Bespoke is a word that is thrown around by brands and businesses the past few years to describe their products. From bespoke suits to shoes to small leather goods and even food. It normally refers to a product or service that is tailored specifically to a client, but what does it really entail to be something truly bespoke?
Bespoke is the past participle of the word bespeak, which means “to speak for, to arrange for, to ‘order'”. It is a verb traditionally used in ordering suits and eventually shoes. It is only during the last century when it’s use evolved into an adjective. I believe that the culture of having bespoke clothing that has emerged is a countermovement to mass commercialism and an expression of an individual’s need to connect to others. The main advantage of having bespoke items is the look and feel. Something that is made according to your specifications just has that upgraded look which of course, looks and feels better. While most people fall under the basic size ranges, the fit will not always look right. More often than not, one would need to have their clothing altered to get a great fit. This is not bespoke of course, but tweaking to get a custom fit is similar to getting a tailored fit which is one of the main purposes of getting bespoke clothing. If one wants to look and feel good, getting proper bespoke clothing is one way to get it.
Another aspect of bespoke is it being hand made. Unlike mass producing articles of clothing where it is normally a mechanized process, bespoke items rely on human hands to carefully prepare and put together the item. Unlike mass produced items where everything should be uniform, bespoke items are “imperfect”. These imperfections can be due to many factors but is primarily due to its tailored nature. Our imperfections make us unique after all. Having something bespoken is commissioning an artisan to craft something for you after all.
Passion of a Maker
An artisan who does bespoke should be passionate. Love and passion for the craft are key to producing a great bespoke item, whether it be suits or shoes or jewelry. Having love and passion will naturally push artisans to better themselves. They will aim to give their best with each project and learn from them so that they may improve their craft even more. That is one of the crucial differentiating characteristics of a great bespoke artisan to a mediocre one. A great artisan will continue to grow and hone his/her craft while a mediocre one settles and is content with what they have. A great artisan will strive to improve the craft, seeking an unreachable perfection. And no matter how painful the process can be, a great artisan will never give up.
Passion is key to creating beautiful things. In the same way a father loves his children, so does an artisan love his work. Being a bespoke maker requires even more passion and patience since the output is more for the client rather than the artisan. The bespoke item is a testament of an artisan’s passion for their craft. An artisan’s passion will not allow him to let a client go home with a bad item. It is this passion which will eventually attract others to observe the artisan and thereby improve the awareness for the craft while at the same time motivating others to strive for greatness as well.
It is the greatest pleasure of a bespoke maker to serve. Greatness comes from the recognition of others after all. One cannot claim greatness unless recognized by others. It is the love and passion that artisans put in their work which will attract recognition. The passion to serve is to surrender to the act of service, it is letting the drive for excellence take over personal preferences and seek the good for the craft.
Bespoke items are technically luxury, some brands offer affordable luxury but still luxury nonetheless. So is craving to have bespoke wrong? No it isn’t. Supporting bespoke craft is good, it helps preserve heritage. Working with a bespoke artisan strengthens tradition. Having something bespoke requires understanding, patience, faith, and love. Working with a bespoke artisan means sharing that artisan’s passion and understanding the whole process and being patient about it. One cannot demand of the artisan because an artisan is not a machine who will slave for you. A bespoke artisan is a partner, and you have to trust your partner to do whats best for you.
Let me break down what I said about the basic requirements to working with a bespoke artisan. Understanding, we need to understand what we are getting ourselves into. A basic knowledge is needed in order to work with a partner, otherwise it won’t be a partnership and disappointments can arise with lack of understanding. Take for example timing and deadlines, without understanding how bespoke truly works, we can mistake the slow pace of it for deliberate tarrying by the artisan. Misunderstanding can lead to a bad experience with a bespoke artisan, and what good thing can come out if there are bad emotions attached to it? The same thing in dealing with others in life, understanding is key for any relationship or endeavor to work. Without properly understanding what is required of something can lead to disappointment and unrealistic expectations.
Patience, we have to be patient and wait for the proper time for fitting and revisions before a final product can be made. Normally, bespoke items take a whole lot longer to make than something that comes from a production line. For suits its roughly 50-80 hours to make, and around 60 to 100 hours for true bespoke shoes. This period is usually spread across months with a number of fittings before the final product is produced.
You got to have faith in your bespoke maker. After all, you commissioned the artisan for that bespoke item. Bespoke artisans usually have had years of experience in their craft as apprentices and novices, and then years of track record to their name before becoming reputable service providers. True bespoke makers take pride in their work so they wont allow a bad product to leave with a client. Have faith in the bespoke artisan that you chose. Having good communication with your bespoke artisan will ensure that he will give his best and strive to learn to improve for your next project together.
Finally you need to have love for the craft. Love will keep you going even if you encounter bad experiences (though I hope it’s limited since bad experiences tend to be expensive for bespoke items). Think of it like going on a journey to find the perfect artisan to partner with. There will be bumps and detours along the way and so as long as you don’t give up, you will eventually find your artisan.
