Identifying Kingflys USP
Kingfly Tailoring was created to offer the ultimate in personalisation of menswear, tailored suits. It's origins date back to 2016, with the idea of producing top quality Made In UK garments, with the graphical lining co designed with client to meet their requirements.
At the time, this was a relatively new concept and would utilise my skills as a designer of clothing and the visual image with the collaborative partnership of local (Yorkshire) CMT businesses. I proposed at the time to provide 3 options of product:
option 1: A kinglfy suit using UK produced cloth for shell and lining. Personalisation offered through design choices and monograming.
Option 2: The shell produced using Uk produced cloth and the lining uniquely designed by Kingfly.
Option 3: The shell cloth and lining co-designed between Kingflytailoring and the client.
Kingflying was a fledgling business startup, and my time was juggled between family and work life, resulting in very slow development or progression. I did however produce two suits using option 2 and two different local cmt companies (Carl Stuart & CJ Antich). This enabled me to compare, quality, price, service and compatibility.
Since 2017: Over the last couple of years there has been a backlash to our flawed fast fashion culture, driven by government policies, activists and environmentalists. The damage caused by the fashion and textiles industry has been widely documented through television and online social media avenues, resulting in a growing resurgence of craft, artisan and slow fashion. Offering personalisation options within products has become a popular option for a lot of companies, seen as a way of increasing the consumer emotional connection to the artefact, and thus it is anticipated that the improved care and repair will increase its longevity and reduce the amount of the items disposed of. This though can only work if the quality of the product is durable and repairable.
"For tailoring, offering personalised lining options is pretty common place and thus for Kingfly Tailoring this is no longer a USP".
Personalisation is a given in the fitment of the jacket and trousers to the clients body size and shape and there is an expected fitment stage on at least one or two occasions. The question therefore is... CMTs offer a MENU of features a client can chose from in the design of their garment e.g. cloth, how many buttons, lapel style and size, pocket types and placement etc.... but generally the menu is prescribed and moving away from options may not always be possible. Working with Carl Stuart for example, they offered next to no opportunities for changes to be made, while at CJ Antich, they were more open minded, however the costs increased significantly as they production workers had to work outside of their normal practices. Inserting a bespoke printed lining cost an extra £150 in product fees alone. The more the tailor deviates from what the CMT offer, the high the costs and more the expensive the product becomes.
Working Solo: In order to produce a one off fully personalised garment, it would not be possible to collaborate with a CMT and keep costs low. An experienced cutter and tailor cut offer this service, however a lot of tailors I have met are not creative or open minded in changing time served traditions, especially skills and knowledge passed down through generations of tailors before them. Experimental creative cutting tailors are few and far between, however with designer such as Thom Browne breaking tailoring rules, there is an increasing interest in tailoring as an artform, but interpreted in a new and creative way.
For Kingfly, this raises a problem in terms of manufacture and production. Given that Kingfly proposes to offer personalised tailoring, then the products are going to naturally be one of a kind and demand a higher price point. Kingfly will need to create a network of creatives with specific skills sets in order to be able to outcome elements of the garments, allowing for multiple production simultaneously and thus increased orders and profit. Quality has to be of the most importance.
Depending on what aspect of the garment will be allowed to be personalised with what technique, will impact on the design process itself and thus Kingfly will not be able to follow traditional design and make processes.
For example, embroidering a chest canvas for example can take over a week to produce, and the last thing the designer wants is for the client to turn around afterwards and say they don't like it.
Kingfly therefore needs to find quicker and more cost affective methods of presenting a concept to a client in order to reduce risk and save time.
What other forms of personalisation can a tailor offer?
To answer this the suit (Focusing on the Jacket for this project) need to be dissected into their individual components, with the aim of identifying new opportunities that can be exploited.
Edward Carpenter in his paper, Simplification of Life, compared the tailored suit to a coffin for the body, commenting on its multi layered construction restricting the body and movement. He proposed a more relaxed tailoring by removing the lining an internal elements, which would enable the body to be liberated. Kingfly initial offered the codesigned lining as a USP, but what if take Carpenters advice and remove the lining altogether.
If we expose the internal construction features, could this open opportunities for personalisation?
This Hackett jacket was sourced from a charity shop, in order to explore the above question.
For me, I find the internal elements appealing and very interesting, more so than a lining. In order to be able to exploit the above it is important than I do not forget practicality (Form and Function), durability and wearability.
Studying the photo we can see:
A fully fused front panel with visible a visible area between the canvas and pocket bag. Towards the centre front edge the fusing is often hidden by a sewn on facing, however the design of the facing could potentially be manipulated to expose more of the fusing. Question: How can the fusing be visually altered without affecting the stiffness of the cloth?
The pocket bag is a key visible part, taking up a lot of space. If this type of pocket is going to be applied to the jacket, then careful thought needs to taken on the visual appearance of the bag and how it is finished. Attaching a patch pocket to the front of the jacket would eliminate the need for a pocket bag and further expose the fusing detail (see above).
The chest canvas is a major part of the internal jacket creating form and structure to the garment. This part is constructed in layers, consisting of a canvas, shoulder canvas and felt. The shape of the canvas changes depending upon style and budgets, with a range of of options and construction types available. Full hand made canvas is the most expensive, however it is argued that the jacket will last longer. With new technologies there are some excellent fusing alternatives which reduce time and costs, often associated with semi bespoke and rtw jackets. Given the diversity options for this particular area, Kingfly have a degree of flexibility in the design of the canvas panel in terms of size, shape and materials. Experimenting with options could help to indentify personalisation possibilities in this area.
The chest canvas can be broken down into 2 elements, the bottom and top layer (the shoulder canvas is hidden between the two layers). The canvas (bottom layer) is an actual canvas and could be manipulated, by embroidery, stitching, screenprinting, block printing, beading, or dying. The felt layer (top) could be digitally printed, embroidered, beaded or pyrography. The shoulder pad also needs to be considered as it covers the top area of the chest canvas.
4 - the shoulder pad is often bought pre-made. Constructed from two layers of felt with foam, wadding sandwiched between, there are alot of variations on offer depending on the desired jacket silhouette. Even with pre-made shoulder pads they are easy to take apart and separate, and therefore the visible bottom face of the pad could be replaced or manipulated for greater visual impact.
5 - The seams inside the jacket are usually left raw if the jacket is intended to be lined, as this is will be hidden. If exposed then the seams need to be finished if a feel of quality is to be projected. Binding is a good option, however the colour, finish thickness need to be considered.
6- The front dart is visible in this jacket and again how this looks is important if exposed. The above method is typical of a RTW jacket, but not often seen in a bespoke jacket. A mock seam is preferred due to the improved aesthetic qualities, from the jacket front face. The cloth choice can be changed in colour to work with the complete design of the jacket internals.
Overall: Removing the lining has opened up exciting opportunities for personalisation to take place on the internal aspect of the jacket, while still retaining the functional key features. There is scope to experiment with the proportions of the elements in order to increase visual impact. For this project, in order to make it achievable, I will design the internal features and finishes of the jacket to use as a template, then focus on the graphic visual manipulation of each in order to work our the best offering for the Kingfly personalisation USP. By doing this, it enables me to spend some time to create a co-design process.