality materials and bespoke design. Therefore, educating your customer through comparing and contrasting price, market and materials is key. Some questions to consider when educating and selling to your customer:

  • Does your customer know the full extent of your product?
  • Why it costs the price it does and what it can be compared to?
  • How can you help them get the best from it?
  • How does your product adapt to the customer as their circumstances change?

Yes, handmade, bespoke garments can be seen as expensive. £1800 for a sports jacket may sound extreme. But with my skill and help, that sports jacket will last for 10 years, splitting the cost down to an investment of £180 per year. Less than some designer names on the High Street. Doesn’t seem such an expense now does it?

So, are you guilty of buying something new to replace something that you just don’t “need” any longer? This happens more and more in fashion/clothing. There is no emotional investment in people’s clothing when they buy cheap or on impulse. It’s very different when you take the time to select a fabric, a lining, details, buttons etc. When you have the garment made by hand and shaped to your body. When you invest time into getting the fitting just right and making sure each detail is perfect for your everyday use. When your presented with the final product, you’ll love it. You’re invested in it. It becomes a valued piece of your wardrobe, and you will get so much joy from wearing it and telling those around you about the story of its creation.

Nicholas Simon Tailoring