The statistics regarding return rates of online clothing purchases are pretty staggering but the reality of the importance of online shopping is such that they need to be addressed. The biggest obstacle is fit; when shopping in a store, you can try a garment on, even in several different sizes, and judge the fit before you buy. Shopping online is a crap-shoot; even if you know your usual size in garments, the garment you are looking at is not guaranteed to fit the way you like it. We had several presentations on the advances in scanning technology which can accurately scan a person's body and provide enough information to suggest what could be, technically speaking, a correct fit, but this does not account for one important variable, which is personal preference. What may be way too tight to one person could be too loose to the next, and scanning technology alone can not take these considerations into account.
True Fit is an attempt to address this issue. In alliance with a given retailer, they will partner with all the retailer's vendors; I am currently working on this project with them at Hart Schaffner Marx. I provide all the measurement data of the models which the retailer will be carrying and True Fit inputs this information into their database, which will be cross-referenced to every other garment in that category. When shopping on the retailer's web site, the shopper will be asked to input some basic body measurements, but also is asked to provide information about their favorite garment already hanging in their closet, and this is where the element of personal preference can be, to some degree, addressed.
Let's say you have a suit by brand X, in style Y, size Z. You enter this information in the dialog box on the retailer's website; it doesn't have to be a garment carried by that retailer, as long as that garment's specs have been provided by its maker at some point. True Fit will cross-reference all the data it has on all the other garments carried by that retailer and then make a suggestion of cut and size that most resemble what you have indicated that you already have and like. In initial trials it has slashed return rates enormously, which is good for customers and retailers alike, and is a very interesting development for the industry. I'll be keeping you informed on how this progresses.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
190 people from around the world attended the four day IACDE event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston. Simultaneous translation was a must.
We had factory tours of the Jospeh Abboud plant (shown) and the brand-new Southwick/ Brooks Brothers plant.
The president of the IACDE, Joachim Hensch of Hugo Boss opened a series of excellent presentations and discussions on e-retailing and digitizing fit.
Jessica Murphy, co-founder of True Fit Corporation, explained how their analysis tools could help online shoppers find correct sizing more easily.
Thierry Moncoutié of Lectra S.A. talked about 3D visualization in garment creation. We are duly chastised with the statistic that 62% of consumers are unhappy with the fit of their clothes.
Alvanon presented some of their ideas about e-retailing and mass customization of fit.
A panel discussion, moderated by Karen Alberg Grossman, Editor in Chief of MR magazine on the impact of e-retailing on brick-and-mortar retail stores. Contributing were Joseph Abboud himself, Roxy Starr, EVP of Design Development at Fast Fit 360, Jared Blank, e-commerce at Tommy Hilfiger and Raj Sareen, founder and CEO of Styku.
We started an outreach/internship program last year to sponsor and encourage young talent, with participation from U.S.A., Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan. This young "task force" made some interesting recommendations during their presentation to the group, so we challenged them to implement some of these changes and gave them a surprise budget of $10,000 to work with.
Networking is always an important aspect of these gatherings.
Benjamin Cohen of S. Cohen speaks with Kyle Vucko of Indochino
Anthony Sapienza with Joseph Abboud and Dragan Udovicic of Men's Wearhouse
Roxy Starr with Adriano di Quinzio of Brioni.
And our formal event is always fun. We cruised Boston harbor with dinner and a live band for dancing.
Anthony Sapienza, Me, Dr. Heino Freudenberg of Freudenberg Group, and Alan Abramowicz, co-president of Samuelsohn.
Members of the Japanese chapter in beautiful traditional dress.
The Indochino boys, Heikal Gani and Kykle Vucko with me, Enza Sturino, owner of Intermforme Interlinings and Roxy Starr.
I am thinking of putting an informal gathering together for people in Chicago who wight be interested in the group, which would include a possible way of gaining membership in the organization. If you are interested and in the Chicago are let me know. Of course, if you are located anywhere else in the world and are interested, I can certainly point you to a local chapter.
