by Karen Alberg Grossman
Alexander and Summer Hamka at Project NYC

Alexander Hamka knew he had a calling when at age 21, he followed his Lebanese father and grandfather into the custom clothing business. His father had had a tailor shop near Jacobson’s in downtown Detroit; when Jacobson’s went out of business, their clients frequented his dad’s shop. However, his dad’s sudden bout with West Nile Virus convinced Alexander to perfect his tailoring skills and help out at the shop. Now 39, Hamka runs his own shop–Alexander’s Custom Clothiers in Northville, a 3,000 square-foot atelier with nine employees (including five tailors and his dad, who comes in part-time), about 20 minutes from Detroit. His bench-made clothing is crafted of fabric from the world’s finest mills; suits sell from $3,500 to $5,000, sometimes more if the wearer opts for Scabal’s most luxurious wool with diamond fragments.

The bench-made process is a true art form: Hamka creates his own patterns and schedules fittings every three to five days; delivery is generally three to five weeks from the first fitting.

“I’m finding increased interest in bench-made clothing,” says Hamka, “especially among guys in their 30s and early 40s who are just beginning to make money. I think the influence of TV shows like Suits and Boardwalk Empire is definitely inspiring young men to dress well. Plus, we’re doing local commercials to communicate our message that a good suit opens all doors.”

(Editor’s note: I viewed a fabulous sexy commercial featuring an encounter between a handsome guy and a gorgeous young lady–played by the real Miss Michigan: you think she’s after him only to learn she’s more interested in his clothing!)

Hamka also sells ready-made clothing, furnishings, footwear, and accessories in his shop; key brands include Allen Edmonds, Zelli, LBM, Jensen, Derek Rose, Meyer, Joe’s and Seven. He now makes suits for a dozen NHL teams, eight NFL organizations (including players, upper management and owners) and travels extensively to recognized hospitals where he makes suits for surgeons.

Who says retailers can’t make money in the tailored clothing business? If you’re a third-generation custom tailor, you make it happen!