By  on July 3, 2007

PARIS — Tom Ford may have pondered where a 21st-century Cary Grant would shop to create the blueprint for his new boutique concept. But what about a modern-day Audrey Hepburn?

Seizing on customers' desire to be different in an age of global brands, a crop of women's wear designers is cultivating a personalized fashion experience, offering tailor-made services and old-school trunk shows, as well as on-site ateliers and private dressing salons.

Charvet, the storied Parisian shirtmaker that counts George Sand and Coco Chanel among its past customers, has noted younger female clients are seeking their own take on bespoke tailoring. "Many are requesting for mannish garments — shirts and pajamas in particular — to be adapted to the female form," said the store's director, Anne-Marie Colban, adding that certain clients even insist on keeping buttons running down the right hand side of shirts.

The house's production of women's bespoke shirts, she estimated, had risen 20 percent annually over the last three years. Each garment takes around four weeks to make, complete with fittings in a muslin mock-up, and costs roughly $600.

"These ladies could shop anywhere; it's not a question of physical constraints," continued Colban. "It's the idea that a garment that carries a personal stamp exceeds any other form of luxury."

"Our ideal would be one dress, one customer," said Paris designer Jonathan Riss, who opened his boutique, Jay Ahr, fitted with an on-site atelier and salon, a year and a half ago. Riss plans to open a private salon on New York's Madison Avenue this fall. "Contact with the client is what it's about, and I love the idea of doing regular private trunk shows to propose one-off pieces," he said, adding he will decorate his New York suite to resemble a French apartment, replete with an old bed to drape dresses across.

Custom-made creations come with a price. Pieces from Riss' main collection cost between $700 and $7,000, but one-of-a-kind creations can run up to $30,000 and sometimes take up to 500 hours to craft. One recent commission, for example, involved the application of 700 crystals, by hand, he said.

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