Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg
Style

Indochino’s Made-to-Measure Suits Are Coming to a City Near You

A look inside the fashion retailer's ambitious plan to open 100 stores in the next five years.

The New York City outpost of Indochino, on Broome Street in SoHo, is three short blocks from a Suitsupply, where pretty good made-to-measure suits start at a very good $639. Around the corner is Topman, which moves High Street trends onto young men’s backs for much less than that.

This coincidence of geographical positioning mimics Indochino’s place in the global marketplace as it looks to resolve a paradox: how do you give made-to-measure suits a mass-market appeal? “I really want to be the No. 1 suitmaker in the world,” Indochino CEO Drew Green told me.  

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

Founded 10 years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, the brand began with two guys who aimed to end-around the intimidating nature of traditional tailor shops with an Internet-savvy model that soon thrived by selling made-to-measure suits at entry-level prices. By Green’s reckoning, about 75 percent of the approximately 19 million suits sold in North America each year cost less than $400.

Not even the highly mixed reviews of Reddit’s Male Fashion Advice—“waited four weeks for a suit that fit me like a trash bag” is a one example—could deter its forward progress. In 2015, after the founders had scaled the business to the limits of their abilities, Green came in to steer the company, drawing on his experience as a co-founder of the e-commerce site Shop.ca. The following year, China-based clothing manufacturer Dayang Enterprise Holdings invested $30 million, which is now being used to beef up Indochino’s “real life” (as opposed to internet) presence.

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

The company now has 10 showrooms and, in keeping with Green’s ambition to compete with “the Macy’s and Men’s Wearhouses of the world,” is outlining an aggressive plan for expansion. Eight more brick-and-mortar shops are expected this year, including two more in Manhattan, and Green is projecting at least 100 stores total within the next five years. The mall may be dead, but the world of omnichannel retail is merely in its infancy.

Despite the current retail headwinds, this sort of growth helps remedy the fundamental problem of buying tailored clothes online: self-measurement, a process guaranteed to succeed only if your roommate is Alexander McQueen. Correctly figuring out the breadth of your chest is not as simple as it might sound. Part of the Indochino model is to offer customers a $75 credit to be used with a local tailor, as well as remaking a certain number of suits. 

In some ways, though, the brand is betting that customization is more relevant than a centimeter here or there. Online or in store, Indochino offers a buffet of personalized options—pick stitching, slanted pockets, side tabs on the trousers, functional cuff buttons, interior monogramming, and contrast coloring on either the buttonholes, the collar felt, or both. In this way, it serves the tastes of the millennial generation and those younger. “Everything is personalized,” Green said of Generation Z. “They are the brand. They consider themselves the brand.”

The Visit

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

As a nonmillennial, I was skeptical. Indochino’s public-relations team suggested that I have a suit made there so I could see for myself what it was like. “We don’t sell product,” Green says. “We sell experience.” Fair enough—but this was the wrong approach. I’ve already been around the block with traditional made-to-measure and become accustomed to spending more on a suit than I’d care to admit. The company’s ambitions do not align with my own sartorial pretensions.

So I found someone new to the game, representative of the guys who turn to Indochino when interviewing for their first real jobs or preparing for the onslaught of friends’ weddings. Evan, one of my colleagues at Bloomberg, said his last adventure with tailored clothing involved a high-school prom. Now that’s what I call the target demographic. I enlisted him as a guinea pig and set an appointment. I suggested he keep an eye out for admirable suits in magazines and movies. I apprised him of the conventional wisdom that a first suit should be gray. Then, arriving on Broome Street, I hung back and watched. 

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

The suits in the window display lilac and pink—an invitation to dandyism, a hint at the breadth of product on offer, and an eye-catcher that belied the fact that gray, blue, and black are, of course, the top sellers. Green describes the interior of his stores as “entirely open concept. In a lot of ways, they mirror your experience in an Apple showroom.”

The decor is mostly nonexistent except when it presents a correct vision of universally accepted good taste—sofas to put you in the mind of Mies van der Rohe, a Zaha Hadid book on a glass coffee table, a bit of exposed brick at the back. It’s not so much bland as blank. The customer is the brand; anything louder would be contrary to corporate imperatives.

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

It’s a millennial space, no doubt, and no matter the occasional 60-something regulars who know a good deal when they see one. The stylists track clients’ preferences and measurements into their phones, and when I ask to borrow a pen, the manager needed a second to recall where such antiquated technology might be kept. 

The suits on display varied slightly in their lapels, with notch, slim notch, peak, and wide peak versions on offer. The variety is much greater when it comes to color, accessories, and how they look on the mannequins. The sight of a rumpled jacket with divoted shoulders did not bolster my confidence. 

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

But the suits are less important than the swatches. Indochino offers 300 fabrics, up from 50 a year ago, Green says. Evan went for a “premium charcoal,” 100 percent wool, Super 140s. The employee gently guiding Evan through this process—the “stylist,” as they style it—had a fine manner. On the main floor and later among the mirrors (photographing, measuring, pinching at the waist of the try-on jacket), he caught the balance of instant chumminess and distanced objectivity that always comes with the job. 

As he began to go through the custom options, Evan’s self-assurance began to grow. He chose a paisley lining, and when offered the chance to have a bit of text stitched inside the jacket, he had them do “Kevin,” his mondegreen. It’s often said that wearing a suit makes a man feel more confident. My colleague’s experience provided a useful reminder that mere process of having a suit made is an even better boost. 

The Verdict

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

If you judge by the price tag, a single-breasted suit made from this fabric would cost at least $699, but if you pay full price at Indochino, you would be a fool. Subscribe to the newsletter, and you’ll receive one or two promotional deals per day, often themed to the cultural calendar. A recent promotion celebrated the Masters golf tournament by offering a $279 deal on blazers, green or otherwise.

The suit came back two and half weeks after the appointment, and about one week after Evan told me that I had appeared to him in a dream, behaving rather snidely in a Say Yes to the Dress variant of our experience. 

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg

He went in for a fitting, they made a few adjustments. A few days later, he picked it up, and here you have it. The trousers are strong. The jacket is, on the one hand, slightly weird around the scyes, I think. On the other hand, I just used the word scyes when I could have said armholes, and it is possible that people who do not appreciate the jargon will also not recognize the problem. 

It also seems possible that the very fact Evan was wearing a suit contributed to its seeming imperfections. According to the customer profile, his posture is hunched. In the new outfit, he carries himself like a U.S. Marine. Is the difference a testament to the Indochino’s suit-making skill? Or is it, more elementally, a tribute to the transformative power of the suit?

Photographer: Caroline Tompkins/Bloomberg
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