The Loro Piana made-to-measure knitwear service is not particularly well publicised. There are two large boxes of swatches, both regular and trade mark baby cashmere, at the back of the London store, but the service is not something they shout about. To be fair, this is in line with a general reticence and desire to focus on one key story at a time, but I feel MTM knitwear gets particularly ignored.
Because it’s hard to get knitwear that fits. A tailor can alter anything in a suit, within certain parameters; you can alter the line of shirt with great accuracy through judicious use of darts; even a pair of shoes can be altered through insoles, tongue pads and replacement on the last. But you can’t alter knitwear.
Why? Because the panels of a sweater are knitted together, not sewn together. The edges are not even cut – on good, fully fashioned knitwear at least, where individual panels are knitted to order rather than creating a big sheet of wool. Even if you could knit a sweater’s edges, you would take something out of the quality of it by cutting those fully fashioned panels. Do-it-yourself sites will, equally, advise you on how to hand sew a narrower side seam on a sweater and then cut off the excess. But that’s a small act of desecration.
No, the only way to get knitwear that fits is to have it made to fit you. And there are companies that do it, often for not much more than the original product. This is because if you are making knitwear individually – like the Italian method of individually cutting even ready-to-wear suits – it is not too much effort to make one piece slightly differently. Just punch some different numbers into the machine. You don’t even have to create new cardboard punch cards any more.