Vancouver and Shanghai-based e-commerce pioneer Indochino is bringing its traveling tailor to Washington, DC March 2-10. Modern Fellows spoke with co-founder and CEO Kyle Vucko in advance of the trip about quality control, scaling up, and what Washingtonians should expect when Indochino occupies Living Social’s experimental live event space at 918 F Street NW next month.(Kyle is pictured above, right, with co-founder and Indochino President Heikal Gani.)
What should Washingtonians expect when Indochino comes to visit?
Our traveling tailor is an attempt to create a retail shopping experience with guys in mind. We thought traditional retail was built for women and re-purposed for guys. We were lucky to partner up with Living Social, which is a convenient location and will offer a great shopping experience for men. It is hard to find a beautiful retail space that’s in a great part of town that’s actually available.
When you come into our space, you will be greeted by a hostess who will lead you upstairs to your own personal fit specialist and a stylist, who will take you through all of the offerings on the floor – our suits, shirts, outerwear. They will get a sense from you about your style and interests and talk to you about the company. All of this is done through an Apple touch app, so it seamlessly integrates the physical and technology.
In terms of suit construction, we offer a half-canvas garment, where all our materials and components – the interlining and canvas and fusing – are from top global suppliers for those materials, and we’re coming in at the higher end [in terms of quality of materials] for every component.
[Ed. note: You can get a sense of what to expect from the photo below from Indochino’s album of its recent installation in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.]
What factored into Indochino’s decision to choose to come to Washington?
We’ve had a great following in DC since we launched the company about five years ago. There are a lot of young professionals, and it strikes me as more international than a lot of other American cities. For us, it is also one of the quintessential American cities and with that comes a certain flair and flavor and expectation of dress. Also, some of the earliest blog posts about us were out of DC, so we feel a real connection to the city.
E-commerce retailers have been experimenting with new models of getting in front of potential customers that don’t necessarily involve establishing a permanent retail presence. What made you want to experiment with the idea of the traveling tailor?
We started an online clothing business because it allowed guys to get a more customized fit at a lower price point, and really never did traditional retail in any form until about a year ago. After a few years of being on-line only, we came to realize that there were a certain group of guys that want to see and feel fabrics. Guys enjoy being able to talk with someone in person about the process, and they can get some advice about picking out outfits.
Indochino has been around since 2007, but there is a lot more competition these days. How does the company differentiate itself?
One way we differentiate ourselves is through our manufacturing process.
No one had ever figured out how to do mass customized men’s apparel at scale. We offer a fit and finish at a price-point that you just don’t find elsewhere. With scale comes better quality and fabrics. We can get a higher quality product at a better price. Whether you’re taking about shoulder pads, the interlining, or source material, we’re dealing with the global top 5 suppliers for those materials.
We do everything in-house with the exception of cutting and sewing the garments. We design all of the garments and accessories and maintain quality control in-house. We have an internal team that inspects every garment ourselves before it goes to the customer. We don’t put [the responsibility for quality control] on [an outside] factory.
Also, all of our garments are now digitally created and cut, as opposed to doing it by hand. There is a beauty to doing things by hand, but in terms of consistency and quality, it doesn’t come close.
In the end, quality is a moving target as you understand the garment more and how customers react. We are very committed to creating a great product for the price.
Indochino is one of the larger start-ups in the affordable custom clothing space, attracting hundreds of thousands of dollars of venture capital and high-profile advisors and investors. What was your motivation to start an online custom clothing business and scale it up?
Someone told me once that whether you’re running a billion dollar enterprise or a corner store, you’re going to work 60 hours a week so you might as well go big. That really resonated with me. The learning curve and all the things that come along with [starting up a larger business] have been extremely interesting.
I think we had a clear vision when we started. We set out to make it easier for guys to get dressed, and online custom clothing turned out to be the way to do that. We wanted to try to change the way that men dress globally. That fed into who we brought into advisors and how we attracted capital. We have an opportunity to reinvent how men get dressed. To get a shot at changing that this deep into human history, that’s amazing.
The company continues to evolve with things like the traveling tailor. There’s a certain amount of wanting to connect with guys on a personal level and to build our brand. Figuring out how to do that is part of the fun.
This is art at the end of the day. You have to balance customers’ emotions and perceptions with creating something that is of consistently-high quality and that makes you look good at work or on that job interview.
Indochino’s Traveling Tailor will be at Living Social’s 918 F Street NW space March 2-10. To book an appointment, visit: http://indochino.com/dc. (According to Indochino’s Facebook page, making an appointment does not commit you to purchase anything, so you can come see and touch what Indochino has to offer.)
Images courtesy of Indochino.