These photos were all shot by David Fox, photographer.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Just got back from my Boston trip. It was a really great time and I'll be posting in more detail soon but I thought I'd put up a few pics for now.
Lodovico Zandegu from Boglioli, Karen Alberg-Grossman from MR Magazine and me.
And before anyone yells at me for wearing a notch lapel tuxedo, my old one doesn't fit anymore so I had to take one out of stock and we didn't have any peaks in my size.
Karen moderating a panel discussion including my former Chief Creative Officer, Joseph Abboud.
McKinsey Associates discussing the effect the internet has been having on the clothing business.
The founders of Indochino, Kyle Vucko and Heikal Gani with Anthony Sapienza, CEO of Joseph Abboud Apparel, and Enza Sturino from Interforme Interlinings.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The explosion of e-commerce sites has created a dilemma of how to address fit in a virtual environment. The focus of next week's convention of the International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives will be on this subject and I am sure I will have lots to report when I get back. One thing I will bring to readers now is that the methods of measuring garments used by sites like e-bay are driven by sportswear so the terminology used and the actual methods are different than those commonly used in the tailored clothing industry, so if you are only familiar with e-bay or Styleforum conventions, you may end up confused when talking to a tailor or a manufacturer.
Below is a guide to the terms and methods typically used by tailored clothing manufacturers- some may vary slightly, like the exact level of the knee, but these are pretty much standards.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Shoulder padding is a fairly controversial subject, but the consensus in the US seems to be "less is more". There is also a misconception that all RTW makes use way too much padding; this is occasionally true- this is a pad from a well-known and loved brand
I prefer something softer and lighter. This is the thickest of the pads that I use in my RTW clothing.
You don't have to go all the way to Naples to get a soft shoulder.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
One of the most frequent questions I get is "where can I find the threads you use for buttonholes?". My go-to gimp is Agreman and the silk twist I usually use is R753, both products by Gutermann. It has sometimes been challenging to find it at retail, especially in the U.S., but there is now a new source over here. I haven't used them- the National Sales Manager at Gutermann is a friend and she let me know about them.
Bay Tailor Supply is now stocking these items. If someone orders from them, do let me know how the service is.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives will hold its annual world convention in Boston on May 9 to May 12 at the Intercontinental Hotel. We will be examining e-retailing and pattern design; there will be two factory tours- one of the JA Apparel factory which produces the Joseph Abboud tailored clothing, as well as the Southwick factory which produces for Brooks Brothers. Also featured will be presentations and workshops by representatives from Hugo Boss, McKinsey & Co., Nyopoly, TrueFit, Human Solutions, MR Magazine, Alvanon, Freudenberg, Lectra, and Chargeurs. More information, including registration forms, can be found here.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I've been busy lately. You may have noticed.
I work for the company that makes Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner Marx, two venerable old clothing companies in the U.S. Hart Schaffner Marx was founded in 1887 and Hickey Freeman in 1899- there's an enormous amount of history in the two companies but like many old companies things needed to be freshened up a little. So over the last few years we have been hard at work updating the product, not least of which is the fit. The latest new things to go to market are in the Hart Schaffner Marx brand.
We have three core fits in the Hart Schaffner Marx line, two of which have been completely updated for Spring 2013, and a third one which has very limited distribution for this season and will see a wider rollout this fall. In all, with all the variations available for advance and custom orders I had about 140 new patterns to make. We will discuss the fits and elements of the suits on the company blog, but I thought readers might like a sneak preview of one of them.
Readers may be familiar with my own personal style of cutting, namely a clean chest, very little drape in the blade, a nicely suppressed waist, a higher armhole and a clean sleeve. The third core fit is all of these things, only cut a little shorter as this is part of our "fashion" offering as opposed to the more classic fits which are longer. I grabbed one of the fall samples which happen to be close to my size to shoot off a few pictures. It looks almost as good as something I might have spent hours and hours making myself by hand, which underscores the importance of fit. People tend to fetishize hand work in garments, but I always say fit should be priority number one.