So what does it mean to live bespoke? One could argue that dressing in custom clothing, eating a personalized menu, living in a designer home, collecting curated experiences through travel is living bespoke. In a worldly sense that can be true. It is the image that the world wants us to see from the outside, all the glitz and glamour of marketing ads designed to wet one’s appetite for new experiences, to be set apart from the rest and validate why we do what we do. Having something bespoke connotes exclusivity, and that plays on our vanity. What most people see is how good it looks. Having something crafted specifically for you by experienced artisans produces something that will look good. It is something which we could be proud of (humblebrag? Instagram-worthy?) since it shows on the outside that we have acquired something unique, something special. Do we seek bespoke for our outward appearance? To satisfy ourselves by garnering likes and compliments from our peers because of our “refined” lifestyle choices? If so then maybe your heart is not in the right place. One does not fill life with joy by drawing it from the outside, but seeks to find the more which will fill you from the inside which will then reflect on your outward appearance. What good is a life if it is but a brightly colored egg when there is nothing inside it.
I remember when I was still learning about shoemaking, I was so eager to take in as much information as I can and fell into the same traps as most do. I learned the rules and stuck with them pretty much. I listened to style gurus as they lay down the rules and took it all in without properly understanding those rules. The rules became more important than the shoemaking itself. The same can be said when one develops a taste for bespoke. We can get so caught up in following the rules that we forget why we are doing what we’re doing in the first place. Yes rules are important but it is not the goal, it is not the reason. After years of working with artisans and clients, experiencing ups and downs, successes and failures I have come to realize that it is the spirit which is important. I learned what it means to be bespoke.
Let us go back to the original meaning of bespoke to understand what a bespoke life is. To “be spoken for” means to be commissioned for a purpose. We commission items to be made for us for a purpose, and the anything made can only truly be realized if it fulfills it’s purpose. Whether it be made for work, for a wedding, for daily use, for style – the only way for anything to become fully realized is when it fulfills its original purpose. Now in order to live a bespoke life we need to know and realize our purpose. For what good are the bespoke suits and shoes made from the finest materials if we do not know our purpose? What good is a grand appearance without substance? How can one say that they have a bespoke life if one does know one’s purpose? To live bespoke, we first need to know our purpose.
As with anything bespoke, there is a master artisan who is in charge of crafting a bespoke life. A piece of leather needs a shoemaker to shape it into form so that it becomes a shoe. It doesn’t just become a shoe on its own, and without an artisan to guide it to become a shoe, it becomes something less than what it’s meant to be if it becomes anything close to what its meant to be at all. Each life has a purpose, a vision. When we were conceived, the Master already has a vision for us. Like anything bespoke, we are customized to fit that vision and purpose. That is why there is inequality, why we are all so different. Because as with all creations of the Master, we are all crafted with different purposes and in different ways. Like with a bespoke item, the Master crafts us with a purpose in mind. We cannot know the Master’s intentions for us that is why we have to go through the process of living for us to find out.
As with all creations, our lives go through various stages before we can see the finished product. We will be cut, glued, sewn, pulled, hammered, heated, and polished. There will be hurt and we may suffer but all of that is needed for us to realize what we were meant to become. And even then we can still be taken apart and put back together again the way shoes can be resoled and given a new lease in life.
So why am I going about this? In a world of mass consumerism we are all looking for ways to be different while still falling in line with trends. We are now looking for a tailored experience and while the world of advertising and modern views have sold to us the concept of exclusivity and being “beautiful in your own way” and “this is me”, we still feel the need for support from others. This is why there are a lot of people who strive for the IG worthy shots, why we crave likes and the hearts. People want to live bespoke but rely on what they see on social media to tell them “how to live the life” so people end up trying to emulate lives that are not meant for them. Here is a basic test: if at the end of the day what you do leaves you feeling empty, then I think how you are shaping your life to be is not what the Master has intended it to be. Even if with all the money and the latest fashion and gadgets you still feel empty when you’re alone then it means that those things that you adorned your life with is not filling up your spirit. Feeling empty is different from not feeling fulfilled. You can have an unfulfilled feeling because you have not reached your goal yet, but if you have achieved your goal and still feel empty then you need something more to fill that missing spot in your spirit. This is the reason why people keep in trading up and always have that need to keep upgrading, this act temporarily fills that emptiness. It’s comparable to how an addict gets his fix until the high runs out and he needs another shot. Because living a bespoke life is key ti fighting against the void which keeps asking to be filled but never really fills our spirit up.
