Custom clothing is back and the credit goes to online brands delivering high quality tailoring and stitching services at a desirable price for the masses.
Custom tailoring, also known as bespoke tailoring, has a long-standing history as a made to measure offering. Men who once went down the street to their local tailor for a bespoke suit can now order a made to measure suit online and this certainly points to the beginning of a new era.
According to apparel industry experts, the market has picked up after the major drop-off following economic crisis. According to Bloomberg, in the U.S. e-commerce market alone, Forrester Research Inc. estimates it will reach $327 billion this year.
The global apparel market, especially menswear, is thriving. “NPD Group reported that, in the US, men’s apparel sales grew 5 percent in 2013 to over $60 billion, outperforming womenswear,” according to Business of Fashion. From Savile Row of London to Bangkok, bespoke tailoring startups are experiencing a major hike in consumer demand, driving the expansion of custom clothing e-tailors.
Reasons cited for the tremendous growth of e-commerce tailoring include:
The value of quality has increased post-recession.
Comfort of online ordering is a big pull for buyers.
Tailor made clothing meet buyer expectations in terms of color, size, style, fabric, etc.
In recent years, people had all but forgotten tailors of a past era due to the advent of ready-to-wear clothing in 1960, yet its charm was never truly dismissed. Custom clothing e-tailors are providing consumers with access to affordable bespoke designs without the associated lofty price tag required from high-end designer brands.
Brands like Black Lapel, Modern Tailor, Bonobos, and IndoChino are the frontrunners in the e-tailor market and interestingly enough, all of them cater to male consumers. Having said that, assuming the custom clothing business is for men only would be a mistake. Sellers like eShakti target women and have made a good name for themselves.
Gauging the success of e-tailor startups worldwide, one thing is clear: the custom clothing industry is here to stay. So, if you plan to enter the custom clothing industry here’s a look at key questions and answers you should know:
Why do customers prefer online custom clothing to visiting a tailor’s physical store?
Online ordering shuns distance barriers and, at times, gets you big discounts that are unlikely otherwise. Moreover, consumers can place orders conveniently; be it from an office, restaurant or on the go. Customers don’t even need to go to a physical store for fabric selection. A custom clothing platform enables customers to select desired fabric and customize style.
Is it the right time for entrepreneurs to step into the world of e-commerce tailoring?
The online tailoring industry is not yet fully tapped. There are various options for fashion entrepreneurs to make money as there are very few online tailors and most cater to men.
For instance, Indochino, the online one-stop shop for a custom tailored suits, ships across the world with 40,000 customers in 60 countries, as of 2012 Forbes reports. That means these male consumers choose Indochino because they can’t find anyone else as good as Indochino in their local market.
The sheer number of international orders that custom clothing brands receive on a daily basis indicates a swelling demand and lack of supply in various regions. Keep in mind, it’s not just about custom menswear; womenswear and kids apparel are an underserved and potential customer segment.
Why do a majority of e-tailor startups target men?
Reports suggest there is a substantial change in the shopping habits of men; they are swiftly becoming ardent online shoppers. Also, men are known to be non-fussy buyers and turn out to be highly loyal customers. So, this among other reasons, is why most custom clothing startups target men.
Do you need to be a tailor to launch a custom clothing website?
No, you do not need not be a tailor to run an e-commerce tailoring business. However, you do need to be clear about your business model.
Typically, a custom clothing portal offers a measurement guide that prompts users to share size details and place orders. Other types of custom tailoring websites send a tailor to the buyer’s location to take measurements after an order is placed. In both cases, you need to hire tailors to deliver bespoke clothes.
The latter model demands a presence and network of tailors in every city and state where you do business; which requires excellent logistical planning. You can also create a custom clothing website to collect orders and outsource tailoring to local tailors and earn commission on the back-end.
At what price point are existing e-tailors selling custom apparel?
Leading custom clothing brands can deliver a custom stitched dress for as little as $20 USD and may charge upwards of $400 USD for a shirt. The ultimate cost varies depending on style, price range and the seller’s location.
Custom clothing is a promising sector, especially if you want to quit your day job and start a business. Being affordable, it is best suited for fashion startups that aspire to bootstrap and offline tailors. Set the right price, understand the competition, market wisely, offer a few perks and deliver faster (existing e-tailor startups take one week on average to deliver a suit) — that’s all you are expected to do in order to earn long-term revenue.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Manish Bhalla is the CEO and founder of FATbit Technologies, a web based company mainly acknowledged for offering pertinent ecommerce solutions. Being an avid reader and a seasoned professional, he likes to share thoughts on various trends that are crucial for online businesses through startup and entrepreneurship based blogs. Connect with @FATbit_Tech on Twitter.