It was another provocative panel on the future of custom clothing sponsored by Gladson, the Chicago Collective, and MR magazine. Panelists represented various segments of the business: custom clothiers David Heil from David August in L.A., Nicholas Hansen from Nicholas Joseph in Chicago, and Albert Karoll from Richard Bennett were joined by Emily Reuter from Trunk Club and Scott Shapiro from Syd Jerome, Chicago.
Among the topics of debate: whether or not the proliferation of inexpensive made-to-measure clothing is good or bad for the industry. Most think it’s fine, giving young guys a taste of well-fitted clothing that should ultimately inspire them to trade up. Reuter from Trunk Club spoke about their opening price made-to-measure program that has been enormously successful, starting at $895 and sold only at their six clubhouse stores, not online. David Heil, whose clients include celebrities and athletes, believes that these days, accurate measuring can well be accomplished online but the feel of the fabric cannot yet be transferred through cyberspace. He also believes that growth can come from tech fabrics, although these can be harder to work with at first since the production process might need to be tweaked.
Albert Karoll spoke to the pros and cons of custom clothing for women. “It’s 15 percent of our business and some of our top customers are women but it’s much more difficult. Women are very specific about what they want, require more fittings, generate more returns. Whatever you think you need to charge, add 25 percent.”
Other controversial topics: the value of Instagram (mostly yes), referrals (yes!), paid influencers (don’t bother!) and advertising (mixed opinions). Scott Shapiro from Syd Jerome, whose made-to-measure/custom business is 10-20 percent of his tailored clothing units but an impressive 30-40 percent in dollars, believes strongly in custom magazines with interesting/educational articles that inspire customers to come into the store. Albert Karoll has created a niche making tailored women’s suits for gay marriages and advertises in appropriate magazines to reach this customer.