The entrepreneurs behind custom suit and shirt tailor Hall Madden (known as Proper Suit when this review was initially posted) put a premium on customer service, having evolved their business model from online made-to-measure to an in-person only approach that aims to guarantee a perfect fit and inviting experience.
Modern Fellows caught up with founders McGregor Madden at PROPERSUIT’s new showroom in New York and Richard Hall to get measured up for a suit during one of the company’s visits to Washington, DC.
DMV readers should note that Proper Suit will be in Washington, DC for a pop up on October 5 and 6.
Founded in 2010, PROPERSUIT is a collaboration between co-founders Richard Hall and McGregor Madden, who met while working in Asia and set out to create a high-quality custom suiting business using suppliers they met along the way.
McGregor and Richard are looking to entice men who are looking at high-end off-the-rack suits from the likes of Zegna, Kitan, Canali , or online peers such as Ledbury, with comparable fabrics, a full canvas, and a custom experience at a lower cost that starts at around $850.
Their suits aren’t exactly geared towards customers looking for the cheapest suit out there — a fact the company reinforces by requiring a $150 deposit prior to your first consultation to provide some guarantee that you’re a serious customer. McGregor, pictured above in PROPERSUIT’s Manhattan showroom, admits that the practice probably drives away a couple of potential clients, but says it helps ensure that both parties come to the first meeting serious about designing a suit.
Their suits have garnered accolades from the likes of Max Berlinger of Esquire, Wired Editor Mark McClusky, Gus Walbolt of Abitofcolor, Kiyoshi Martinez of The Silentist, and even TechCrunch, which ought to give some comfort to guys wary of throwing down $150 without ever stepping foot inside a showroom.
PROPERSUIT provided a suit to Modern Fellows at no cost for the purpose of a review.
While PROPERSUIT originally experimented with an online ordering model, today, your first suit will likely begin through an in-person consultation with a fit specialist in their permanent showrooms in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York Portland, or San Francisco, or via their temporary pop-ups around the United States — in places such as Washington, DC, Atlanta and Seattle — where McGregor, Richard and their colleagues travel to on a rotating basis. (There are exceptions to the in-person rule. For instance, if PROPERSUIT is providing suits to a wedding party, and a groomsman is not in a market in which they travel to, company stylists can instruct them on taking their own measurements.)
The company is focusing on building out its showroom experience — and aims to get as many customers as possible in for at least one fitting — so that they can make sure to get the fit exactly right and to be on hand to evaluate customers’ reactions when they try their suit on for the first time. As measures of that commitment, McGregor has moved from Chicago to New York to focus on a flagship showroom, and the company has added Melissa Watson (pictured above), who has a background in high-end fashion and retail, to their team in New York to help with the customer experience. She joins the likes of Max Andreae, pictured below, who captains their San Francisco showroom.
For those based in Washington, DC, Atlanta, Seattle or other locales where PROPERSUIT travels, a first fitting occurs in a pop up — mine was at the Fairfax Hotel on Massachusetts Ave in Northwest Washington with Richard, pictured below.
PROPERSUIT is slowly transitioning away from these temporary pop ups to focus on their permanent locations, though will continue to travel at least through the fall to locales including Washington, Atlanta and Dallas. (“Richard and I started the business constantly on tour – now we are settling in and scaling out with our own fitting studios,” says McGregor, though he hinted that the company may seek to establish a permanent presence in some of the locations where they have held pop ups.)
Regardless of where you meet PROPERSUIT, their stylist will start the fitting process by putting you in a template — an off the rack jacket and pair of pants that best matches your body. From there, “it’s pinning and chopping,” notes McGregor. “Do you like this? is it too tight?”
Richard and McGregor each have conducted more than 1,000 fittings, while their small cadre of trusted partners spread out across the United States have all gone through at least 150 hours worth of training on PROPERSUIT’s fit system.
The company developed a proprietary CAD software system for pattern-making, and fit specialists translate the data from the fit session into a digital profile.
“There’s a lot more than just math to building a pattern,” says McGregor. “You need to figure out what a person’s unique style is. What is his personality, his posture? What is slim in his mind?”
