Your fastest ticket to individual style and fashion status is and will always will be bespoke, tailored clothing. The 21st century brought technology that allows you to enjoy a tailor’s touch without leaving home. Whether you’re buying a suit, a dress shirt, dress shoes, etc., there are online, virtual services that will size you up, lead you through essential choices, produce your garment and ship it to your door.
In a pandemic era when medical crises send everything to your home from groceries to prescriptions, online bespoke services only continue to flourish. If you can’t get to your Jermyn Street tailor because of a lockdown, your suit or dress shirt waits elsewhere via the internet.
What Is Bespoke and Why Should You Bother?
To put it simply, bespoke means custom-made. So rather than picking up a dress shirt from Nordstrom in your size, a bespoke dress shirt is made to your exact measurements. After all, just because you may more or less be a size medium doesn’t mean the arms on the standard medium shirt from Hugo Boss will match the length of your arms. Now, expand that thinking to the rest of your body (chest, shoulders, neck) and suddenly you can see why having a custom shirt made especially for you makes sense.
So why not do this for all of your shirts? Well, Mr. Moneybags, it’s expensive. And also, not always necessary. If you work a standard office job that doesn’t require you to wear a suit every day, do you really need a closet full of bespoke dress shirts? No, probably not. On the other hand, it never hurts to have one or two to bust out for dates, job interviews or weddings.
The same thinking goes for suits. If you could have a suit made to your exact specifications, why wouldn’t you? The standard answer used to be “cost.” But now in 2021, we’ve seen more than a handful of bespoke men’s fashion brands pop up, offering up customized suits at affordable prices. And best of all, they don’t require a visit to an in-person tailor to make it happen.
But now that you know what and why, there’s still one big question that remains: Can these virtual services match the personal attention of in-person help? To find out, we scouted a couple of promising options and put their wares to the test. Take a look at our individual reviews on Apposta and Indochino below!
Apposta Custom Shirts
Apposta specializes in custom-made, premium Italian shirts, and they brought that concept to their digital realm.
Before you begin, you’re going to need your dress shirt measurements. After you choose your fabric and color, you enter your dimensions into the Apposta system before selecting your cuff preferences, pocket style, collar points, etc. The company offers more than 4,000 fabrics and can tailor them to any body dimension. They do all of that at a significant discount using the online realm — saving the buyer potentially hundreds of dollars.
Founded by Gianluca Mei and Gianmarco Taccaliti, Apposta makes their online presence the core of their business. According to Mei, his cofounder comes from the Taccaliti family, an established Italian shirtmaker for four generations.
“We’re able to control all steps of the supply chain, increase efficiency and reduce costs,” Mei explains. “At the same time, we don’t have to hold any fabric inventory at our end, which enables us to operate in a lean way.”
Mei describes the Apposta customer as a pragmatically minded man with a busy lifestyle. That buyer appreciates efficiency and everything that makes his life easier and hassle-free. His knowledge about fabrics and styles allows him to assess the quality of a product. At the same time, he highly values the right price tag for the chosen fabric quality.
“With fabrics being the only variable cost when creating an Apposta shirt, our pricing is very transparent and provides a broad range of options for different budgets,” Mei says. “Our customer also expects top-class customer service which takes care of his needs immediately in a personal, straightforward and efficient manner to avoid any interruption of this daily schedule.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Italy, all manufacturing facilities were brought to a halt. Obviously, that made it impossible to fill any incoming orders. Apposta stopped all marketing campaigns for April and May and directed investment to the optimization of the website’s performance and user experience.
“During the pandemic, we learned how to focus on improving the customer experience,” Mei adds. “We had to stop the offline sales and consultations we were offering from our London office, and are about to re-launch this service purely online to a much broader audience in whole Europe.”
Our Experience With Apposta
We worked through the bespoke personalization process on Apposta.com and assembled a single test dress shirt for about 130 Euros (around $150). We estimate that’s a saving of more than 50% over what such a tailored shirt would cost via traditional tailoring.
The Apposta site puts the average manufacturing time at two weeks before the finished product ships from Europe. The delivery process did take longer than expected, but there are COVID-19 delays in place due to different international shipping regulations.
On arrival, a quick try on confirmed the shirt was made to fitting requirements from the quality material the manufacturer promised. In short, Apposta gave us the shirt off their racks and passed our test with light, Oxford blue colors.
Indochino Custom Suits and Formal Wear
Indochino is a Vancouver-based company combining online bespoke tailoring with an in-person option in some cities. As the firm’s own description puts it: “Our immersive multi-channel experience enables customers to order their custom garments with ease online or in-person at one of over 50 showrooms across North America . . . This approach has enabled Indochino to become the largest exclusive made-to-measure apparel company in the world.”
Indochino keeps tailored suits within a manageable price (often less than $300 total) by taking the tailoring process online and allowing the buyer to input the necessary information. By working through a series of questions focused on measurements, color choices and styling details, you can create custom suits, shirts, chinos, blazers and overcoats. Indochina offers hundreds of fabrics and the ability to select lapels, pockets, buttons, linings and monograms. The final results ship to your door within three weeks.
The company’s online technology will measure you remotely. Still, if you find yourself in a city hosting an Indochino showroom, you can go through the same fitting and selection process in person with a skilled human tailor. He or she uses the same online selection menus you would see online, so there are no essential differences in the virtual or real-world tailoring experience.
Alexander Rivera is showroom manager and a veteran tailor at Indochino’s Armitage Avenue location in Chicago. He guides his customers through the same selections of fabric and other options in-store that the buyer would navigate online. He then takes all necessary measurements you would otherwise gather through A.I. on the Indochino website.
Rivera says he is only there as a guide to lead a buyer through all of the options at his fingertips. Still, he will occasionally offer suggestions if the customer seems lost.
“With universities and colleges around us, we get a lot of students who are often looking to buy their first suits,” Rivera explains. “They sometimes need some guidance, especially if it’s a suit that they’re going to be wearing to job interviews, weddings and other big events.”
Beyond that, Rivera tries to avoid any style suggestions unless asked by the customer. Sometimes that means letting a guest walk his way close to the fashion cliff.
“I might offer alternatives,” he says. “Still, I let the customer make his own choices.”
Our Experience With Indochino
We worked our way through the Indochino website to get a feel for it before visiting the Armitage location. The online menu is thorough and easy to navigate, and it’s those same selections that Rivera lays out in person throughout the Indochino showroom.
The available fabric choices are plentiful, the styles modern and the accessories fun to peruse. In the end, we chose a silver-gray suit with classic odds and ends. From there, Rivera took all of the necessary measurements quickly and efficiently — showing all the skills of a veteran tailor.
After sending our selections to Indochino HQ, the suit went through a two-week assembly process. It was then shipped back to the Armitage showroom as opposed to a home address. The idea there is the suit can go through a second, fine-tune fitting for a few final alterations.
The final result boasted excellent construction and an accurate fit — combining for a stylish, bespoke suit for less than $300.