If you follow the rapidly maturing fast-custom segment of the menswear market you now that these days virtually anything can be made ‘custom.’ From jeans to oxfords, khakis to suits to dinner jackets. And by the way, it’s all online.
The leading brand in this virtual tailoring universe is Indochino, founded by two Canadian university students only a few short years ago. Operated out of Shanghai, the company produces a full range of made-to-measure business garments including suits, blazers, shirts, trousers and even outerwear. The entire operation is web-based and self serviced. The products are of very good quality and the process allows for remarkable levels of customization. And with an average Indochino suit costing about US$400, it’s hard to argue about cost.
Profiled by several leading media outlets, perhaps the most succinct description of the company’s success comes from BusinessWeek: “A tailor’s job might seem darn hard to offshore. But two college pals not only have figured out how to do it; they’ve turned it into a dot-com business that attracted backing from former Yahoo! President Jeffrey Mallett and customers in 60 countries.”
Since it’s inception, Indochino has evolved from an edgy, slim cut insurgent with somewhat cheesy looking models to a smooth and well managed operation sporting a clean and modern Tom Ford-inspired aesthetic, as you can see from the promotional piece above. In fact, the company’s updated image campaign bears a striking similarity to that of THE RAKE magazines’ distinctive high production value look.
The models are still skinny and the target demographic is still the young professional wanting to dress well but still maintain control over his look – and get it all at a really good price point. But the product quality, branding, logistics, operations and management have improved significantly. This is no longer a quirky start-up. It is a company with ample funding, an innovative, tested model and plans to grow.
For purists, Indochino will never be an acceptable option. These tend to be to the same folks who debate the number of stitches per inch and the merits of hand-felled shoulders. While these are genuinely useful discussions, that’s not what Indochino is all about. It is fast fashion taken to the next level for those who cannot, or choose not to, afford a truly custom suit of clothes.
Having spoken with their business development folks at length on several occasions, I am still impressed with the company’s perpetual introspection: who are we, what can we do better, how can we tweak and improve our model, how can we expand our market and retain quality control? It’s a constant process of innovation and improvement. Though it may be an obvious point, Indochino is not competing with Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren or Martin Greenfield. They do not expect you to opt for their suits over, say something from Savile Row. However, it’s worth noting that some of Indochino’s biggest customers do indeed have Anderson & Sheppard suits hanging right next to theirs.
I have one Indochino suit that founder Kyle Vucko was kind enough send me a couple of years ago. Actually, it’s the second suit as the first on did not fit properly. True to their 100% percent satisfaction guarantee, the made a brand new one after my local tailor determined that he could not adjust the suits’ flaws. When the replacement arrived, it fit almost perfectly and continues to be a great fit and wardrobe staple.
I’ll probably get a few more suits and try out a blazer and some trousers. That’s the sweet spot for this company: when you get your sizing squared away and find your best fit, the price point takes over. Once you know it’s going to fit, or you can make it fit at no additional cost, the prospect of building a wardrobe of customized clothing is eminently affordable.