The young Dutch brand for formal men’s wear wins globally by combining European tailoring culture with modern lifestyle. A fan report.
Yes, I am a fan of Suitsupply. When I started my career in the late 1980’s, I had the privilege to work as a creative buyer with a traditional, high class German menswear retailer in Berlin. As a result, I am now ruined for ever with regard to my quality requirements when it comes to suits and accessories. I believe the Italians and the English manufactories, who traditionally tailor their suits, using the finest local fabrics, are the best. Naturally they are unaffordable for most customers, therefore maintaining an air of elitism.
Price-Performance Ratio of Brands Often is Disappointing
Today, the development of innovative store concepts and inspiring assortments is my daily business as a retail consultant. Observing the global brand scene in fashion, I am often disappointed and partially annoyed by the price-performance ratio of so called high-fashion or designer brands. Poor materials, often nailed together without intellect, being tagged with outrageous high, artificial prices. As we all know, this is daily business in brand management – it’s a public secret that the customer is triggered to invest mainly into the brand’s marketing than in reasonable product quality.
Suitsupply Stands for Democratisation of High Quality Men’s Wear
Suitsupply is a trendsetter in providing authentic quality products for a fair price. They add lifestyle attributes and their marketing is unique and bright. The company addresses the needs of fashionably interested men of all ages who appreciate being dressed well in business without paying a fortune. The brand has developed some kind of democratisation of high quality garments for (almost) everyone.
The core products – suits – feature details which are hard to find on equivalents in the price range of under or around $500. Proper craftmanship, high quality linings, functioning button cuffs, smart pockets, stitching details and a sophisticated, modern fit. A real asset is that Suitsupply only uses original Italian fabrics from traditional weaving mills, such as Vitale Barberis Canonico (est. in Biella in 1663), Carlo Barbera, E.Thomas and others. The core competence is highlighted also by the range of available sizes: short, regular and long, each available in dozens of different styles and fabrics. Navigating through the collection, both online and offline, one can find a large selection to everybody’s tastes. And for true suit aficionados it must be a heavenly experience.
Global Expansion – Both Online and Offline
Founded in Amsterdam in the year 2000 by Fokke de Jong, a 26 year old law student, Suitsupply is still operating independently. One of the first stores was set up at a highway exit of the constantly busy A4 in central Netherlands – maybe not prestigious but still a highly effective location. In recent years, besides running a global webshop, Suitsupply has opened 74 stores in 22 countries worldwide (and there are 12 more locations scheduled to open within the next few months). Besides the home market of the Netherlands, there is a strong focus on expanding in the USA, where the company today runs more than 20 stores already. The rest is distributed all over the world, including recent openings in Asia (mainly China) and Eastern Europe (Baltic States). Interestingly enough: the Dutch are recognising that their strongest market in online sales has been Australia, even though they have no physical presence there. They will now open their first store in Sydney in June 2017.
Many Stores Are Located Beyond Common High Streets
How is it possible to fulfill such strong expansion plans on a high level without selling your DNA to external capital partners? (Founder and CEO Fokke de Jong bought back 33 percent of the Suitsupply shares in the fall of 2015. He and his management team once again possess 100 percent of the company).
One solution might be the expansion strategy. Instead of dealing with killer rents in international highstreets, Suitsupply searches for intelligent store locations matching their target customers’ needs. In downtown Chicago and Miami for example, they opened stores in penthouses instead of on street level –with city views from the roof terrace included in your in-store experience. Not a bad spot to buy a suit right! Although there are four New York stores (in Manhattan) already, they carefully renovated a 19th century Victorian building in Greenwich, Connecticut. In a wealthy neighbourhood, next door to where their customers live, they have established a cosy ‘suburban branch’ here. In our digitalised times, these stores are not hidden as they are perfectly connected and accessible via the website. While in Asia major brands settle down in airconditioned but soulless malls, Suitsupply prefers to polish up the traditional colonial buildings – guess who’s winning the charm contest there?
Inspiring Brand Experiences in the Stores
If the brand name sounds like an understatement, the stores are definitely not. My first contact with Suitsupply was their outlet store in Roermond, Netherlands back in 2010. I had no idea what the brand stood for and in fact stumbled into the store by accident. Although it was an outlet store, I remember being impressed by the quality of visual merchandising, easy orientation in sizes and wide selection of products. There were staff members offering advice and a tailor was available for immediate corrections within a couple of minutes. His workshop was strategically positioned in one of the shop windows, visible to everyone also from the outside.
This is what Suitsupply does in every store all over the globe: provides smart orientation in wide spaces for the stereotyped lazy male shopper. The goal is to inspire him with a large selection of affordable products in high quality fabrics. The decor combines bright wall colours with courageous patterns and giant campaign photographs. When you visit a Suitsupply store, there is no doubt which brand universe you are shopping in. This is not usually as self-evident, especially not in formal menswear.
Needless to say, the check-out process is a smooth and pleasurable ritual, too. Free clothes bags are provided for suits, purchases carefully wrapped, digital receipts delivered on demand and invitations to register offered. After you’re done, you’ll be asked about your shopping experience via email, with a simple one click survey procedure.
By the way: the outlet stores mentioned above have – against the global FOC-trend – been closed down in the meantime. Suitsupply now focuses exclusively on online sale events in particular periods, rather than using the outlet model for stock management.
Recommendations for Improvement
As with every developing brand, Suitsupply can do better in some points, but in my opinion this is just details. They could add a more casual, unconstructed suit line in selected fabrics. The designers might follow current fashion trends in menswear a little more and create, for example, pleated trousers and wider fit jackets. The tailoring quality of their shirt collars could be slightly optimized. And a larger collection of shirts with double cuffs would be nice.
Then it’ll be perfect.
About the Author:
Alexander von Keyserlingk is a consultant for innovative store concepts and expansion management. He has been a regular Suitsupply customer since 2010. The post is not ‘supported’, nor is it initiated by Suitsupply at all – it’s nothing more than a fan post. You are invited to share your opinions with Alexander by writing a comment below or start a personal dialogue via LinkedIn.