Online custom tailors are everywhere, but how many can boast a pure Italian pedigree and the backing of a centuries-old fabric mill? Menswear startup Lanieri delivers made-to-measure suits and shirts crafted by Italian tailors using high-end Made-in-Italy fabrics. Modern Fellows caught up with Lanieri co-founder Riccardo Schiavotto to go behind the brand.
Schiavotto, who used to work as a consultant, had to wear a suit everyday to work. As he started looking at next steps, he saw potential to disrupt the tailoring industry. The technology involved in the manufacturing tailor-made suits had evolved — automatic cutters and more developed sewing machines — but the industry hadn’t, especially in Italy.
He began studying the feasibility of selling a made to measure suits online and discovered that, while other companies were doing it, no one was manufacturing their garments in Italy.
“There are so many world-class tailoring districts in Italy,” notes Schiavotto, “that find some good suppliers wasn’t difficult. All of them where enthusiastic about our idea.”
So began Lanieri, an interesting and high-end entrant in the universe of made-to-measure and bespoke suit options for men.
Their suit fabrics come from top Italian wool mills including Loro Piana, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Tallia di Delfino and Reda. The latter is also an investor in Lanieri, giving some tradition and corporate heft to the new venture. Reda, Schiavotto says, “shares our vision to export Italian excellence using the innovation we have developed since the foundation of the company.”
Modern Fellows talked with Schiavotto to discuss the role of technology in tailoring, Italian craftsmanship and integrating online and offline experiences. I also had the chance to review Lanieri’s grey birdseye suit, which Schiavotto provided to me at no cost.
Modern Fellows readers receive a $100 discount off your first purchase from Lanieri by entering code MODERNFELLOWS at checkout.
How do you differentiate yourself from the variety of other tailors out there?
Simply put, we are the only company that has its entire manufacturing process in Italy. We use only the finest Italian fabric (Loro Piana, Zegna, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Reda, Ormezzano, Cerruti) and all our garments are sewn by skilled Italian artisan. Most, if not all, our suppliers are family business with several decades of experience. Some of them even centuries. (Vitale Barberis Canonico is probably the oldest wool-maker in the world, with 350 years of experience).
What role does technology play in your business?
It’s one of our main areas of focus. Technology is what makes this business possible, so we invest a lot of time, energy and money to create a “2.0 tailoring” experience. The main parts of our technology equation are —
First, the website: We built it entirely in house, to provide the best online shopping experience. You can’t really use anything pre-made (like Magento or Prestashop), and if you rely to an external programmer he would not be able to do it, as most probably he won’t understand the product and the business (how many programmers do you know that wear tailor made suits?)
Second, pictures and content: A tailor made suit, especially if sold online, is something that requires a lot of content and to explain carefully to potential customer what you are trying to sell them. Also, the pictures of fabric need to be clear and realistic, which is something very very difficult to achieve among so many different devices!
Third, the measuring process: We designed the process keeping in mind that no previous tailoring experience should be required. The measurements submitted are assessed using a proprietary statistical algorithm as well as by our experienced tailors, effectively combining the right mix of innovation, experience and heritage.If something seems wrong, the customer will be contacted and asked to double-check some measurements. This only required months to get to the quality point we are now, but we reached a point that I’m genuinely impressed of what we are able to achieve, it’s awesome to create a perfect fitting suit for someone that you have never saw on the other side of the planet.
Fourth, a new approach to retail: We launched 7 pop-up stores last year (4 in Milan, 1 in Rome and 2 in London).
Editor’s note: Since this interview, Lanieri has opened a series of Ateliers throughout Europe. I had a chance to visit and look inside Lanieri’s Paris Atelier.
How much of your business is online versus in-store? Has your focus or business model changed since you began?
We want to create a seamless online and offline experience. In our atelier the order is placed using an iPad, through the very same website that a customer will be using at home. At the atelier the costumer will be guided by one of our style consultant, that will provide useful information on fabrics and fit. Also the consultant will measure the customer, that sometimes is not so willing to take is own measurements at home.
At the moment our business is 30% in-store and 70% online, but consider that we just have one atelier in Milan at the moment.
At the company’s inception we thought that the business could exist entirely online, which is true, but growth has been slow. Once we tried the pop-up store, and then the atelier, it became clear that our business model had to include offline. The customer experience is way better and they get that human touch that you get at traditional tailor shops, while learning how to order online for future purchases.
How would you describe your clientèle? Where are the majority of your customers based? Are there any insights you can provide into your customers?
Most of our customers are business people that have to wear a suit everyday at work, namely consultants, bankers, attorney and so on. They like to dress properly, but also they don’t have much time to invest in shopping (most of them dislike shopping actually). Buying a suit off the rack it’s very inefficient: you need to spend at least half and afternoon to have an ill fitting suit that will require extensive alteration to look acceptable. On the other hand, traditional tailors are very expensive, and also becoming extinct (less and less young people are learning the trade nowadays).
What’s next for Lanieri?
We just launched our autumn winter fabric collection, with more than 100 different premium Italian fabrics to pick from. We will also introduce coats and smoking in the next few months.
Are there any best practices that you would recommend to other entrepreneurs for starting out a global e-commerce business?
No matter what, make your customer happy. Word of mouth is the best marketing you could ever get.
Are there other companies in the industry that you admire or would recommend?
I would recommend the guys at Velasca, they made some amazing affordable Italian shoes.
Lanieri provided a suit at no cost to Modern Fellows for the purpose of a review.
Photo credits: Lanieri
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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