When I fantasise about winning the lottery (which is more often than is probably healthy) I wonder what I would do with my time, what small bookshop or café I would set up, to potter about in, spending the day obsessing about having the “right” clientele and making a small loss year after year.
I’ve decided now I would create a menswear shop to fill a hole in the market. Much like my desire to find or create the perfect magazine, this shop may not prove economically viable. But then if I’ve won the lottery that wouldn’t matter.
Here’s my business plan. All the suits would be made in Hong Kong by my current tailor and the facilities he uses. I can get a decent suit from him for around £150, but given that I would become a bulk customer, and I could offer him some share in the profits of the enterprise, I’m sure this amount could be negotiated down to nearer £100.
The shop would emphasise fit above all. To that end, it would carry a limited ready-to-wear line, but one with odd chest fittings as well as even – 39, 41 and 43 as well as 38, 40 and 42 – and with unfinished sleeves and trousers. The customer would pay a small surcharge on top of the suit price to have the sleeves and trousers finished for him to the correct lengths. He would also be encouraged to have the waist adjusted. All these adjustments would be done by a tailor on site, and priced at cost. If the suit costs me £100, I would hope to do this for under £200, with all the costs and overheads taken into consideration.
The ability to have a more accurate chest and shoulder measurement, and other parts of the suit adjusted cheaply, would mean that this ready-to-wear line would fit better than almost any other.
I am aware that most shops only carry even chest measurements because it is more costly and inefficient to carry them all. I would compensate slightly by narrowing the range available – perhaps going from 37 to 43 inches. Other retails outlets have to carry a wider range given their wider clientele, but the racks are always filled with 46 inch chest suits at the end of a sale. I would hopefully avoid that.
More than half the business would come from bespoke clothing – measured by the tailor in London (I might even do a little training myself in order to be able to measure customers accurately) and made in Hong Kong. Given that suits out there are turned around in less than a week, the whole process for a customer in London would not take more than two weeks.
The suit that arrives in London would be unfinished, to enable something approaching a second fitting with the customer in London. Also, all suits, particularly ready-to-wear, would be made with excess material in the jacket to allow for easy adjustments.
If the priority of the shop is fit, the second priority would be individuality. The ready-to-wear line would only include a handful of identical suits, perhaps one in each of the sizes. Each small group would vary from the others by the materials, linings and buttons, making each almost unique to that customer.
This really would be personal tailoring – unique and individually adjusted.
The shop of course would be a haven for the sartorially minded. It would include a small library of rare Apparel Arts issues and a seating area with free espresso for those who fancy hanging out, browsing the glen plaid swatches and considering their next purchase. There would likely be a shop tie and individual pattern of check, available only to the best customers.
These are more superficial considerations. But I think the business plan could work, and the shop would certainly be unique. As with my considerations on a new menswear magazine, if anyone has the money and the courage to help me launch something, do say!