Loro Piana made-to-measure knitwear
Friday 5th of October 2012

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.

Loro Piana charges around 30% on top of its regular knitwear price. That’s still a lot of money; it is Loro Piana baby cashmere after all and a lot of work goes into convincing those shepherds to keep each young goat’s first combing separate. But the percentage increase is not steep, compared to bespoke or even made-to-measure suits for example.
The process involves taking measurements both on the body and on a standard-sized sweater. Everything can be altered in terms of shape, but at present the Loro Piana range is limited to just a few models. No zip-up versions, for example, so you can’t have your own version of the wonderful Roadster sweater. And additional bits like suede elbow pads are not straightforward – for that you are better sticking with the made-to-order service, where the customer can order any piece in the shop in a defined size but different colours and details.
I tried the made-to-measure service for an issue of The Rake that will come out later in the year and the results were very good. The first version required some changes, but they were more than happy to make a second that fits fantastically well. Knitwear is normally cut so big – men don’t notice when things like that are too loose, only when they are too small.
So look out for the feature. In the meantime, the new Loro Piana website and app is also worth checking out (images from it above). Although not revolutionary, it does give the visitor a genuinely new way to read about and experience the clothing, through dynamic versions of the water colours that have long made their catalogues so beautiful. It’s not quite feeling the vicuna against your skin, but it’s the next best thing.


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