A couple years back, the Wall Street Journal enlisted the help of two men's suit experts for a blind review of six suits from the following companies: J. Crew, Armani, H&M, Target, Hart Schaffner Marx and Suitsupply, the Amsterdamn-based retailer.
It might surprise you to learn that both testers identified the $614 Suitsupply suit as the best deal, noting that it matched the quality of the Armani suit, but at a price that was $3,000 cheaper. One of the few people who wasn't surprised was Nish de Gruiter, the Sri-Lankan-born brains behind Suitsupply U.S.
"We knew we were creating extremely high-quality suits," says de Gruiter, who prefers to be called "Nish." The secret, he says, is vertical integration, which eliminates several different middlemen (such as the wholesaler and the factory), each of whom take a cut between the time that the suit leaves the manufacturer and arrives at a store near you with a jacked up, mafioso price.
Sound too good to be true and vaguely illegal? Relax. Dutch founder of Suitsupply, Fokke de Jong, owns the overseas factories, according to Nish. He continues: "We buy all of our fabrics from Italy and ship them directly to the store. H&M and Zara have been doing this for years, but we are doing it in a luxury market."
That market arrives in Houston Wednesday, when Suitsupply opens their ninth U.S. store in a slick, 7,000-square-foot retail space in the West Ave. shopping center at 2601 Westheimer. Starting at just under $400, Suitsupply's clothing is known for its attention to detail, such as pockets, extra stictching and high-end Italian fabrics. Canvas in the suits is made out of horse and camel hair, Nish noted, which is responsible for the suit's contemporary shape. Adding to their growing reputation, particularly among younger men who want to look good without spending thousands, is that each store includes master tailors on site.
"We do the alterations in the store while you wait," says Nish. "The tailor station is in the middle of the store and if you require a large amount of tailoring we'll have to back to you in three days or less."
How did Suitsupply end up in Houston? Nish says the company began getting e-mails from men in Houston a few years ago asking when a store might pop up in their hometown. A location as decided upon last year and 12 employees, who trained at "suit school"in New York City for two months, were hired.
"Guys in Houston like to dress up," Nish says. "If you go out to any restuarant or bar they look the part. What happened was one guy stopped by our store in SoHo and went home and told his friends in Houston about us and it became bigger and bigger and then the e-mails started arriving."
But the newest store's secret weapon just might be the fact that you barely have to set foot in the store to nab a great suit. I'm not talking about Suitsupply's online store, which is great, too, but the fact that they've included private shopping rooms, apparently, for women. The idea, Nish says, is that a lot of guys in Houston hate shopping and their wives end up doing it for them. Suitsupply has created a "dedicated room where women can pick out clothing for their men, basically your own fitting room with a seating area."
"We think this is going to appeal to a lot of guys," Nish says. "And if that doesn't convince you, we also have espresso and free wifi."