Now, if these photos are any indication, I need to get some rest. I look tired!
Monday, March 11, 2013
A follow-up to my last post, but this time aimed at the SW&D crowd.
I have trouble finding jeans that fit. If your seat-to-waist ratio is greater than the six or seven inches that is industry standard or you have muscular legs, then you probably have similar issues. When I find a pair that fits in the seat and thighs, the waist is usually two inches too big. The last post was about adding darts to dress trousers- I do this with jeans as well. Taking two darts in the back I can remove from 1 1/2" to 2" in the waist; this takes care of the added circumference but also makes for a more flattering fit in the seat.
Regarding the question about the back yoke for jeans;
Starting with a basic block with one or two darts, draw your yoke line and split the piece, adding seam allowances. Cut along one dart leg and close the dart, repeat for the second dart, then smooth out the waist and yoke seam lines.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Gaping pockets are a common affliction on plain-front trousers, and are almost always caused by tightness in the hips- the tightness causes the pocket to pull open and form what some say look like dog's ears on the side of your hips. Never an attractive feature.
When selecting a coat size, we advise to fit the shoulders first, then worry about the rest; when fitting trousers, it is best to find a size that fits correctly in the seat and adjust the waist to suit. This is one of the reasons. There is a possible fix, however.
Tightness in the front of the thigh is often a cause of this and can be remedied by dismantling the waistband and working about 3/8" of fullness across the front of the trouser, taken from the outlet at center back, shifting everything forward. An extra dart above the back pocket (there is usually only one) is helpful for prominent seats (but difficult to add to a finished garment), and a dart in the front helps with very muscular thighs.
We don't often see this front dart on ready-to-wear, and when we do, it is usually in the wrong place. The most aesthetically pleasing spot for this dart would be right under the belt loop where the crease would intersect the waistband were we to extend the crease all the way up the front, as illustrated.
Anatomically, however, this placement is incorrect. The hip is somewhat hollow at that point, and the fullest part is toward the side. By placing the dart next to the offending pocket we can add some extra room for the thigh and correct the problem.
The fullness and extra dart can be seen on this outstanding trouser, part of a suit made by Leonard Logsdail for an evidently athletic client who donated it to this blog. You can see the proper dart placement (some prefer to approximate the angle of the pocket for aesthetic reasons) as well as the slight puckering along the waistband where the fullness has been worked in. Bespoke tailors will be aware of this but some alterations tailors may not so if you are a former (or current) hockey player who has trouble with trouser fit, you may want to bring this up with your alterations person.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Several people have asked for an update on my hand, and I thank you for your concern.
Back in September I had a cooking accident with a knife that severed a number of things in my left hand, requiring surgery to correct. The one question mark was whether the nerve repair would work or not. Five months later I have regained most of my mobility but lost about 1 1/2" in my hand span (bad for playing piano); worse, I still haven't regained any sensation in that part of my hand so it looks unlikely that I will.
Though I hold the needle with my right hand, it is my left hand that holds the cloth and controls the depth of stitches. When pad stitching, blind stitching, making buttonholes, etc. you can't see what is going on underneath so you rely on your finger tips to tell you if you have pierced the cloth far enough, or if you have gone too far. My first few attempts at sewing made this painfully (or rather, not) obvious, when I instead drove the needle into my finger without realizing it. Bleeding on my work, I had to put it down and get cleaned up. I haven't picked it up since.
I'm still hoping the nerve will eventually grow back, if not I will have to figure out a new way of manipulating the cloth in order to get the desired results.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
My reaction to the news that yet another person is about to start pontificating on mens style on the internet ranges from *facepalm* to *foreheaddesk*.
This one, however, may be different.
In what I believe to be one of his first posts on Slate, Troy Patterson addresses one of the questions that we hear the most in these circles, namely, "Can I get away with this?". To which he provides one of the most reasonable, intelligent, and well-articulated answers I have heard on the subject which, in summary, amounts to this:
"If you need to ask, you probably can't".
