If you have been researching options for affordable online custom-tailored suits, Dragon Inside has likely appeared on your radar. The EU-headquartered company has made a splash of late via menswear blogs, targeted Google ads and a slick website. How does Dragon Inside’s suits stack up in the growing digital menswear world?
Pretty well, largely because of their dedication to customer service and to understanding your fit preferences.
Inside Dragon Inside
“We have a passion for proper tailoring and quality textiles,” Dragon Inside founder Bobby Miloev told Modern Fellows. He and his business partner maintained a local business in Bulgaria for home textiles before reaching out to what he calls “part of the extended family” to bring suiting expertise in house and founding Dragon Inside in 2012.
Bobby outlined three differentiators for Dragon Inside: fabric, suit construction and service.
Since Bulgaria is part of the European Union, Dragon Inside has tariff-free access to mills and fabrics from the UK and Italy. “We are quite confident in the fabrics we have on hand,” says Bobby. He and his team talk to a number of European-based mills, looking for a commitment to quality and consistency. Dragon Inside doesn’t purchase stock fabrics – they buy special-runs — and is looking to keep all of the company’s sourcing in European production.
He also points to Dragon Inside’s full canvas construction, “an upgrade from most of what’s out there.” Dragon Inside’s suits are factory-made with modern equipment that, Bobby argues — as do many of his peers — is superior in quality and consistency to hand-cutting by a tailor.
Bobby also suggests that, “we’re not trying to innovate in terms of fashion. We’re trying to deliver more in the way of service.” The idea is to place more focus on delivering service — cross checking self-measurements with an existing suit that fits well, and following up with customers to get a better sense for a their personal fit preferences — instead of getting a suit out the door, though the company promises to get a suit made and delivered in under a month.
Business, Bobby says, has been “very good,” with strong repeat sales that amount to over 20 percent of the company’s overall orders every month and returns in the low single digit percentage.
Dragon Inside provided a two-piece grey suit featuring fabric woven by Alfred Brown in the UK to Modern Fellows at no cost for the purposes of the review, along with a pocket square and tie.
The ordering process was straightforward. You can begin — as I did — by ordering free swatches of suits, which helps give a better sense for the fabrics available.
Once you’re ready to order, select your preferred lapel (notch, slim notch, peak, wide-peak or shawl), vents (none, center or side), buttons (one, two, or three), jacket lining color and optional vest. In recent months, Dragon Inside has added a range of other customizations — Pick Stitching, a flower loop, functional boutonniere, functional sleeve buttons, ticket pocket, slanted pockets, half-lined suit jackets, brown contrast buttons, two back pockets (their standard is one), pants cuffs and suspender buttons.
One nice feature is that the company has recommended default options, so if you don’t want to spend time considering whether you want a slim or regular width notch lapel on your suit jacket, you can breeze through much of the customization.
Dragon Inside has set up helpful video tutorials to walk customers through the self-measurement process.
From there, Bobby asked to speak over Skype to discuss my fit preferences and measurements. His follow up with customers is a touch that differentiates Dragon Inside from other operations. “We look at the measurements that customers submit and then have a conversation with them to get a better feel for their fit,” says Bobby. It’s a nice touch that makes you feel taken care of.
So how does the suit stack up?
Very nicely, though it took two tries to get there.
While the pants fit well out of the box — slim but not snug with a slight break — the first suit jacket was off. It was tight under the arms and around the back, with a gap between the neck and the suit jacket. It also featured thick, if light, shoulder pads, and the lining ran hot — even in cold weather, the jacket was warm.
There’s a lesson here though: Don’t run away in frustration.
If you are sold on the idea of purchasing an online custom-tailored suit, you are already diligent enough to take your own measurements and have likely spent some time thinking about options for suit finishes and your fit preferences. It is important to maintain that diligence throughout the process, particularly when an initial cut of a suit doesn’t come back perfect.
Modern Fellows has worked with several online custom tailoring outfits and, while most have ultimately delivered a quality — in some cases, extraordinary — product, nobody has yet nailed the suit entirely the first time out.
After receiving the suit, I first thought about what needed to be improved. I then contacted Bobby to communicate my concerns and provided some pictures. “We always ask for photos when we are discussing fit adjustments,” says Bobby. “They tell a thousand words, especially when there is a problem with the slope, curve or balance of the suit.” (When its tailors make alterations, they will then update the measurement profile on the website and the digital pattern.)
Several weeks later, I had a suit that fit and felt much better. Dragon Inside cut a new jacket with much thinner shoulder pads and used Bemberg lining, a new option for the company. Their tailors also eliminated the gap between the neck and jacket, and dramatically improved the overall fit of the jacket.
While there are a couple of nagging issues — there is no pen pocket inside the left breast of the suit (though they will be included on the premium suits starting next month, and then in the rest of the suits in 3 months),and the fit along the torso remains a hair snug for my taste — overall, the suit now fits very well and looks sharp. In particular, there is a nice roll to the lapels.
Dragon Inside’s dedication to customer service, eagerness to make a quality product, diverse and interesting selection of suiting fabrics, and unique platform in Bulgaria, with relatively cheap labor costs and access to UK and Italian mills, are all good reasons to give their suits a try. If you do, you should:
1. Take advantage of their offer to have a conversation about your suit to communicate your fit preferences.
2. Specify your shoulders: Be clear on whether you prefer natural or more structured shoulders. Dragon Inside chooses shoulder pads based on their impressions of your shape and posture, as well as on the fit preferences a customer communicates. If you prefer a natural shoulder, make that clear right off the bat.
3. Choose the Bemberg lining: No matter how light suiting wool is, if the lining doesn’t breathe, the suit will will be stifling. Make sure you choose one of Dragon Inside’s Bemberg linings rather than one made out of rayon.
4. Don’t give up: This is good advice generally, but applies particularly to the world of online custom tailoring and to your Dragon Inside experience. It is nearly inevitable that there will be something out of whack with an online suit order, whether it is from Dragon Inside or another menswear company. Dragon Inside’s attitude is that, “whenever there’s an issue, it is just an opportunity for us to provide good customer support.” If a customer fails to communicate an issue, it prevents the company from demonstrating that it can make it right.
Dragon Inside is also branching out into accessories, and has phenomenal cotton pocket squares that are a steal at $19.
Cost and How to Order
Suits from $499, shirts from $79.
About JakeJake is an expert on men’s style and fashion based in Washington, DC. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs and innovative clothing and lifestyle brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. He has published hundreds of articles on style and apparel, and regularly interviews small business CEOs and startup founders about industry trends. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine.
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