E-tailors who will suit you to a T
FOR some, the height of luxury involves multiple consultations with a tailor, deciding on details such as a classic peak versus a notch lapel on a suit jacket, and then waiting eight to 10 weeks for that perfectly fitted, handcrafted garment.
But as much as fashion is witnessing a return to su misura or made-to-measure services, there is brisk business to be had in the realm of instant gratification and convenience. Enter e-retailers hawking easy-to-navigate interfaces, a myriad of choices and often wallet-friendly prices, to men who want to look dashing without the hassle.
Singapore-born Heikal Gani was among the first to spot the potential that could be exploited by offering suit shoppers a convenient and affordable experience.
While he was a student at Canada's University of Victoria, Mr Gani developed a business plan with best pal Kyle Vucko for an online menswear business that they set up in 2007. Rather than selling designs by existing clothing brands, they offered made-to-order suits that could be had with just a few clicks.
To date, the Canadian-based Indochino (www.Indochino.com) has suited 120,000 men in 130 countries. To grow the business, it raised more than $14.8 million in a series B round of financing last year.
"Most guys appreciate the convenience of shopping online and, with our process, you can buy the clothes faster than you can drive to your nearest store," said Mr Gani, who graduated with a double major in psychology and political science.
Since the pioneer in menswear tailoring went live seven years ago, several other players have emerged, including the newest kid on the block, home-grown company Tailor Me Online (www.TMO.sg). Entrepreneur Ken Yuen and civil engineering graduate Marcus Lio recently launched the e-commerce business, which retails customisable shirts, suits and even shoes. Made-to-measure shirts can be constructed in just two weeks.
"We want customers to enjoy the best of both worlds - the old-world tradition of haberdashery as well as the convenience of online customisation," said Mr Yuen, who started the online portal last year, two years after launching the bespoke tailoring business.
"We want to make custom (clothing) accessible to men around the world. Men are working longer hours. They deserve to wear better custom clothing, instead of mass-produced garments sized on a mannequin."
Applying his technical background to the business, Mr Lio developed a "scientific method" of measurement based on the client's skeletal structure. The technique gives a fit that is 80 per cent accurate.
It isn't just male entrepreneurs who are joining the virtual tailoring fray. Ms Sherrey Chng-Bahuguna started her online shirt boutique, ButtonNStitch.com, in 2012, selling designs made from fabrics with high thread counts and two-ply pure cotton.
"I'm an avid online shopper and my husband's personal stylist, so it bothers me to see a good-looking guy in a 'structure-less' shirt with a frayed collar, loose threads or even mismatched patterns on a shoulder yoke," said the mother of two.
"Men are generally not into fast fashion or what we consider 'wear and throw' fashion, but good-quality shirts with a good cut usually come at prices that would put a dent in the pocket."
The businesswoman, who said repeat customers make up 75 per cent of her client base, unveiled her first brick-and-mortar space on Thursday - a pop-up store at Tangs VivoCity where customers can try on the brand's designs until April 16.
She is not the only e-retailer to offer consultations in the flesh. Indochino holds "Traveling Tailor" events in Canada that give would-be clients a chance to meet with a stylist, feel the fabrics and discuss customisation options.
"We started online, but when we realised there were men who wanted to shop in person, we took what we had learnt to launch Traveling Tailor," said Mr Gani.