Once the measurements are squared away, PROPERSUIT will sit down with you for a discussion about your wardrobe, show you their range of fabrics and talk through an extensive line of customizations, from lapel shape and size to rear trouser pocket design (loop and button, welted without button, jet, flap and button) to suit pocket design to lining options.
Richard set out to make a suit that “is appropriate for the boardroom.” He talked through my day job and understood that I needed something that would shine but not stick out in the conservative world of Washington, DC. So instead of loud checks and a super-slim silhouette, he suggested either a traditional pinstripe or a textured wool in a deep, rich blue with some details — like brown buttons and a colorful lining — and set about creating a moderately slim fit to help me stand out in a room full of navy blue suits.
He took the time to realize that – in my case – it’s not about the suit standing out. It’s about making me feel like I look my best so I can stand out and be more confident when I walk into that important meeting.
The suit, manufactured in China, features spot-on soft, natural-looking shoulders with a hint of padding, and feels sturdy thanks to the full canvass that takes a couple of wearings to break in. The lapels have a soft roll to them and aren’t pinned flat against the chest — a nice touch and indicator of quality.
Every stylist has a point of view, and PROPERSUIT’s — or at least Richard’s — trended towards the subtle. There was a conservativeness to his approach to selecting fabrics, and with that first set of measurements, which likely reflected the input that I provided. He wanted to avoid an overly-trendy fit or style, and make sure that if any alterations were necessary, that they would involve a few nips and tucks — a little taking in rather than letting out.
The result was that the jacket fit very well out of the box, but the pants were too roomy in the seat and the break in the pants was too long. Once those two issues were addressed, the suit fit exceptionally well. It did exactly what Richard set out to do.
Customer service, alterations policy, and reorders
The permanent showrooms have a leg up on the pop-ups, in that customers can go back to the store at their convenience for a fitting and to have someone from PROPERSUIT eye the fit and finishes.
That ability to be there in person and judge how a man reacts rather than what he says over an email — can help fine tune the fit and, PROPERSUIT hopes, solidify a bond with a customer for the long term.
Any alterations are taken care of in-house and included in the price of the suit.
Those who purchase a suit from one of their pop ups can either meet again to do a fitting at one of their permanent studios if a client happens to be in town, meet one of the fit specialists during a subsequent visit, or take a suit directly to a local tailor to perform any alterations.
A customer’s electronic fit is saved in PROPERSUIT’s system for future orders. For a couple of founders who are clearly tech-savvy, their approach to reorders skews towards the traditional. Rather than creating log-ins for customers and permitting them to place subsequent orders online, Proper Suit prefers to send swatch books by mail, have customers come by their showrooms in person, or email a curated selection of fabrics.
“Our clients live in suits,” says McGregor, and often “pick out other fabrics during the first fitting for second orders once fit is confirmed. We have a lot of custom options so guys prefer to work hand in hand with us so we can determine the best look.”
Suits start at $850 and go up to $1950 for high-end fabrics. PROPERSUIT requires a deposit of $150 prior to your consultation.
PROPERSUIT offers an impressive combination of fabrics, finishes and customizations, and their fully-canvassed, soft-shoulder suit feels and looks remarkable and fit extremely well following a couple of minor touch ups. While the company suggests that suits are usually spot on the first time, my and others’ experience is that some tweaking is usually in order, and so their increasing attention to building out permanent showrooms across the country is a positive for potential customers who are able to take advantage of them. (New Yorkers should check out PROPERSUIT’s new Manhattan showroom.) These aren’t entry-level prices, but if you have the means, you’ll find PROPERSUIT can deliver a phenomenal suit that competes with off-the-rack offerings that can run much higher.
How to order
Start by booking your fitting via the form on PROPERSUIT’s website, or call PROPERSUIT at telephone number 872-228-9910.
PROPERSUIT’s Fitting Studios
30 East 20th St 3rd Fl NY. NY. 10003
358 W Ontario St Chicago Il. 60654
116 W 4th St or House Call Service
1648 Pacific Ave. San Francisco, CA. 94109
1536 NW 23rd Ave Portland, OR. 97210
Photos oF Melissa Watson and Max Andreae courtesy of PROPERSUIT.
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/or 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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