In trying to find what we are bespoken for, we need to apply the same attitude as if we are having a bespoke piece of item made. We need to understand the Master’s craft. Understanding is key so that we can have a glimpse of His plan for us, and put us in a proper perspective to view His purpose. In understanding the master’s plan we need to read His word and communicate with Him. In the same way when we are deciding to get a bespoke item, we research about it and make inquiries and talk to the artisans, we should also seek to know what the Master has in store for us through the word and by communicating with those who have been studying and immersing themselves in His word. We have to be patient because it is not our timetable which will be followed but the Master’s. It is in His time when we will be able to realize what needs to be realized. It is by His grace and not simply by our own works that we achieve what we have done. In being patient we learn to deal with failure and rejection and wait. It doesn’t mean that we do nothing, it simply means that we keep on doing what we do and give it our best until His will is revealed to us. Don’t stop believing, even when the chips are down and everything is crumbling around. Cling to hope and have faith in the Master’s plan. Remember that in anything bespoke, there will be revisions and sometimes even starting over from scratch just to be able to reach the final product. Have faith in the Master as he prunes and moulds us to become His creation. And love everything. Love that is from the Master is a love that is true. It is unconditional; it does not seek to blame but rather heal. Love the Master and all His creations for excellence follows. A truly bespoke item is a labor of love and gives love to who it’s made for. Passion for the craft is driven by love for the craft. It is the same with the Master, as long as we live guided by the Master’s love, we move towards realizing His plan for us.
We need to find what the Master’s plan for us is, that is why we need to study, be patient, believe, have faith, and live in love. To live bespoke, we have to journey through life while seeking the Master’s plan for us, finding His purpose for us and realizing it. To become bespoke, we need to fill our spirit with the Master’s love and the overflow from our lives is what people see, and what they will admire, and what they will strive to achieve as well. The works of a master should invoke the want for others to become like it. A bespoke life under the Master’s hand is a life that invites others to find their purpose under the Master’s plan as well.
Beauty in Realization
The true beauty of anything bespoke is only realized when it fulfills its purpose. What good is a shoe when it cannot be worn by the person it is made for? What good is a beautifully plated dish if it is not palatable for whom it was prepared for? Lives are different and situations for each of us are also different. The beauty in our lives can only be seen when we start to realize the Master’s purpose for us, when we start to do the work that He has planned for us to do. Each creation has a purpose.
Sometimes, or most of the time, when we start to realize and work on our purpose, things become hard. Opposition will come from everywhere, even from within. For in realizing the Master’s plan for us we have to surrender to the Master’s will. Sometimes, even if it is against our nature, we have to let the Master work within us. We are naturally protective of our “freedom” to choose and it is that selfishness which keeps us from realizing what the Master meant for us to be. Like a piece of dry leather which refuses to be lasted properly because it is too stubborn to just follow the artisan’s hand, so too shall be encounter suffering but to no gain if we refuse His plan for us. We have to lose our old selves to gain a new self with the Master. It is the same way that a strand of silk from a worm’s cocoon has to change from its original state to a beautifully crafted garment. Like how a piece of hide transforms into a beautiful shoe in the hands of a master shoemaker, so too should our lives transform when we let the Master shape us into the more that He has intended us to become.
The Master’s Passion
One trait of the masters is that they do not give up. I have seen artisans literally bleed for their craft. As they practice to better themselves, they will encounter pain, hurt, and rejection but their passion for what they do will keep them going. A master would not stop for there is no end to the craft. This is the same with the Master whom we have hurt, betrayed, rejected, cursed, and denied. But the Master won’t give up on us even if we have done all these terrible things. The Master knows and has always known that we will turn away from Him, but He still will not forsake us. Even in our darkest times, in our most lonesome, in times when we are at our weakest, He tries to work on us. The Master’s greatness is most exemplified when we are at our weakest, for it is when we have only fully surrendered that His grace will flow through us. The outcome will not always be as according to our wishes, but it is not our will be done but the Master’s.
This is why we need to have faith in the Master. Believe in His passion to create the whats best for our lives for His purpose. In understanding the Master’s passion, we can trust the Master’s purpose for everything that the Master does, he does in love. And while we have hurt Him by rejecting Him through our actions, He has not given up on us but strives to bring us back to Him at every single phase or season in our lives. The Master’s love is a love that is true. A love that overflows which is what produces the beauty that we all seek in our lives. However bleak our situation is or however dark lives may seem, remember that the Master loves us. When we are at our weakest, remember that the Master has a plan for us and while he may have forsaken Him, he has not forsaken us. We are completely loved by the Master for each one of us is His creation. Imagine His happiness when we begin to fulfill the role that He has for us for there is no greater joy for a master craftsman than to see His work fulfilled.
In living a bespoke life, we need to surrender it to the Master. The beauty in “wearing” bespoke does not come from the outside but from within. Remember that it is not what we adorn our lives with, it is not with earthly possessions and riches, which makes it beautiful but rather it is the overflow from within which is filled by the Master’s love as guided by His will which truly becomes a sight of beauty. While earthly possessions and ties are temporal and will fade away in time, the Master’s love is eternal and will carry on even after life. A truly bespoke life is a life lived in His purpose, forged by the Master’s love, tempered by His grace, made beautiful in His image.
” If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. ” – Romans 14:8