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With Industry Insiders Predicting the End of Streetwear, Could Men’s Suiting Be Poised for a Comeback?

According to Drew Green, CEO of Vancouver-based Indochino, a well-fitted suit has remained a consistent staple in a man’s wardrobe regardless of the ebb and flow of fashion trends.

From work to weddings, the occasions for wear are limitless, and the look is unrivaled when it comes to dressing sharp.

Over the past 12 years, Indochino has risen to prominence in the men’s suiting industry because of its data-driven process for customizing fit. The company relies on a proprietary algorithm—strengthened by over a decade’s worth of historical data—to help men ensure that their suits and shirts fit wearers as if they were measured by their own personal tailors.

“We’ve measured over a million people,” Green said, explaining that trends in that data have informed the company’s understanding of fit—and underscored the value of personalization. This has become Indochino’s primary value proposition, and it’s a concept that Green hopes the brand can own on a mass scale.

Leveraging data

Green described the “constantly evolving data set” as a “living, breathing” element that strengthens Indochino’s ability to deliver truly custom products.

The company does this by identifying trends in the measurements provided by its consumer base. It then uses those insights to guard against errors that could lead to disappointed customers.

When comparing chest width to shoulder width to arm length on a shirt, for example, there are certain relative ranges, Green said. Any number that appears as an outlier is flagged in the system, and the figures are reconfirmed with the customer or the Indochino associate who measured him.

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“We check each order that we get through an algorithm, without customer service interference,” Green said. “It’s all technology-driven, and it checks the order for any anomalies.”

While the brand’s hero product is undoubtedly its custom suiting, Green said that Indochino has been increasingly looking to “help men build out their entire wardrobe."

It’s not uncommon that an at-home measurement gets entered incorrectly, and Indochino’s system has been designed to identify numbers that appear out of place. The process safeguards the company against lost profits due to returns.

In the age of COVID-19, those who are shopping are doing so online. The option to order a custom-fitted suit from one’s own living room is likely appealing to male shoppers anticipating a rash of rescheduled weddings and other formal events once the pandemic subsides.

“I often think of us as a technology company as much as we are a retail business,” he said. “We’re seeing massive operating leverage in terms of our ability to use technology to drive the business forward and scale.”

The business has grown by more than 500 percent over the past five years, Green claimed, adding that headcount has increased by 40 percent over the same period to meet the skyrocketing demand for custom apparel. Many of those employees are tasked with dealing with the data science that has become the heartbeat of the brand, he said.

Wool revolution

Indochino’s Spring/Summer 2020 line will feature a limited-edition capsule made from Milano wool. The sumptuous Italian-milled cloth is sourced from a 200-year-old textile maker called Guabello, located in the city of Biella.

“We wanted to provide a more luxurious option for our customers,” Green said. “The wool is milled 100 percent in Northern Italy, and it’s a wonderful fabric that has seen a high demand as we’ve launched it.”

The vast majority of the brand’s suiting fabrics are made from wools, Green continued, but the Milano formulation is the most luxurious option available. In addition to displaying a bit of natural stretch, the material is suitable for a range of climates.

The company identifies trends in the measurements provided by its consumer base.

“It’s a natural fabric,” Green said, describing its appeal. “For a customer, I think there’s a gravitation toward it because of what it’s known for: breathability and durability. It’s a great fabric to work with in terms of building a garment.”

Indochino has already made its mark in the highly lucrative wedding industry, Green said, and the new Milano range will certainly appeal to grooms-to-be. At $499 and up, the collection is pricier than the brand’s other material options.

“It’s a graduation up from our other price points, so it’s for a customer that wants to spend a little bit more and get something truly unique,” Green said, “whether that’s for work or a date or a wedding or graduation.”

Going casual

On the other end of the spectrum, Indochino’s second 2020 launch is an expanded product line for consumers looking for staples they can wear every day.

“We believe that the future of apparel is custom fitted or personalized, and we’ve believed that for over a decade,” Green said.

While the brand’s hero product is undoubtedly its custom suiting, Green said that Indochino has been increasingly looking to “help men build out their entire wardrobe,” from shirting to pants and outerwear.

With most men across the country telecommuting in recent weeks, the need for formal work wear has decreased, making room for the rise of comfortable casuals.

“All of that has been part of our product roadmap over the past five years, and certainly a big focus over the past year and a half,” he said. New, mid-weight fabric options for pants and waterproof outerwear selections launched on site and in stores in February.

Indochino’s Spring/Summer 2020 line will feature a limited-edition capsule made from Milano wool.

When asked how the shift into casuals would impact the brand’s supply chain, Green said Indochino has taken care to streamline its operational processes, and that the team relies on its existing manufacturing partners to build out new offerings.

While Indochino was built on the assertion that tailored suiting should be the centerpiece of a man’s wardrobe, Green also sees massive opportunity in diversifying. “At the end of the day, there are other things going on that you need to dress for,” he said.

“We wanted to be a bigger part of a man’s closet,” he added, “because our customers love when they have a perfectly fitted garment.”

“When we launch a new line or category, it follows what we’ve done in suiting,” he said. “Whether it’s outerwear, casual shirts or khakis, they may not be coming off the same lines but they’re coming out of the same facilities and pulling from the same fabrics, so it’s a very stable and efficient supply chain.”

Green also said that the brand has been fairly incubated from interruptions to its operations related to COVID-19.

“We’ve been very fortunate to not have any disruption to our supply chain in a significant way, and the credit goes to the partners we have in China,” he said, adding that the company’s monitoring of th situation is ongoing. “Coronavirus news is relentless, and we’re constantly watching that.”