It's worth a read.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
This month's issue of The Rake has an article I wrote on the "Boutonnière Milanaise", or the Asola Lucida.
Just a heads-up for those among us who can't get enough buttonhole porn.
Monday, September 17, 2012
OK let’s get to it. This is going to be a long one. And while most of this is specific to my experience with Indochino, a lot of the pointers could apply to any kind of MTM experience so may be worth a read to anybody who is thinking about getting a suit made. I’ll address some of the construction details in another post.
There have been a number of questions and comments here and elsewhere that I will try to address, but if I miss something, please let me know in the comments section.
First, I want to address expectations. Several people have said that they like what I make for myself better. Well, duh. If what I make for myself is not a million times better than an inexpensive MTM garment I should immediately quit what I am doing and become an accountant instead. You can’t compare a hand-made bespoke garment with MTM.
Which brings up another point.
If you have spent any amount of time browsing the online clothing fora, you should probably know by now that even bespoke clothing, being the result of expert craftsmanship and several fittings, which by all accounts should be the pinnacle of perfection in fit, is still subject to imperfections. I can count on one hand the number of online posters who own what I consider to be impeccably-fitting garments, and 99 times out of 100 (or more) they are the result of an ongoing collaboration between client and cutter. The first attempt is almost never even close to perfect- any true customer of bespoke clothing will tell you this. So I think people need to moderate their expectations when it comes to made-to-measure clothing, especially in the first attempt, and most particularly with less conventional formats such as this one. This is not to excuse egregious errors which may occur, but to put a little perspective on things.
Generally, however, people seem to agree that Indochino did pretty well on this suit, compared to some of the other examples floating around the internet, and questions have arisen to why this may be. I certainly didn’t give them much guidance. So what made the difference?
Well, first off, I am not a believer in making clothing from measurements alone. Three people with the exact same chest circumference can be shaped completely differently- the very erect guy with flat back and prominent chest, the stooped old man with a dowager’s hump and flat chest, and your average Joe. How on earth is a chest circumference supposed to capture this? Then there is the matter of personal preference. To the client’s skin measurement we always add what is known as “wearing ease”. This is not a compression tshirt, it is a suit- it must be bigger than your own measurement to some degree. And it is the degree which trips people up. Standard ease would be between four and six inches more than the body measurement- for example, if your chest measures 40”, the coat chest should generally be between 44” and 46”, depending on how you like to wear your clothes. One guy will find 4” too big, however, and the next will find it much too tight. How do you account for this?
When I was fitted, my measurements indicated two possible sizes to try on. I tried on three. This is probably the most important part of any MTM process- find the garment that is closest to a good fit, especially in the shoulders, and work from there.
And this, kids, is the moment where you need to step up and pay attention. This is the point where you need to communicate to your fitter if the length, the button stance, the general fullness, everything is right for you. If not, now is your chance to say so; your fitter is not a mind-reader. Is the sleeve a bit too snug? Is it perfect? Is it too big? Say so now. Have the fitter explain exactly what changes they intend to make to the garment you currently have on. They may think the waist needs to be cinched a bit, but you feel that it’s fine. Say so.
That being said, how does one manage when one does not have access to a trunk show and you have no option other than to submit measurements online? The remake policy is probably the best (only?) way around this. Self-measuring is a crap-shoot at best, but with a good alterations and remake policy it takes much of the risk out. My one caveat is that customers should not try to micro-manage the remakes. A lot of what I see going on online makes me cringe, when the customer tries to get too specific or too technical. Send them pictures and explain generally what you don’t like- “the shoulders are too wide”, for example. What you interpret to be too much padding may have nothing at all to do with padding so if you ask them to remove padding with the expectation that the expression will change, you will fail. If, given your general description of the issues and some good photos (dump the iPhone, please) the technicians at the factory can’t figure out what needs to be done from that, then you telling them to “reshape the sleeve head and crown to fit the armhole” is certainly not going to get you anything except possibly frustrated, especially since the Chinese-speaking technicians may have no idea what the internet-fueled jargon you may be using actually means. Unless you are a trained garment technician, or you play one on the internet, do not try to get overly technical.
