|Impressions from ProperSuit.com|
Update: Suit Review now online: http://www.indochino-review.com/2011/10/introducing-propersuit-review.html
A while ago I noticed a comment on my blog. It was posted on an article about the secret pockets that Indochino had introduced on 2 special suits a while ago. The comment mentioned that secret pockets were a standard feature on all Proper Suit suits. It was the first time I had heard about that Proper Suit (http://www.propersuit.com) so I decided to check their website and soon after I found myself chatting to the two founders, McGregor and Richard.
Their concept is not fundamentally different from Indochino, but still raised my interest. I believe the online MTM market is continually growing and the more competitiors, the better for us customers. Instead of just ordering a suit from and reviewing it here I thought of something a bit bigger.
In this first part I want to introduce Proper Suit and conduct an interview with the two founders. The goal will be to find out what differentiates Proper Suit from Indochino and what makes them stand out.
The second part will not only feature a suit review of the Modern Brown Suit from Proper Suit (thank you for the considerable discount!), but also an analysis of the different fabrics, the construction methods used and the fit. I have secured the help of a top bespoke tailor, who has agreed to cut open suits from both Indochino and Proper Suit - expect some surprising insights!
Proper Suit was started in 2010 by McGregor and Richard. Their company’s story is in a way similar to Indochino’s story. There is that general unhappyness with off-the-rack suits and their usually baggy fit as a starting point. McGregor got introduced to local tailors by stylish friends from Sweden and Italy and quickly fell in love with tailored clothes. Richard was the perfect business partner, as a former factory auditor in China he possessed the necessary know-how on the “proper” machinery, raw materials and the processes. Together, they founded Proper Suit - the name seemed fitting, because at the core a (very) proper suit is what they want to provide to their customers.
I had the chance to do an extensive interview with both Richard and McGregor, read on below to for the full transcript of the conversation.
I believe it is fair to say that Indochino is currently the biggest and thus the most successful online MTM suit maker. What is your approach to online MTM and what makes your suits stand out from the competition?
(Richard): Quality, for sure. The cool thing with Proper Suit is that once we have your custom suit electronic pattern on lockdown, all future purchases are just point- click-buy. You're getting a couple thousand dollar suit factory direct.
(McGregor): Hence awesome pricing, quick turn-around and a stress-free shopping experience.
Let me ask something here - you said all the future purchases are just point-click-buy (Indochino promises the same). Does that mean future orders are cut to exactly the same pattern and there cannot be any variance? I am asking, because I know that sometimes, my Indochino suits tend to come out a bit different every time, even if I don’t tweak any measurements.
(M): So glad you asked this question...
(R): There is a fundamental difference between their model and Proper Suit. Most competitors source from a variety of third-party tailor workshops where there is going to be natural variance in the quality and pattern. All Proper Suits start with a 3d Autocad file of your electronic suit pattern which is then traced and laser cut on to your chosen wool. Combine this with our state of the art production facility and the most variance you will ever have is .5cm, guaranteed.
Actually, you mentioned earlier during a conversation that you (Richard) actually own a couple of Indochino suits. How do they compare to your suits? After all, the price is important and your suits are priced at around 650$ - considerable more expensive than Indochino suits (available from 349$).
(R): We’re definitely higher end and target customers who need and appreciate quality. Super 100-180 fabrics, German shoulder pads, best construction ever...
(M): Our customers have bought tailored clothes before and are now looking for the best quality/value so they come to Proper Suit.
You mentioned both construction and fabrics as a distinguishing mark. Indochino regularly releases special collections with more expensive fabrics (Vincero Collection) and even basics such as the Classic Navy Blue suit are made of Super 100 fabrics. However, I believe the fabrics for their basic collection are produced by Chinese mills (source: Guyism.com). Where do your fabrics come from?
Furthermore, are your suits fused, half-canvassed or fully canvassed? Indochino uses a special (and somewhat controversial) method, briefly explained on Twitter.
