22 August 2011

So Far, So Good

A few weeks back, I was contacted by Modern Tailor, one of the by now ubiquitous companies offering an online version of made-to-measure clothing at a fraction of what that used to cost. They offered to make me a suit, and asked that I review both the goods and the online order process here. I graciously accepted, and the suit is currently in transit. As for the order process and level of customer service, I have to say, so far, so good.

The website offers a large number of fabric choices, though many of them are variations of charcoal and navy. While it's true that the difficulty in choosing fabrics online lies in the fact that you can't actually see and touch them, and digital representations are not always what they seem, Modern Tailor does offer the option of sending a swatch book comprised of forty fabrics of your choosing for $25. That's not bad, given that if the first suit goes well you now have 39 other fabrics to choose from for your next go-around. In my case, I chose a mid-weight charcoal grey. Seems I may finally be outgrowing my rube tendency to order crazy stuff for it's own sake with online custom.

As with any online outfit like this, the measurements are your responsibility. This means that you the customer are being allowed to f*ck things up royally if you don't pay attention. Modern Tailor offers two options, each with a comprehensive guide. You can take body measurements, which I don't recommend unless you know someone who can take these accurately for you. Don't trust your wife/girlfriend. If you use this option, at least have a tailor put the tape to you.  Alternatively,  they have a guide for taking measurements from your own clothing. This is the option I chose. Using my best fitting trousers and best fitting blazer, I filled in the nearly two dozen measurements. I followed the guide, which is quite explicit, and tweaked a few things here and there using my own judgement. For example, I knocked 1/2 inch off the shoulder measurement of the blazer, given that the shoulders fit a hair large. But that's a trick best used sparingly. If you're not going to be honest about your measurements, why have something made in the first place? This is no place for empty pride.

I opted for flat front pants with cuffs, a single breasted two button coat with side vents and four button surgeon cuffs. I did ask for a few slightly eccentric details; open pockets, and brown buttons with brown stitching on the button holes. About a week later, I received an email from the production staff making sure this was correct, as black buttons are far more conventional on a grey suit, and containing photos of both the black and brown buttons available. After I explained that this was not meant to be a business suit and that I wanted it to have a slightly more casual air, to be worn with brown shoes, they replied that they understood and would proceed. A few days later I received a photo of one of the pockets, partially completed, to be sure this was what I wanted. I must say I was impressed with the individual attention I received, and the questions they asked made me feel that the people asking them knew what they were doing. True, they may have been giving me the royal treatment in hopes of a good review, but I can only hope that this level of attention is the same for all customers.

About two weeks later I was sent an email containing 18 photos of the completed suit (see above), with a measuring tape laid across it to ensure that details and measurements were correct before for shipping. I replied that all looked well, but asked whether they couldn't add a third button in my beloved 3/2 style. I received a prompt reply from the head of production saying that it could be done, but in his opinion it would spoil the overall look of the suit.  Appreciating his honesty, I decided to trust his judgement and said to send the suit along.

The whole process from order to shipment took a pinch more than a month, and I'll likely have it later this week. Here's hoping the garment itself justifies my enthusiasm so far.

This whole online made to measure thing isn't real custom tailoring, not even close. There's no personal involvement with the person actually making the garment, and the fit and details can honestly only be tweaked so much from a pre-existing pattern. But it does have some advantages and perks, especially for an average guy with a bit of taste who really need some good, basic suits in his closet. The suit I bought, had I paid for it, would have cost $535 shipped. I got to add a few personal touches, and if all goes well, it will fit just how I like it. Just think of the piece of crap that same money would have bought at a place like H&M or Men's Wearhouse, never mind the headache and general icky feeling I'd get shopping there. Of course, the real decision will be made when the suit arrives, but I'm hopeful.

So far, so good.



12 comments:

JoeTheMiddleYears said...

Your like the Canary in the Coalmine of men's tailored clothing. I'll be very interested in your impressions after you try on the suit.

Claude said...

The chorus of that Fugazi song "Full Disclosure" was swimming around in my head while reading this. Thanks for being honest about the nature of this review, certainly there are other blogs which are much less than forthright about the nature of their relationships with retailers.
Clearly you must have some such relationships with thrift store employees by now, not to discredit your perseverence, of course.
Allow me to disclose a fond bit of envy, as well.

TNN said...

I had a shirt made by Modern Tailor and I don't know about the suits, but my shirt is very well made and fits like a glove.
I already thought about giving their suits a try so I'm looking forward to your review.
I also received a first class service so it's not just because of your mighty blogger status...

Zach said...

This is going to end badly.

Giuseppe said...

Zach,

Who knows? We'll just have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

If worse comes to worse, he loses a grand total of nothing.
Always glad to see that "An Affordable Wardrobe(1)" in my Google Reader, Giuseppe.

NewShoesOldHat said...

I haven't tried their suits and am too nervous to try online MTM for suits in general. I'm also afraid it would end badly, but I'm really looking forward to reading your review of the actual product, because Modern Tailor is my primary source for shirts. Like TNN, I can confirm that they provide excellent customer service to customers other than popular bloggers. I often ask for special things that deviate from their (extensive) list of options, and they always communicate quickly and send me pictures to make sure everything is correct before shipping.

Joshua Lewis Co. said...

G,

I dig the way you approach this stuff, but what if the suit does in fact suck? Will you call out the free suit company? Or just say what do you expect from a $500 mail order outfit? I am optomistic for you, but I am curious.

J

Roger said...

I hope it turns out well. It makes sense to review potential lower-cost tailoring for people reading a thrifting blog who may want to get a suit made at some point. Why shouldn't even a thrifter get at least one suit made as a treat?

Judging by the comments avalanche in the in the Deo Veritas shirt post, I expect the usual chorus of disapproval telling you that you don't have bespoke or MTM or anything like a proper tailored suit. There is a never-ending parade of people who know better.

Zach said...

Joe,
My previous statement was not meant to impune your vision of how the suit should look (which I am sure is excellent) but rather the ability of whatever factory the employ to deliver that vision.

Trying online MTM for suiting is a little like trying an open marriage. Everyone thinks it might work out differently for them than for everyone else...

Tom said...

According to their website Modern Tailor is located in Shanghai, China. I think you forgot to mention that in your post, or maybe I overlooked it.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog, and I'm happy to see merchants reaching out to Giuseppe, who has, deservedly, made quite a name for himself. I'm even happier that G. is being as transparent as possible here. Still, and through no fault of Giuseppe, whatever happens with this will, likely, be much ado about nothing, if the review turns out positive. It is akin to the maitre d'hotel recognizing the food critic as he darkens the door. I trust Giuseppe to give an honest view, but I can't be sure that the suit and service he receives will be the same as I would get. I don't begrudge a chap a free suit--indeed, I admit to being jealous. I expect G. will be extra-zealous in his review, given the circumstances. This, I think, will be interesting.