Ever travelled in India, Sri Lanka or Nepal? Yes? You are one of the lucky ones. Chances are you’ve stumbled across a typical street market…
… Here, half-hypnotised by the sensory overload, the bright, clashing colours, contrasting smells, and the clamour of business done in the open-air, it’s like a dream… Over there, a calm island amidst the chaos, there’s a tailor. He’s looking at you with a steady gaze, standing ready with a worn tape measure in one hand and some glinting scissors in the other… A hand-made suit to collect next week! It’ll cost next-to-nothing and will be well-made, if not in the style you really wanted…
And therein lies the problem. The standard styles these guys cut are simply not what most of us in the UK want.
If your experience is anything like mine, that cheap bespoke suit, bought on a whim in the market, will hang forgotten or ignored at the back the wardrobe. One day, you’ll have a clear out, and take it down the charity shop.
These memories and thoughts flooded back to me the other day when I met Warren Bennett, founder of A Suit That Fits. He was guest speaker at a lively Bristol and Bath Marketing Network event, and told the brilliant story of how his online bespoke tailoring service got started.
Volunteering in Nepal “on one of my many gap years”, Warren commissioned a number of quality woollen suits from local tailors. He was bowled over by the fine craftsmanship and the low cost.
Returning to the UK, Warren joined forces with an old school friend, David Hathiramani, to simplify the process of buying a bespoke suit. Using software and the web, together they wanted to realise the idea of ‘a local tailor for everyone’.
A Suit That Fits.com was trialled at Hampstead market in early 2006 and sold two suits within twenty minutes of opening. Having established a viable business idea, the two founders worked through the night to develop a simple website where people to book uniquely customised suits.
Today’s version of the website boasts a highly sophisticated design wizard that give users complete control over choosing fabrics, fitting and accessories.
It might sound counter-intuitive to choose a suit unseen, but A Suit That Fits is obsessive about customer service and will not rest until a customer is 100% happy. If you’re still not convinced check out the (233!) pages of glowing comments from customers… I don’t think I’ve ever seen such devotion to a retail brand.
A Suit That Fits has achieved commercial success while maintaining very strong corporate responsibility, incorporating ethical values and respect for people, communities and the environment.
As I chatted to Warren, he was generous enough to give me some tips that I’ll use with one of my own clients, a (non-competing) online clothing and footwear store. We talked about using social media channels to stay in touch with customers: there may be interesting Twitter developments for A Suit That Fits quite soon.
A Suit That fits has grown to a £2.2 million business on the back of a simple idea, smart application of technology, and an obsession with customer service. The founders thoroughly deserve their success.