In 2007 Kyle Vucko and Heikal Gani weren’t looking to disrupt the world of men’s fashion, change how people buy their custom-made clothing or to be lauded as creative force being one of “new web’s most promising startups.” The goal was much smaller — the two Canadian university students just wanted to buy a decent suit, fitted to their frame for a non-exorbitant price.
Realizing the market didn’t have what they were looking for, they started building it themselves in the form of a web-based custom suit brand — a name that 12 years later isn’t quite a household name, but is close enough to be counted among the new web’s apparel success stories.
The brand is Indochino — widely considered one of the frontrunners in the world of bespoke suiting, direct-to-consumer (DTC) and digitally based. The site offered a simple proposition when it launched in 2017 — shoppers could sign in, enter their measurements and send them on to Indochino, which then routed them to a Shanghai tailor who promised to return a bespoke suit in two weeks’ time for a few hundred dollars, instead of the few thousand that individually-tailored men’s suits tended to cost.
And in terms of that online ordering experience, the firm in the intervening decade or so has remained very consistent. The customer logs in, chooses a style of suit, picks any desired add-on details (monogramming, felt laps etc.) and then does a step-by-step online measuring process designed to make it easier to get the right measurements. But Indochino is also a very different brand than it was in its dorm room founding days. In 2015, founding CEO Vucko officially departed the firm, and current CEO Drew Green stepped in, and the firm began what has been a very aggressive push for advance and scale.
Four years ago, Indochino began expanding its digital efforts into the world of brick-and-mortar retail, and has actively been expanding its footprint throughout that time. Two years ago, it also expanded its apparel offering from formal and business wear to everyday casual. And over the last several years the custom apparel brand has taken those expansion points and built out a physical retail network across North America that will include 55 showrooms by the end of this year. A physical network, its CEO says, that is still growing, with more than 20 additional showrooms planned for 2020 — a 44 percent expansion.
That physical expansion, according to Green, is critical to the brand’s growth story.
“As we continue to welcome new customers from across North America, we’re finding that offering an in-person experience plays an integral role in growing a legion of loyal fans,” Green said, noting that for many customers shopping for custom clothing is about more than what they can see on a screen. That is a starting point, but many also want to be able to base their choices on what the whole sensory experience of the outfit, something that is really only accessible in person.
But growing the brand and its fanbase is about more than expanding its physical footprint for Indochino — it is also about the considerably more difficult and delicate process of snapping up mindshare among consumers, somewhat challenging in the era of contextual commerce and an infinitude of brands looking to grab a slice of the consumer’s ever-diminishing attention.
Indochino has pursued that mindshare-catching goal by looking to capture a specific group of influencers to boost its brand — professional athletes. The firm is currently working with its “Signature Athlete” RJ Barrett (a top draft pick making his NBA debut with the New York Knicks this season) on a custom line of suits and fabrics.
“I’m a tall guy with long arms and long legs, so if you’re like me with unique sizing, everything will always fit perfectly and be customised to your personal style. This is my first opportunity to develop a custom collection, and it’s been an incredible experience working directly with Indochino to create this elite line,” Barrett said in a statement on the collaboration.
It boost the brand’s signal, according to the CEO, and also allows Indochino to do what it most seeks as it heads into 2020 and a big growth push — to catch the attention of customers who might not otherwise be thinking about customized clothing as an option for them.
“To forge partnerships with the next generation of elite athletes and bring custom apparel to new product categories further differentiates us and increases our credibility as a relevant fashion brand,” Green said.