Another element which may have contributed to the success of my garment was that I had one of their in-house fitters who flew in from Vancouver- many of the others are hired temps which get a few hours of training in fitting. Some have more experience than others, which may suit the general population who doesn’t know better, but if you are reading this blog then you are probably more attuned to fit and should be working with one of their more experienced people. I found my fitter’s story compelling- he was initially a customer of Indochino who was so impressed by the experience that he went to work for them. That says a lot about his level of enthusiasm and interest which probably went a long way toward making my garment a success.
I also think that the majority of what we see posted on StyleForum is not representative of the real world. I think many of the posters can be fit into one of three categories;
1) Look on my new bespoke Rubinacci, ye small-timers, and despair!
2) ZOMG look at the new Kiton jacket I just scored on ebay!!1!!
3) I just got a new suit in the mail and I don’t think it fits but I can’t articulate why
It’s very likely that Indochino has a lot of satisfied customers who can’t be bothered to post photos of themselves on the internet, I and if the success rate of a company could be judged based solely on what we see posted on the clothing fora, Anderson and Sheppard would have gone out of business a very long time ago.
Now on to the nitty-gritty.
The shirt is not bad for a first attempt, but considering their emphasis on fitted clothing, I find the back especially blousy. Darts would go a long way to contouring the fit and should probably be added as a matter of course (Heikal, are you reading this?). The collar and sleeve length are correct, and those are probably the most critical points.
My only gripe about the styling of the trouser is that I would prefer a narrower bottom with such a narrow knee- this borders on looking flared, and I would also shorten a trouser this narrow- there should really be almost no break at all, if any. It’s pretty typical that the back hits the calf when you taper so aggressively to the knee, though in general they could pick this up a bit. The fit of the seat is very good, though I gave them some help. I have what we call a “prominent seat”; the default for most trousers is to have one dart above each pocket and there is no way that a trouser will fit my seat with only one- two are required. They add a second in certain instances (it was not entirely clear when- it seemed like only the large sizes got them) but I insisted that a second would be necessary in my case. They said they would try, and they did. The pockets sit flat and do not gape; there is a bit of pulling in the thigh but that is pretty typical of a trouser that is so close-fitting in the thigh. Customers are advised to pay particular attention to the fit of the trouser during the fitting as they are quite slim.
The vest seems blocky, but I haven’t cinched the belt, which would help. I did it on purpose because the majority of vests on the market have loose, blousy backs which really need to be cinched a lot, and I hate that. The back of this vest is actually very well done, quibbles about the position of the neckline aside; it could also be a bit closer to the body, but then I would not have room to eat. If it were a bit longer and the points more elongated than horizontal, it would look a lot slimmer than it currently does, but would be too long in proportion to the jacket. I may ask Foo to work his magic on the picture so you can see what I mean. But in general, a better –than-average fit.
Several people have commented about the length of the jacket being too short, stance too high and lapels too narrow. Were this a classically-styled garment they would have a point, but this is not. It’s a fashion-forward garment. I tried on some Isaia DBs in Milan and the hem of the jacket was about even with the hem of the sleeve, so if one is to judge by what’s going on in the market, it’s maybe even a tiny bit too long. I think that’s getting into dangerous territory for a DB and think that the details of this garment, for what they are trying to achieve, are actually correct.
The fit of the shoulders is good, however I don’t think that they are set up to capture low shoulders- in any case, they seemed to have missed mine. I would have sloped them a bit more as well. Other than that, the fit of the front is quite good, and I like the sleeve length.
The back is pretty good, with two exceptions. They need to work on their sleeve pattern (to be fair, the back of the sleeve is the Achilles heel for most clothing pattern designers) and the seat of the coat is much too small, causing the vents to gape badly. This also seems to be a recurring theme so they may want to look at their base patterns.
