Custom, like "organic" or "curated," is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, but doesn't always mean what it sounds like.
According to Christian Boehm, the president of Balani Custom Clothiers, the typical "made-to-measure" custom suit is about as unique as a house designed by a custom home builder, both of which offer several choices to individualize a certain design to a customer's needs but are more or less variations on the same pre-existing form.
The Balani method of suiting is different, says Boehm, more like working with an architect to come up it a building that's totally one-of-a-kind. The company has been making custom suits in Chicago for over 50 years. After expanding through the Midwest and Florida, last year Balani chose Houston for its first Texas location, citing the economy, the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered here and Boehm's own experience selling suits here early in his career as the reasons.
At Balani, the fitting process starts with 30 individual measurements, and includes photos of the customers to get a more complete idea of how they sit, stand and hold their weight. This info is figured into a process Boehm refers to as Balani's "special sauce" that assures a perfect three-dimensional fit that can't be expressed through measurements alone.
For guys who want a little more guidance, reps will also ask about their field of work, whether they fly frequently (to see whether a suit that travels well is a priority) and gather other taste indicators to see whether they'd prefer Italian (like Loro Piana) or English (Holland & Sherry, etc.) fabrics. They'll even do your colors to see if cool or warm tones better complement your skin tone.
Customers can expect other extras, like hand-sewn button holes, built-in pocket squares, lining options featuring everything from brocade to skulls, and a custom (there's that word again) monogram hidden under the back of the collar—it can be anything from a special nickname to the date of nuptials for wedding suits or tuxedos. Not bad for suits with a starting price under $1,000.
Balani takes appointments in its brand-new showroom, tucked into one of the deceptively low-key shopping centers on West Alabama in between the bustle of the Galleria and Upper Kirby districts. There's also a location downtown, or they can meet you at your home or office. But then you'll have to supply your own Scotch. Just sayin'.
Balani Custom Clothiers is located at 3601 W. Alabama St., 713-253-9537, balanicustom.com.