Any neophyte of dandyism quickly learns that the true sign of merit separating the mere initiate from a truly well-dressed man of fashion is a bespoke suit (or for Anglophobes out there, a “made-to-measure”). But like much of the British social edifice, the price tags at Savile Row are designed to keep the plebs (like me) away from the realms of a true gentleman. A more socially liberal nation like Canada offers bespoke garments from The Bay, or from Harry Rosen (a true common-man’s shopping destination), yet even these will run you well past the $1,000 range, and heavens forbid that you want a vest with that.
For the globe-trotters among us, there are the fabled tailors of Bangkok and Delhi, who for a couple of hundred dollar bills and a goat will fashion you a fine-fitting suit while you explore the local sights. But if you dislike travel, or simply don’t have the cash to pay for the trip, you are left with off-the-rack (OTR) suits.
And don’t get me wrong, there are many fantastic OTR suits out there, and with a little tailoring they can fit rather splendidly. But we are not talking about OTR here. We are talking bespoke.
When I first heard of Indochino a few years back I was quite intrigued. For those of you who do not know it, Indochino is a Vancouver-based online retailer of custom-tailored suits. It is the the world’s largest online retailer of custom men’s wear, with customers in 60 countries. It was founded by a pair of young University of Victoria students who launched the website in 2007. Their sales have been going through the roof thanks to positive media coverage.
Indochino features a rotating collection of custom made suits, shirts, outerwear, and accessories, all made to measure and delivered within 21 days of ordering. The website provides you with instructions on how to measure yourself, a selection of fabrics, and a full range of customisation. Indochino will re-tailor anything you’re not happy with, or provide you with a $75 credit to a local tailor to do minor alterations. Though some of their upper-end products are more expensive, the average three piece suit goes for $449, and the average shirt for $99.
For one reason of the other I held off on purchasing a suit from them for almost two years. Being Russian, I’m dubious and apprehensive about any sort of online retail (hey, it’s a cultural thing apparently), and spending over half a grand on something that may end up being put together with Elmer’s glue did not seem that appealing to a starving student. Even one who likes to dress well. I was also worried about the fabric and the fit, as measuring can be tricky. Other than these three factors, the concept looked appealing and I was just biding time looking for an excuse to overcome my caution.
Such an excuse came last November when Indochino set up a travelling salon in downtown Vancouver. For a week, anyone could drop in, get professionally measured, and see and feel all the fabrics and suits. To boot, they were offering a good discount, all of which made me finally commit.
I’ve long been on the market for a three-piece, two button winter suit. I wanted something in an autumnal palette, so I went with the dark brown material with a soft orange and tan stripe and red lining and details (alas, this does not come across in photos). Having just finished watching season two of Boardwalk Empire I was in the mood for something vaguely retro, so I opted for such details as the ticket pocket on the jacket, and the extra buttons and the lapels on the vest. Finally I added finishing touches like surgeon’s cuffs and accented jacket collar lining. Other than the suit, I picked up a fitted blue gingham shirt with french cuffs, and a few accessories. All together the bill ran to about $450.
Five weeks later the much-awaited package made its appearance. The fabric felt pretty good and the stitching seemed well-done too. The lining, however, came across as being a little flimsy. Apprehensive, I tried the suit on. It sat fairly well – not spectacularly as one would expect from a proper bespoke piece, but better than anything OTR. The fit was a little off – the waist was a little too large, and the pants seemed a little wider than I would have liked, plus the shoulders sloped somewhat oddly. I considered taking it in to a tailor and using my alteration credit, but decided against it. Though the fit was not perfect, it worked well enough, and any issues were insignificant. I also really wanted to wear the damn thing for a night out.
If the suit was lacking anything in the fit, it made up for it in the details. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall look of the suit, and its fairly unique retro feel. God knows I’m very particular when it comes to shopping – I often have a fully formed idea of exactly the item that I want to get (which often leads to frustration when said item does not exist). So being able to put together something EXACTLY the way that I wanted it was fantastic.
Since this is a review, it needs a final judgment. Though the fit is not stellar, it is infinitely better than anything OTR, and any issues can be remedied by alterations. Standing next to someone in a Zegna suit the fabric may look inferior, but one has to keep in mind that the price tag makes this a weekday suit, rather than a show piece. However Indochino suits excel in the degree of customisation. If you are like me, and have deep-seated prejudices for vent locations, lapel notches, pleats, and many other details that make a suit, you will love the freedom and flexibility that Indochino offers.
Was it worth the money? Certainly. Will I buy from Indochino again? Definitely.