September 21, 2012

Indochino Meets San Francisco

As many others have noted, Indochino has recently begun a traveling tailor service in select cities across North America. Their most recent stop was just a block away from my office in downtown San Francisco, so I set up a fitting appointment and stopped by during lunch yesterday. I have never purchased anything from Indochino, but have kept an eye on the company for a while and was interested in experiencing their wares up close.

The staff was very friendly and willing to answer all of my questions. I have no doubt that they get a wide spread of customers; some just want to “look better” and some want the details on canvassing and sleeve pitch. I was in the latter category, and they were able to answer almost all of my questions without hesitation.

My fitting was very similar to Kiyoshi’s, so I won’t go into too much detail there. Besides getting my measurements from an Indochino-certified source, my main goal was to see what the scope of customization was. Giving one or two dozen body measurements may help hone in on a great fit, but there are many more intangibles that could make or break a suit. Besides all the usual measurement points (chest, arm, shoulders, etc.), I left with the impression that they could directly modify the rise of the trousers and the length of the suit, both of which are crucial to fit and proportion. I was concerned that these were based soley on one’s height, but it sounds like they are variable if requested. There were other tweaks that they were unable to perform, namely sleeve pitch (which was an issue on my trial size) and shoulder padding. I understand not messing with sleeve angles, since that would be a nearly impossible metric to create; however, I was surprised that padding levels were not variable, especially given the popularity of unpadded jackets. There were also notable omissions from customization options (specific lapel widths, unlined jackets), but I understand that the line must be drawn somewhere. More power to customize can also lead to more mistakes by those who don’t know better, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed touring the aisles of fabrics and seeing the completed suits on display. In my short interaction with them, the fabric seemed very comparable to my Thick as Theives suits (another fashion-forward MTM suiting company that I may write on later). It’s worth noting that their suiting fabrics were only standard four-season worsted wools - flannels, tweeds, and other hearty fabrics were missing there (although some were present in the blazer options and I’m guessing suits might be available on a seasonal basis).

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. One of the best parts was that I was never pressured to buy anything; I went in and told them I wanted the Indochino experience but was not in the market for a suit, and they were still more than happy to spend a large portion of an hour chatting with me.

To say the least, Indochino has always been a very polarizing company. Some men love the idea of customization and the potential for better fit at mall brand prices, while others seem genuinely offended by the products Indochino offers. It is also true that the quality of the results I’ve seen have varied dramatically - that is the inherent risk of the blind made-to-measure process. In my opinion, it is best to take Indochino for what it is and nothing more. They will not make you a perfect bespoke suit. They will not match the quality of a suit that costs thousands of dollars. However, they will give you the opportunity to have a hand in creating a suit with a certain aesthetic, while offering solid fabrics and a more customized fit, and staying competitive with accessible mall suits. If that sounds like your thing, go for it. If you have your eyes on something better, Indochino probably won’t be able to fill that spot. If you do decide to pursue Indochino, making an appointment with the travelling tailor will be the safest route. If you can’t access one, get as many measurements as you can from as many people as possible and start there.


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