MTM is essentially off-the-rack with additional flexibility to personalize a number of features such as cloth, lining or lapel width.
Thanks to the renaissance in menswear in the last five years, dozens of new brands have emerged offering “custom” shirts, jackets and suits in North America and Europe. From an affordability perspective, this is a good thing. These MTM brands can offer great value by sourcing from very efficient, usually overseas factories to keep prices down. MTM can provide a decent fit assuming your build and figure closely matches one of their fit models (Each fit model is based on an idealized person’s measurement).
But let’s be clear - this is not true bespoke. No one is actually converting your specific measurements and posture into a personalized pattern and transferring that pattern to cloth to create a finished garment from scratch. With bespoke, a tailor takes your measurements and transforms your cloth into a garment shaped for you. With MTM, this 1:1:1 correspondence breaks down.
With RTW or MTM, the goal is economies of scale. Think factory, not workshop. For instance, one successful menswear brand recently produced 50,000 MTM pieces in just one month. Even a luxury menswear brand like Kiton, which limits annual production of outerwear to 20,000 garments, must resort to industrial production methods. Today’s MTM, whether affordable or luxury, loses the vital, personal correspondence of you + tailor + cloth.
In the not too distant future, we can expect automation to further disrupt MTM and bespoke tailoring. Tailor-bots will be trained on thousands or millions of human measurements to spit out patterns. Sew-bots will automate the sewing and construction of garments. Even with this intelligent automation, I believe tomorrow’s tailor-bots and sew-bots will still lack what only a human tailor’s holistic experience can provide. But that’s another discussion entirely.