If you can’t find clothes that fit, or want to wear something unique, you can go to your local tailor, who will take your measurements and custom-make your clothing. If you’re looking for a suit, be prepared to wait–it can take several months to make one just right, with at least one or two fittings thrown in along the way. And be prepared to cough up some change–it will cost you 4-6 times more than buying a suite at a department store. And there’s no guarantee that you’ll love the results, and tailors usually don’t give refunds. Sounds scary, right? But many people rely on tailoring because it’s the only way for them to find clothing that fits well.
I was very surprised to discover companies who sell custom-made clothing and perfectly tailored suits online, including Black Lapel and Indochino. Some companies focus specifically on making custom shirts, such as Ratio Clothing, Proper Cloth, and VM Clothiers.
Wait a minute, what about measurements? And what about fittings? The bad news is that you are responsible for all accuracy when it comes to measurements and fittings. The good news is that you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home, and these companies provide refunds for unhappy customers! And most importantly, it’s much cheaper than hiring a tailor.
How does it work?
As an example, let’s review Proper Cloth, a New York-based custom shirt company. In order to purchase a custom shirt, you must first go to the website and learn how to take the appropriate measurements. Proper Cloth can even match the fit of your favorite shirt using a simple send-by-mail system. You can choose your fabric, print, and cut preferences, and have a brand new shirt in 1-2 weeks. If it’s not a good fit, you can remake it for free or get a refund.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, the process is not that easy. Proper Cloth’s customers often leave less than satisfied reviews about the way their custom shirts fit. It’s possible that some provided inaccurate measurements, but most feel that Proper Cloth is to blame. Remaking the shirt is free, and most of the customers will get what they are looking for sooner or later. But for some it took three shirts to finally get the proper fit.
Proper Cloth’s shirts are manufactured in Malaysia, so how can they provide customers with precision and consistency, being half a world away from their own factories? To succeed in the online custom clothing business, one needs to have a high level of sophistication when it comes to the manufacturing process, as well as using new technologies for design and manufacturing. The other challenge is to keep a good level of customer satisfaction while fine-tuning the manufacturing and logistics. Proper Cloth must have extremely good customer service in order to persuade customers to try their order again instead of giving up and getting a refund.
For those “lucky” customers who endured the pain of fitting and remaking more than one shirt, there is a reward: they can now easily order an affordable custom shirt with one click. And the company will be rewarded as well–customers are less likely to shop elsewhere after investing so much time and effort in getting the perfect garment.
Some people call this model “affordable custom,” and I believe in its success. People will always be ready to pay a premium for customization, especially if they are highly involved in the process. I respect the companies who are bold enough to take on a challenge and create a new business model instead of opening another online clothing store.