Following on from Permanent Style’s posting on Suit Supply, the following is an interview with Suit Supply staffer Richard Finlay-Newton about the brand’s economies of scale, and how to get value for money in your suit.
Permanent Style: How is Suit Supply able to offer made-to-measure suits more cheaply than other stores?
Finlay-Newton: Suit Supply is a vertically integrated company, so we design, make and sell our products ourselves. Therefore, the best and most direct line to the end customer makes a better price. We don’t have to pay for agent’s, trade fairs etc.
PS: What quality signs, such as fineness of wool or canvassing, should readers look for in suits generally, and how does Suit Supply compare here to other stores?
A suit does not take shape from itself, you need to put something inside a suit to give it form, a structure, the inter-lining. There are many ways to make this structure, most common even in the more expensive suits being a fused construction in which a plastic layer is fused to the outer fabric. We use the old-fashioned technique: a canvas of cotton and horse or camel hair. If you bend these hairs they come back, these hairs have long lasting ‘form memory’ and we use them to give form to a suit. The result is a suit which follows the form of the body, one that does not make you feel locked up, and which will keep its form even through the valeting process.
PS: How much of a suit’s price is attributable to branding and advertising, do you think?
PS: Where do most other brands have their suits made these days?
Quality suit making is still concentrated in a few areas, where we and other brands make our suits. These towns contain the people who have the required skills in their fingers. So we all stick together in a way. The skills don’t migrate as fast as in other more industrialized trades. So we and our competitors still produce a great deal in Italy, but China is also moving up in quality garment making.
PS: Do different brands tend to be made at the same factories and even with the same wools ?
Cloth can be sold from one mill to several companies, with the suit possibly being made at the same factory. The main difference is often the cut of the jacket. Each company will aim to create a shape that sets it apart from its competitor. You may still find the same cloth in different shops at different prices.
PS: What other industry insights can you offer about how suits are made and how to get value-for-money?
The make of a suit is just the starting point. The satisfaction you will get from a suit is decided largely by how it fits you. If the person measuring your suit has got it right you will feel better in the suit, and wear it more often. It is about expertise in making the suit, but just as important in the skills of the people measuring you. You can buy an ill-fitting suit for a lot of money. That is the reason why we focus on just one thing: suits, and do not divert into casual wear, shoes etc. It enables us give our full attention to the promise we give to every customer a perfect fitting suit.
PS: Does Suit Supply have any plans to extend to the US or any other markets?
The first months of trading have been very successful, so we are going to open more stores in the UK this year. We are also planning to open a store in Milan and Zurich in the next 12 months. The UK is in a way a portal to the US, although suit wise there are some big differences – our orientation is probably more westwards in this regard.