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Buttoned Up: Are These Brands Betting Against Casual Office Attire?

Now that America is entering the early stages of a so-called “return to work,” brands are unveiling new partnerships that could help consumers refresh office wardrobes that have largely stagnated over the past 16 months. Though many experts believe the white-collar workplace is in for an increasingly casualized makeover, four companies seem to be banking on the continued dominance of pressed and polished attire, at least in some professional circles.

Nordstrom x Indochino

Nordstrom is extending its made-to-measure apparel services, introducing 21 Indochino shop-in-shops across its full-line department stores.

Bolstering Nordstrom’s own current tailoring services, the first 10 Indochino locations with the retailer are currently open and offer complimentary alterations, while 11 more locations are expected to open between June 25 and July 2.

This is the first partnership of its kind for Indochino, which currently operates 50 retail showrooms of its own. Just like at its own locations, shoppers will interact with Indochino’s trained style guides to get measured and customize their suit, and choose from various fabrics and customization options including lapels, buttons, pockets, lining and monogramming.

The garments are then made to a consumer’s measurements and shipped directly to their door in two to three weeks, Indochino said.

“We are honored to be partnering with one of the most historic retail brands in the world to bring the unique Indochino experience to Nordstrom stores,” said Drew Green, president and CEO of Indochino in a statement. “As one of the world’s leading fashion retailers, Nordstrom is known for offering an unparalleled level of service and we share this passion. Together, we’re enabling more individuals to showcase their personal style through custom clothing that delivers high value by combining a premium customer experience, high quality product and accessible price.”

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The move comes at a time when more U.S. consumers are headed back to the office, and attending more in-person social gatherings. Both retailers could use the benefit of a sales boost—first-quarter net sales at Nordstrom increased 44.2 percent from the year-ago pandemic period, but are down 13 percent compared to the same period in fiscal 2019.

And even though Indochino is a digital-savvy upstart in its field, made-to-measure retailers as a whole struggled as demand for formalwear plunged last year amid widespread event cancellations and shoppers felt less comfortable getting fitted in person.

For the 2020 Fall/Winter season, Indochino sought to adapt to the pandemic environment with a more casual collection that included limited-edition suits, shirts, blazers, pants and coats designed for working at home or traveling.

Nordstrom is continuing to expand its horizons via partnerships, launching a month-long popup shop in May with denim brand Rag & Bone at its Manhattan flagship store. The retailer also recently hosted a shop-in-shop with high-end fashion concept Dover Street Market Paris (DSMP) in three locations for six weeks in April and May.

Nordstrom highlighted its commitment to providing new merchandise offerings, while maintaining a “reputation for offering top-level services and experiences for customers.”

The new options come as Nordstrom’s shopper base begins to skew younger, with millennials a target focus. As part of that strategy, the company is trimming wholesale to 50 percent of stock in a renewed focus on private brands. But as wholesale merchandise gets taken out of the stores, the idea of instead dedicating store space to a millennial-friendly brand appears to be enticing for the department store.

“We have long admired Indochino as a leader in made-to-measure suiting and apparel and we are excited to bring the Nordstrom customer a new bespoke experience in our stores,” said Shea Jensen, executive vice president, general merchandise manager of women’s and men’s ready to wear at Nordstrom. “As we continue to expand our offering within our men’s category, we are always thinking about how we can best serve a wide range of customers. Through this partnership we will provide an approachable and convenient way to shop whether it be for work, special occasions or everyday wardrobe essentials.”

Indochino said its custom suits would start at $429, while chinos and shirts start at $79. Customers can schedule an appointment ahead of time on the Indochino website.

The shop-in-shops are already open in Nordstrom locations in Atlanta; Farmington, Conn.; Towson, Md.; Troy, Mich.; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; The Woodlands, Texas; Tampa, Fla.; Pittsburgh; and Garden City, N.Y. Indochino is set to open the next 11 shop-in-shops at Tacoma, Wa.; Wauwatosa, Wisc.;
Indianapolis; San Antonio; Novi, Mich.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Natick, Mass.; Cincinnati; Edison, N.J.; Frisco, Texas; and Durham, N.C.

MM x Dia

Meanwhile, Dia & Co, the fashion company for sizes 10-32, tapped M.M. LaFleur for a collection of sleek and chic professional apparel. Many consumers have bought little by the way of new clothing over the past year and a half, save for loungewear and athleisure suited for quarantining at home. And many now wear a different clothing size than they did prior to Covid-19, whether that’s because of their newfound fitness routines or perhaps a few too many snacks and streaming binges on the sofa.

Dia’s M.M. LaFleur collab indicates that some women might want to revitalize their professional options when they return to the workplace, often after months without seeing a single colleague (except for the neck up on all those Zoom calls). The “exclusive” capsule draws on traditional office tropes, riffing on pinstripes, conservative colors like black, white and navy, and suiting staples punched up with a splash of cerulean on a knee-length wrap dress.

Dia allows consumers to shop individual pieces on its website or have a curated subscription box shipped to their homes. Items in the 38-piece M.M. LaFleur collection range in price from $49-$109.