MARC ALLEN FINE CLOTHIERS: MAKING CUSTOM COOL

Marc Allen
by Karen Alberg Grossman

Marc Allen According to retail analysts, two factors are driving tailored clothing sales these days: customized product and exceptional in-store experience. Marc Streisand, owner of Marc Allen Fine Clothiers in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, is a master of both.

The Providence store is 2500-square-feet of pure luxury, 700 of which is selling space. The mix is mostly custom clothing (70 percent), ranging in price from $1595 to $3000 for a made-to-measure suit, $3800 and up for fully hand-made. Delivery time for a MTM suit is now four to five weeks, down from eight to 12. Ready-to-wear shirts are $195 to $650; most are from Italy but Streisand also works with New England Shirt to create some exclusive designs. Custom shirts range from $350 to $1300 for an incomparable 300s two-ply Thomas Masons fabric. Limited-edition sportswear is a growing part of the business, as is some luxury athleisure wear. (I fell in love with some cotton/cashmere blend Italian jeans with a Venetian mask patch, $425 retail, from a brand Streisand discovered in Italy.) Key Marc Allen brands include Loro Piana, Incotex, PT01, Marco Pascarolo, and Maurizio Baldassari.

The Providence store (closed Sundays and Mondays) is mostly business by appointment. On Friday afternoons, guys are likely to stop by for a glass (or two) of wine, whiskey or their favorite libation (the mostly Italian wine selection is superb; the handmade bar is gorgeous) in a lavish upstairs space (a true “man cave”) with custom-built furniture and fabulous art. Also upstairs, Streisand’s office, a spacious fitting room and an amazing sunlit tailor shop.

The 700-square-foot Newport store, opened last year, is more casual, has more walk-ins, and already contributes 15 to 20 percent to total volume (although Newport’s populations drops from 100,000 in the summer to 15,000 in the winter).

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Every great retailer has a few secret weapons and Streisand is no exception. First and foremost is his exceptional tailor shop, run by master tailor Mike (who learned his craft from his dad in Greece before immigrating to America in 1979) and two talented associates. On the day of my visit, Antonia was working from her home tailoring shop, and Mary was meticulously hand stitching custom pocket squares. If the success of Marc Allen is exceptional quality and perfect fit, Mike, Mary and Antonia deserve the credit.

Of equal importance, super-star clothiers Colin and Will (from the Providence location) are among the most knowledgeable and passionate clothing guys in the business. “It’s not just about getting guys into great clothes, it’s about dressing them for their lifestyle,” says Will. Abby is also a star, running the Newport store year-round and serving customers with professionalism and personality.

New to the business: a bright orange (their signature color) mobile Mercedes Sprinter van that is completely custom designed to be a full service showroom. The van reaches customers in their homes and offices, manned by Caitlin, a talented outreach seller.

A few more insights on custom clothing from Marc (who started his career as an image consultant in Manhattan), Colin and Will:

  1. “We get a lot of clients from bad MTM experiences elsewhere. The rise of inexpensive made-to-measure clothing has conditioned customers to off-the-rack alternatives. Our job is to educate on quality and fit.”
  2. “Our typical customer is probably late 30’s to mid-60s. He’s successful and likes nice things. So key for us is to regularly bring in unique product, brands with limited production.”
  3. “Anybody can wear solids: well-dressed men should dress more creatively, mix and match patterns, for a more sophisticated look.”
  4. “Never underestimate the power of sponsorships and collaborations.” I was lucky to visit during the Marc Allen-sponsored Newport Boat Show and to spend some time on a $3 million yacht! They’ve also sponsored numerous fashion events with RISD, a great collaboration that encourages new talent. What’s more, they’re an official donor to Year Up, annually contributing about $100K.

As custom clothing business continues to change with the proliferation of lower-priced alternatives, the team at Marc Allen keeps fine tuning their craft, doing the hard work that should keep them in business for a very long time.