On the subject of sleeves, they didn’t match the plaid on the front. This is a must, in my books, though certain Savile Row cutters wouldn’t agree- I have seen a lot of SR garments which weren’t matched either. I’d be willing to give them a freebie lesson on matching plaids if this is anything other than a mistake on their part (Heikal?).
So on the whole, I consider this experiment fairly successful; other people have had different results, though. If you’re in the San Francisco area and want to have a look, or even try it out for yourself, the Traveling Tailor is there this week, from the 18th to the 23rd. It’s worth a look just to see their setup. You can book an appointment here.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
The suit and shirt came earlier than promised but I was busy so I let it hang for a few days. Since I know how to press a suit, it was conceivable that I might have improved it a bit by giving it a good press so I shot it as it came out of the box. If I have time, I'll give it a press and reshoot, to see if that makes much of a difference in the fit.
I'll get into more detail about it early next week, but here are some first impressions. On the whole, I'm pleasantly surprised for the most part.
During the fitting process I let them do their thing. I wanted to get the "Indochino experience" so I didn't guide them, with one exception. Readers will have to keep something in mind; when you go to Indochino you are getting a skinny, fashion-forward suit like you might find on the pages of GQ or Details. This is not bargain-basement Brioni, and if you are looking for classic proportions according to "whnay's good taste" thread then you are looking in the wrong place. However I think it is good to have a point of view and to be very direct about it; there is too much half-baked clothing on the market which tries to be everything to everybody and thus fails in most things.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
I was shopping one day with a friend who had come in from Milan for a visit. He is also in the trade so we enjoy "doing the stores" together, to check out what everybody else is doing. We stopped into L'Uomo, in Montreal, which Alan Flusser called Canada's finest menswear store. The salespeople there love their product, are incredibly knowledgeable about it, and love to talk about it, especially with those who exhibit an appreciation for what they are selling.
That day they had me try on a sportcoat. A Very. Expensive. Sportcoat. The fit was absolutely spot on, the construction was immaculate, and some of the details kind of fascinating. I was a little bit in love. Okay, maybe a lot.
"Buy it", my friend said.
"You are out of your mind", I replied. "This thing costs a bloody fortune and I could make it myself. I can't spend this kind of money on something I could make myself!"
"Bello," he sighed impatiently, "do you think Jamie Oliver never eats out? And when he does, do you think he eats at McDonald's? Buy the damn thing."
Check, and mate.
I couldn't think of an argument. So I bought it. And he was right, in a way; sometimes it's good to try out what other people are doing because it makes you think of things you wouldn't have thought of otherwise. I learned a lot from that coat so I wrote the expense off, in my own mind, to my own education.
Fast forward a few years.
When I was in Spain, this spring, I got to chatting with the designer from Boglioli. He really liked a jacket I was wearing, the one I had made from the Ariston cloth that I bought from Kemp and Hewitt. He especially liked the way I got my collar to fit so we chatted a bit about it. He was making a technical presentation and had some garments with him so I tried some of them on. They are fantastic garments- really soft and lightweight, they feel like you have nothing on. A bit like Kiton, but whereas Kiton looks like a rumpled mess, these actually looked pretty clean. They do a huge amount of research and testing on treatments like washes and proprietary finishes so their garment is pretty unique on the market, but very expensive, due to all the testing. I complimented him on the garments and made some offhand remark about buying one if I had several thousand dollars I didn't know what to do with. Ha.
A few months ago he got in touch with me to let me know that he would be visiting New York in September, and that it would be great if we could get together. We exchanged a few details, then he came up with an idea. Knowing I loved their product, he offered to make me one of their coats in exchange for one like the one I was wearing in Spain. We could meet in New York and exchange garments. I thought this was a great idea. We'll get a chance to turn them inside out and talk about how we did them. I love this kind of exchange, both of ideas and of garments.
So I ordered some more cloth and am making him a sportcoat. I can't wait to see how mine turned out- I will no doubt be posting some photos when I get it.