Info: definitions used here as determined by Jeffrey Diduch: http://tuttofattoamano.blogspot.com/2008/09/full-canvas-half-canvas-fused.html
(M): We source from Italy, Australia, Mongolia and yes we do also carry some Chinese materials. As you may have heard the price of wool has skyrocketed in recent times, but we never purchase leftovers or stray fabrics which is something that other companies may do. We have pretty awesome relationships with our suppliers.
(R): In all fairness, some China mills have bought the machinery and know-how from dying Italian mills and are producing some great stuff.
(M): Proper Suit doesn’t sell fused suits- the drape you get from fused suits just isn’t Proper! Our entry level is half-canvas.
(R): We do have a $100 full-canvas upgrade or a $250 handmade upgrade if you’re interested.
What if a suit doesn't fit? I assume there are quite a few customers who don’t measure quite correctly, after all it’s not something people are very experienced with, even if you provide them with detail descriptions on how to do it.
(M): If a suit doesn’t fit then that means your electronic pattern isn’t correct and getting the right electronic pattern is an important investment. Richard or I will probably get you on the phone and figure out what went wrong.
(R): Usually I’ll ask customers to cover the cost for alterations and report the changes. Of course if something is really off we’ll remake it. We treat customers like a long-term investment and we expect them to do the same.
(M:) Some companies credit alterations, but we want to keep the price at rock bottom.. Its a small investment for the lifetime opportunity to have beautiful suits that fit.
You just mentioned your suits are already priced as low as possible. When it comes to affordable custom clothing, many customers are concerned about working conditions and wages. Does online MTM necessarly equal low wages and bad working conditions in China and other parts of Asia?
(R:) Not at all... Our affordability stems from an evolution in the way the garment is made. Basically we took the tailor workshop model and streamlined it in a factory setting.
(M:) We work there too. There are much cheaper places to make suits, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam to name a few- but we need a place where there is amazing skill.
On your website, the suits come with standardized options, the numbers of pockets, vent style and lapels size are set. Can a customer change these options?
(M): After an on-line order we get the customer on the phone or email and go through all the customization options. We are building a new site that will make it easier and more fun for the customer to build his personal suit. But until then this is how we personalize the suit.
How often do you release new products? Is there a fixed schedule e.g. every Tuesday like for Indochino?
(M): We don’t have a gimmick for releasing new products. We stand by our suits and sell what we like. Look for higher level fabrics, including Loro Piana that will be showcased next to our current Super 100 wool and wool/cashmere/mohair blends in the near future.
Will you expand your product line in the future (shirts, cardigans, etc.) or do you want to stick to the core business of making suits?
(M): I think the name speaks for itself - Proper Suit. Selling bespoke custom suits on-line is difficult enough. We want to stick to our core product and focused business. We’ve tried doing shirts with Gilt Groupe, but there are already so many sites that sell awesome M2M fitting shirts. Never say never, but for now we will stick to our bread and butter.
What will your main focus be for 2011? Do you intend to focus on on growing your customer base or will you put an emphasis on further improving quality & service?
(R): Not to be cocky but our quality trumps the competition. Right now we just need to spread the word.
(M): Customer satisfaction is huge too. Its all about loving your customer and them loving you back.
One last thing, you do probably get around quite a lot with the pop up fittings and events you are hosting in cities all over the U.S. Which American city has the best style?
(R): NYC for sure.
(M): Definitely not my hometown of Portland, OR.
McGregor, Richard, thank you very much for taking time for this interview!
Dear readers, I would like to invite you to share your thoughts on the interview and ProperSuit - Richard and McGregor will be checking and replying to your questions here and on Twitter @ProperSuit. I am looking forward to the discussion!
Furthermore, I am happy to offer a special coupon, in case you got interested in ProperSuit and you want to give them a try. Use the coupon code indochino-review on checkout to get free shipping on your ProperSuit order. Check back for Part 2 with the in-depth review in a couple of weeks!