Modern Family‘s fashionable Cameron wears them and so does movie star George Clooney. These days, maybe your coworker does too. The average Joe is seeking out custom-made men’s clothes more often, ordering online from an increasing number of providers.
Companies offering custom clothes are doing a brisk business, as more shoppers desire a closer fit and personalized design details, according to a recent Los Angeles Times article. Veeral Rathod, co-founder of five-year-old custom clothier J. Hilburn, reports selling 100,000 custom shirts in 2011 compared to 60,000 in 2010. To keep returns low, the company sends out style advisors for an initial meeting to take customers’ measurements and then customers can order online on their own. The shirt arrives in a few weeks.
J. Hilburn has big ambitions. On its website, the company compared its service to the transformative nature of Amazon and Wal-Mart and says it plans to become the largest luxury apparel brand in the world.
Options abound online. Custom clothiers including ShirtsMyWay.com and Indochino report huge leaps in sales in recent years. Bespokable‘s website connects customers with tailors globally, who bid on customers’ designs. Customers can design and order their own clothes at websites like Blank Label and Ratio Clothing. Some, such as Dressed by Christopher Cuozzo, focus on customizing design elements, such as different lining patterns, for men’s, women’s, and kids’ shirts.
For shoppers interested in more expensive and truly custom shirts, there are many smaller companies who will make a pattern from scratch for the customer and use luxury European fabrics. Anto in Beverly Hills (the maker of Cam’s custom shirts mentioned above) takes more than 20 different measurements to build individual patterns. An online custom clothier like Ratio, for example, uses five distinct measurements.
A handful of chains, such as Bloomingdale’s, offer custom tailoring of off-the-rack garments. In the past decade, some clothing retailers including J. Crew and Lands’ End, have dabbled in custom clothing but later abandoned their efforts.
Younger men, in particular, are embracing the trend. Used to customizing products in their life, some see custom shirts as an another way to represent their unique look. Customers select options including button color, cuff design, collar style, pockets, monogramming, and more. Some men have tired of the ultra casual style of late and want a more structured look.
Another plus is lower costs. Advances in technology have brought prices down, with custom dress shirts priced as low as $60 — the cost of many off-the-rack shirts at department stores. The ease of shopping online with your exact measurements can cut trips to the shopping mall, a plus for many men.
Industry experts say the recession has had an effect on fashion demand, as well. Job hunters in a sea of candidates want to dress better to stand out from the competition. According to market research firm NPD Group, men are in the “dress for success” mindset and replenishing their wardrobes after holding off during the recession. Strong sales of tailored clothing and dress shirts were standouts for the men’s category, with sales up by 11 percent and 3 percent respectively for the first half of 2011.
Most of the custom websites cater to men, but women have some new options to help them find better fitting attire. London-based Bodymetrics, for example, is marketing a 3-D body scanner that takes customers’ body measurements and maps their body shape. The data is then used by retailers to help customers find clothes that are the right fit for their body shape.
Will today’s larger retailers jump on the custom bandwagon? For retailers looking to capitalize on the trend, acquiring or partnering with one of the successful existing custom clothing firms may be something to consider.