High tech haberdashery

High tech haberdashery
Mohammad Heikal Gani (left), President, Chief Creative Officer, and co-founder of Indochino, a leader in custom online menswear. With him Kyle Vucko, the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and co-founder.

For some, the height of luxury involves multiple consultations with a tailor, deciding on details such as a classic peak versus a notch lapel on a suit jacket, before waiting eight to 10 weeks for that perfectly fitted, handcrafted garment. But as much as fashion is witnessing a return to su misura services, there is brisk business to be made in the realm of instant gratification and convenience.

Enter e-retailers hawking easy-to-navigate interfaces, myriad choices and often wallet-friendly prices, to men who want to look dashing without the hassle.

Singapore-born Heikal Gani is one of the first to have spotted the potential for a convenient and affordable suit shopping experience.

As a student at Canada's University of Victoria, Mr Gani developed a business plan with best pal Kyle Vucko for an online menswear business in 2007. Rather than selling designs by existing clothing brands, they offered made-to-order suits with just a few clicks. To date, the Canadian-based company Indochino (www.Indochino.com) has suited 120,000 men in 130 countries, and raised over $14.8 million in a series B round of financing to grow the business last year.

"Most guys appreciate the convenience of shopping online, and with our process you can buy faster than driving to your nearest store," says Mr Gani, who graduated with a double major in psychology and political science.

"The biggest evolution in the market since we've started has been the number of options for guys who want to shop online. This is a good thing, because guys today care a lot more about how they dress and want more options when it comes to clothing choices, fit and style."

Since the pioneer in menswear tailoring has gone live seven years ago, several new players have emerged on the market, including the newest kid on the block, homegrown company Tailor Me Online (www.TMO.sg). Entrepreneur Ken Yuen and civil engineering graduate Marcus Lio recently launched the e-commerce business retailing customisable shirts, suits and even shoes. Made-to-measure shirts are constructed in just two weeks.

"We want customers to enjoy the best of both worlds - old-world tradition of haberdashery and convenience through online customisation," explains Mr Yuen, who started the online portal in 2013, two years after launching the bespoke tailoring business.

"We want to make custom (clothing) accessible to men around the world. Men are working longer hours. They deserve to wear better custom clothing instead of mass-produced, mannequin-sized garments."

Applying his technical background to the business, Mr Lio developed a "scientific method" of measurement, taking into account one's skeletal structure to calculate a fit that is 80 per cent accurate. But while picking out a well-fitted shirt online is fairly easy, the duo advise customers to visit their showroom for more accurate measurements.

Customers' profiles are then stored online for future purchases.

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