Tailors in the Office
How to Buy a Wardrobe without Leaving the Workplace
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96
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"I usually spend as much time discussing what the client wants as I do taking the measurements and styling details," says Manuel Martinez. And with good reason, since he is fanatical about getting things right. "We try to minimize the less flattering features and accent the favorable ones," he says. The firm prefers an elegant English silhouette with medium-square shoulders, and either side of ventless back. Double-breasted suits in tropical-weight Super 100s are very dressy, while silk-and-wool, cashmere and linen sport coats offer an elegant alternative. Suits from $900; sport coats in Loro Piana cashmere at $1,950; shirts from $85.
Nathan's Custom Tailors
828 East Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Barry and Michael Zell are the owners of the custom-tailoring business their father started 60 years ago. Their clientele consists of upper-echelon businessmen--more than 20 are on the Fortune 500 list of CEOs--and not a few Washington politicians. ("When I visit the Senate Office Building to do a fitting, the Senate police always find a good parking space for me," says Barry.) Everything the firm provides is custom-made except for ties and cuff links. The preferred style here is decidedly international. "We like a shouldered coat," says Michael, "because it's more flattering to the line of the body." Close to 500 cloths are always in stock, and thousands more are found in the swatch books. Suits from $895; sport coats from $595; shirts (of which there are over 700 fabrics from which to choose), $75 to $200.
Renzi Custom Gallery
220 Newport Center Drive, Suite 22
Newport Beach, California 92660
"Good clothing is expensive, and men shouldn't settle for a suit they're not totally happy with," says Michael Renzi, the firm's owner. "We give our customers infinitely greater selection than the stores do with their limited inventory. And we don't ask them to interrupt their schedules to shop." The Southern California clientele, which includes entertainment celebrities and high-profile athletes, prefers a more wedge-shaped silhouette, with wide shoulders and trim hip. High twist crepes, serges and failles are the fabrics of choice. Suits from $1,295; sport coats, $995; trousers at $395; shirts, $125.
Savile Row Custom Clothiers
9773 Clayton Road
St. Louis, Missouri 63124
"We think of ourselves as a personal wardrobe management service," says proprietor David Shockley. "From first consultation to cleaning and repairs, we are there for our customers." These pampered gentlemen favor the firm's easy Italian silhouette and extended shoulder stance, with some drape in the chest and blade for a more relaxed elegance. Suits from $995; sports coats start at $750; shirts at $95.
Michael Smith Custom Clothier
8110 West Central, P.O. Box 352108
Toledo, Ohio 43617
Michael Smith endeavors to provide anything a man needs for his business wardrobe. "Our styling is traditional, but several clients want something a little more individual," says Smith. "One longtime customer is an attorney who likes 1940s-styled clothes, and we make all his things in that style, right down to the black-and-white spectator wingtip shoes. He's dapper as hell, and we find those sort of fellows inspiring." Suits start at $600; shirts from $70 to $150.
Tom Street Custom Clothing
5 Bohler Mews N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30327
"My customers like their traditionally cut clothes with a bit of flair," says owner Tom Street. "We pride ourselves on our fancy silk linings and unusual fabrics. We carry what's called in the cloth trade 'millionaire's cashmere'--exceptionally fine. It would cost about $4,500 to run up a sport coat, so we don't get many orders, but we like to keep it around for those special occasions." Other sport coats from $595; suits start at $750; shirts at $85.
G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).
An In-Office Original
In many ways, the real pioneer in the in-office clothing field is Spencer Hayes. In the mid-1960s, Hayes was president of Southwestern Co., a thriving firm that published and sold door-to-door Bibles, dictionaries and cookbooks. But books weren't his only passion. Always having a fondness for, and belief in the value of, a good suit of clothes, Hayes hired a consultant to determine the best type of clothing to sell to busy executives--and the best method of selling. In 1966, Tom James Co. was born.
"The results of that study," says CEO Jim McEachern, who, along with Tom James and Mack Isbill, was hired by Hayes to run the company, "showed that personally tailored clothing was the best avenue, because you could offer the customer a much better selection and do it with a smaller inventory. In addition, it was discovered that there were a tremendous number of businessmen who would appreciate someone coming to their office to serve them." That was all McEachern needed to hear: He saw a niche, jumped into it with both feet, and, according to Hayes, he has been the driving force of the firm. Hayes, for his part, financed the venture and has provided much of the direction.
Tom James is now the country's largest manufacturer and retailer of personally tailored men's clothing sold directly to customers in their offices and homes. The company, whose clientele exceeds 75,000, has manufacturing facilities for both tailored garments and shirts and 384 sales representatives in 121 locations around the country. The firm reported sales of $150 million last year and it has maintained a growth rate of over 30 percent a year.
The firm's slogan is "We Come to You," and many of you are very well turned out indeed. Suits $650 and up; shirts, $65 to $200.
Tom James Co.
990 North Walnut Creek Dr., Suite 1001
Mansfield, Texas 76063
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