Since its founding in 2000 in Amsterdam, Suitsupply has been an unqualified success. Launched out of the trunk of Fokke De Jong’s car, giving new meaning to “Trunk Show,” Suitsupply has been helping men worldwide “find their perfect fit” in tailored fashion.
Starting first with an online direct-to-consumer model, Suitsupply carved out a niche in men’s suiting and tailored fashion, which is defined by the essential element of a jacket. “We were an omnichannel retailer before they invented the term ‘omnichannel,’” De Jong says. Today about 30% of company sales are conducted online.
Online shoppers are guided in the fit process with a Fit Finder app, but many men want more handholding in selecting, sizing and styling their looks. That is where the Suitsupply stores come in. “Service is critical today. In our stores shoppers can interact with someone who is an expert in men’s tailored fashion,” he continues.
Now having spread across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America and closing in on 100 destination locations, including 31 stores in the United States and five more slated to open in 2018, and the rest of the globe online, Suitsupply is venturing into new territory – the challenging world of women’s fashion with a new sister brand Suistudio.
In the U.S. apparel market, Suitsupply is positioned in the fastest growing segment of the clothing market. At retail, men’s clothing stores grew 5.7% YoY in 2017, as compared with women’s clothing stores which declined 2.7% last year.
And despite rumors that the men’s suit is dead on the altar of casualization, De Jong says the elevated elegance a tailored jacket gives to a pair of jeans, for example, fits the look that many men want to project. “I’ve been reading about death of the suit for the last 18 years,” he quips. “It’s not happening. Actually it’s a growing category especially doing it like we do it. For many brands a suit is pure conformity. It is stale. But we make it as an expression of individuality for a man, not conformity.”
Suistudio Offers Same Service, Quality, Price but Tailored to Women
De Jong wants to bring that same approach to tailored women’s fashion, which he believes is ready for an elevated fashion experience like Suitsupply delivers for men. Now with three stores, including a flagship in New York at Brookfield Place on Vesey Street and others in Shanghai and Amsterdam, Suitstudio has the same basic corporate DNA as Suitsupply but with XX instead of XY chromosomes.
“Suistudio is based on the common denominators that set Suitsupply apart, which is luxury fit and tailoring at an attainable price point . But with women’s fashion we bring new style energy into the environment,” De Jong tells me. Suistudio will build on the same fundamentals that made Suitsupply a success. Those pillars of success are: vertical integration, word-of-mouth marketing and destination location shopping.
Vertical integration gives control on quality and price
Being a vertically-integrated company, Suitsupply and Suistudio have complete control of the quality of its garments, including the finest Italian fabrics, design, manufacture and distribution.
By exercising full control over the entire process, the company can offer luxury quality fashion at “attainable prices,” which in the case of men’s suits translates into $2,000 tailored quality at a $500 price point. Women’s fashion will reflect the same price advantage. “No other company has carved out a business model and product segment that provides customers with the style, quality, personalization and great prices in the way that Suitsupply has,” he continues.
Pull, not expensive push marketing
Because of its amazing quality and equally amazing prices, Suitsupply has been able to grow organically without significant investment in marketing and advertising. Social media and word-of-mouth marketing is its marketing weapon of choice. “Our informed customers have spread the word about the brand and we create ‘sticky collection campaigns’ that keep the public talking,” De Jong shares.
Instagram is one of its primary social media channels with over 400,000 followers enticed with the tagline line, “Don’t just fit in, find your perfect fit.”
Become a destination people will search out
With endorsements from Suitsupply’s passionate customers, its word-of-mouth and digital-powered pull marketing strategies, as opposed to expensive paid push marketing, has allowed the company the luxury of making its stores true destinations that people are excited to search out.
“We create in-store shopping experiences that are memorable and emphasize the customer experience above all else. It’s one of the core strengths of our business model,” De Jong says. ”We create interesting stores with well-trained staff and have tailors on site. People find us to find their own perfect fit. We don’t rely on the classic retail real estate traffic play.” For example, its Chicago showroom on Rush Street is a two-story affair, featuring a penthouse garden terrace to enjoy drinks after or during shopping. Its Greenwich, CT store is in a remodeled historic mansion on a partly residential street.
More fashion focus for women, but always tailored
The new women’s Suistudio stores will emphasize personalized service in an interesting store setting. Each Suistudio store will be a separate store, not collocated in a menswear Suitsupply store.
As it ventures into women’s fashion, it will follow the same business model, “Suitsupply built a market by not going about anything in the old ways – Suitsupply purposefully tried new and inventive approaches to real estate, marketing, customer service and operations,” De Jong affirms.
But whereas in men’s suiting 70-80% of its products are staple classics, the women’s line will have to compete with a more fashion focus. “Suistudio will be a little less basics and a little more fashionable, but with the same tailoring experience” he says.
Personal fit first and foremost
For the Suistudio brand, De Jong sees providing women with expert tailoring to achieve a personal, custom fit may be its biggest opportunity. “Fit is even more important for women’s fashion. It was harder to figure out, but I think we nailed it,” he says. “The reactions we are getting now is it as a unique experience for women, because men have been used to being tailored in suits. Women have never been able to walk into a store where you have beautiful product for attainable price points but also where there are tailors in store and alternations being done on the site.”
Bringing fit and fashion together in an upscale women’s shopping environment is the big opportunity for Suistudio.
Return of women’s power dressing
Finally, Suistudio is on the cutting edge of an emerging fashion trend: The return of the women’s power dressing. After being relegated to the closet since the ’80s, the women’s power suit is making a comeback. It is all part of the cultural shift that the #MeToo movement has sparked.
Suistudio is there for women who want the comparable tailored fashion quality, price and custom service that men have enjoyed from Suitsupply for years. The Suistudio Instagram tagline perfectly expresses the brand’s identity and the kind of women it is tailored to: “Power tailoring. Fearless curiosity. Uninhibited style.”
More about Pam Danziger: Pamela N. Danziger is an internationally recognized expert specializing in consumer insights for marketers targeting the affluent consumer segment. She is president of Unity Marketing, a boutique marketing consulting firm she founded in 1992 where she leads with research to provide brands with actionable insights into the minds of their most profitable customers.
She is also a founding partner in Retail Rescue, a firm that provides retailers with advice, mentoring and support in Marketing, Management, Merchandising, Operations, Service and Selling.
A prolific writers, she is the author of eight books including Shops that POP! 7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success, written about and for independent retailers. She is a contributor to The Robin Report and Forbes.com. Pam is frequently called on to share new insights with audiences and business leaders all over the world. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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