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Consumer

Drew Green

CEO, Indochino

At a not-to-be-named political protest, a Disruption teammate met a 20-something man. A student from New York’s Harlem neighborhood, John’s crisp Herringbone suit stood out amidst the sea of Converse-wearing, Warby Parker chic demonstrators.

“It gives me confidence,” he explained while palming the fabric. “Never in my life did I think I’d afford anything custom.”

John’s suit came from Indochino, a 9-year-old men’s apparel startup founded by then Canadian college students Kyle Vucko and Heikal Gani. Customers choose from the company’s roster of SKUs, then provide their unique measurements and preferred customizations, like lapel size and stitching. It’s half custom, half ready-to-wear, but with low enough prices (suits start at $400) to introduce new demographics to the idea of well-fitting clothing.

So, what exactly convinced Vucko and Gani to drop out of school after an initial $40k investment? The idea that by being vertically integrated, they could keep manufacturing costs low enough to include all types of men. Indochino now has 10 international showrooms, but at the start customers measured themselves at home using a 17 step system and then completed the process online. (The business is now 50% brick-and-mortar, 50% ecommerce.) So, we’re solving three problems here: access, cost and fit.

Disruption caught up with Drew Green, who replaced Vucko as CEO in 2015. Here’s what he had to say:

Affordable made-to-wear clothing

Prior to Indochino, you founded and sold one of Canada’s largest ecommerce businesses, SHOP.CA. Why work for someone else now?

“I always knew fit was the fundamental problem facing apparel—that ready-to-wear clothing is a very ‘one size fits all’ solution. And when you add in the Internet, where there’s no element of trying on, the issue only gets amplified… That Indochino was solving that problem was immediately apparent, but made-to-measure isn’t a new idea. What’s new was their way of bringing custom clothing to ecommerce—that’s what’s really disruptive.”

Why hadn’t anyone else attempted this idea?

“Like I said: Made-to-measure clothing has existed for hundreds of years. But it was always wildly expensive and it didn’t need to be… I can’t answer for others companies, but I think people assumed there wasn’t an economic way of selling custom suits on the internet. It may have seemed like an impossible idea… We endeavor to make made-to-measure apparel accessible and affordable to everyone. As a vertically integrated company, we cut the middlemen out of all aspects of our supply chain, lowering costs while increasing velocity and efficiency. We then pass these savings on to our customers, meaning they can get a custom-fitted, personalized suit for the same price as off-the-rack garments in under four weeks.”

Becoming CEO

So, is Indochino a Millennial brand?

“When the company first launched, we focused on Millennials. Not just because young men shop online, but because they’re a demographic who previously had less access to custom suiting. And while it’s true that 60-65% of Indochino’s online customers are still Millennials, opening showrooms over the past few years has introduced us to new audiences, including Baby Boomers. That generation who prefers to touch before they buy… The fit issue may affect men of every age, but that doesn’t mean they all want the same solution.”

Is that why Indochino opened showrooms? To attract an older demographic?

“A huge part of building a successful business is anticipating the buying experience a customer wants. And I’m not just talking about your existing customers—I’m talking about your potential customers, too. We realized that not everyone is comfortable buying clothing, especially suits, online. And yes, older generations are often less comfortable doing so than Millennials. But our showrooms aren’t for a specific demographic—they’re for anyone who wants to touch and feel the fabric. It’s just another option.”

Finding fans

Opening showrooms... has introduced us to new audiences, including Baby Boomers.”
70% of our business is done [in America].”

You’re a Canadian company, but do most sales occur in the US?

“Canada’s startup culture has grown by leaps and bounds in the last five years, but online shopping is still much more prevalent in [the United States]. So, yes: The US was always our core focus. It’s where 70% of our business is done—a better fit for our business, if you will [Laughs].”

As your customer base grows, do you have plans to expand into female suiting?

I get asked that question quite a bit. The thing is, I’d love to get into made-to-measure for women tomorrow. But female fit is so much more complicated. And if Indochino were going to do it, we’d need to do it right. So, for now, we’re focusing making our core business the best it can be. Sometimes the best companies are the ones that really master their core offering before expanding.”

Constant expansion

“"Made-to-measure, custom clothing is wildly expensive. [But] it doesn't need to be and it shouldn't be."”

Who do you consider competitors?

“There are a lot of made-to-measure brands that we’re compared to, but I’m more interested in Macy’s. Men’s Wearhouse. The guys and girls selling millions of suits per year—that’s the kind of business we’re hoping to have… We’re the 65th fastest growing company in Canada and to date we’re up 60% year over year, so, hopefully we’re on our way.”

Any last piece of advice?

The best thing I can tell any entrepreneur is to anticipate. Indochino anticipated a need for custom suits on the Internet. We anticipated that men wanted a better fit. That showrooms would grow our customer base. But anticipation isn’t a skill that you’re born with; it’s something you develop. And it should be a major focus for every entrepreneur.”

Last thoughts

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