The difference between off-the-rack and custom suits and shirts cannot be further. Everything from one’s shape to style bears the brunt of this difference. And regardless of how much you love your tailor, there’s nothing like donning an article of clothing that simply fits upon purchase. But of course, the greatest barrier of entry for custom clothing is cost. Black Lapel alleviates that burden. With their direct-to-consumer platform, which relies upon at-home measurements and unexpectedly precise manufacturing (we made no alterations to our suit after we received it), Black Lapel delivers exquisite silhouettes and an array of premium materials and customization options at a price quite unheard of in the made-to-measure category. Plus, all of this extends from summer suits to outerwear and even wedding attire, with seasonal collections demonstrating their awareness of developments in the fashion world.
Black Lapel offers dozens of suits, tuxedos, paints, shirts and jackets—all split between two different lines. “We have our Savoy Line, which is the premium line. Those fabrics are all from Italian mills or some English ones. It’s for suiting and shirting,” explains Black Lapel co-founder Warren Liao. “And then we have our main line, which is fabric that’s milled in Australia.” There are slight construction differences between the premium and primary options, both of which are manufactured in China, but the big difference is truly the fabric. While there are no bad options, there are certainly superb ones at higher prices.
The process is quite seamless, itself. One begins by selecting the product—and then stepping into the block-format customization questionnaire. Users select one of three fit types. The cut is the same for the item selected, but fit varies for body types. There are so many options, easily organized. For the jacket, which tends to be Italian-cut with a bit of waist suppression, choices include everything from vents to pocket angles and fabric lining color. For pants, options include pleating, belt loops versus sizing tabs and even suspender buttons inside or out. There’s monogramming, accent stitching and lapel button color options. And for as rich as it is, the experience never feels daunting because of the site’s organization.
When all decisions have been made, one finally adds their measurements—guided along by the platform. Depending on the amount of hand-construction required, the completion of a suit takes anywhere between three and five weeks. When we tested the process, our suit arrived on the earlier end and no alterations were required whatsoever. As far as made-to-measure suiting goes, this was the most accurate of our experiences thus far. It’s also worth mentioning that this caliber of experience extends beyond their suits into their other products.
“There are three things we focus on,” Liao explains. “First, it’s really good customer service—online or in the showroom [which is in NYC]. Then there’s the quality. We want to make sure we produce as high quality products as possible. The construction that we make is equivalent to what you get from a brand name suit. That’s important to us. The third thing we do is produce a lot of content. A lot of it is about education. Guys who are new to style or menswear, they can get lost in the decision making process. We offer a lot of how-tos or what to wear to a wedding.” It’s this information that grants users the confidence to venture into custom suit creation and feel up-to-date and educated.
Liao used to work in finance but equipped himself for the transition to menswear. “I started this about six years ago now,” he says, “Because I thought there was an opportunity while menswear was growing pretty quickly. I wanted to make high-quality custom clothing accessible to guys everywhere by selling it online.” A friend helped Liao and business partner Derek Tian name the company, and then it became about education themselves and building the necessary relationships across the globe.
“I talked to a lot of people in fashion,” he adds. “I went to China to meet with factories to learn about designs and patterns.” He adds, “It took a lot of time to develop the right quality standard with our factories. When we first went out there, our first factory was essentially a tailor shop with six or seven people. Over the last six years, they’ve grown into an organization of 50 or so people. It’s been a partnership with them. It’s such a new industry for them, as well.” Ultimately, together they’re producing designer-quality articles of clothing at half the price, or less. And the quality really does impress. Pair that with the sheer amount of customization options and the result is finally a made-to-measure company online that commands trust.
You can explore Black Lapel‘s options online, where custom suits start at $499.
Images courtesy of Black Lapel