Why bespoke dressmaking is back

And she evidently succeeds. “Whenever I have a significant DJ set, or something that’s going to be filmed, I usually get Melisa to dress me,” one of Minca’s regular customers, the British DJ Christiana Vassilakis (AKA Madam X), tells BBC Culture. “The creative process feels very collaborative. Melisa knows what I like and we’re able to bounce ideas off each other – she can sort of read my mind.” Minca’s intimate approach is a plus point for her clients. “When I visit Melisa’s home-studio, it’s never just a fitting,” says Vassilakis. “We catch up, have a coffee, check in with each other, eat, laugh, cry. It’s like finding the right hairdresser – once you find ‘the one’, you can’t really go anywhere else.”

This is a view shared by classical concert pianist Harriet Stubbs, who has collaborated with Mariann Marlowe – dressmaker and owner of the East Village boutique Enz’s, a go-to destination for New York punk rockers ever since the movement’s 1970s heyday – for the past 10 years. As a composer known for her innovative fusion of classical tradition with other far-reaching cultural influences (her new album Living on Mars features her unique take on David Bowie, Johann Sebastian Bach and Nick Cave), Stubbs was keen to find a bespoke designer who could communicate her musical approach sartorially, and in Marlowe, she found the perfect match.

“Mariann’s dresses are always so original,” Stubbs tells BBC Culture. “Her tone is one that I can use for professional occasions without ever being boring – the pieces are beautifully crafted, but are really cool as well, with a vintage feel. Over time, Mariann has come to know what’s happening in my life well enough that she’ll come up with an idea for upcoming events before I even ask her,” she says with a laugh.

“Harriet likes a certain style of dress,” Marlowe tells BBC Culture over the phone from New York. “She has a rock’n’roll edge, and we have a similar body type, so I know what to suggest for her. These days, I only work with a handful of bespoke clients – I design and cut the patterns and my seamstress sews them – and it’s really important for me to have a one-on-one connection with them so I know what they’re going to love.”

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