- February 29, 2012 2:30 pm
- Nick Broughall
Like so many great business ideas, the inspiration behind the online custom suit company Vinspi came from a single, simple question: “Why don’t more men buy tailored suits?”
On a coffee date with his girlfriend on his birthday last year, Vinspi founder Ivan Lim asked that very question. The answer, they decided, was largely based on two factors: The cost of getting a suit tailored in Australia, and the seemingly complicated process of getting a suit tailored to fit.
Because Lim was working in digital marketing for niche e-Commerce clients at the time, his natural thought progression was to wonder whether e-Commerce could plug the gap in bringing tailor made suits to the masses at an affordable price. After spending the final hours of his birthday night researching the market, Lim discovered his opportunity.
“I went back home later that night, did a quick bit of research and just realised that nobody was really doing it online… I think worldwide only one or two people were doing it well. And so it was at that moment I realised there was a bit of gap in the market,” Lim said.
It took about four to five months of intense work to spec up the website, source a professional tailor and get the idea off the ground. The most impressive aspect is that Lim is running the company solo, although he is looking at expanding the team in the near future.
“One of the things that I noticed very early on and I really made a priority was to make sure we found a really good tailor. It’s easy to sell a suit online and just shove the lowest price on it,” Lim explained.
“I didn’t want to go with the cheapest tailor. They had to have a reputation and they had to have really good quality workmanship. Suits are wondrous things that people wear for many years, and it’s something they want to feel comfortable in and confident in and we wanted to work with a tailor who was able to meet all those standards to give our customers that tailored fit, because that’s what we’re about.”
In order to find the right tailor, Lim travelled to Hanoi and Bangkok, meeting with a large number of tailors and ordering dozens of trial suits to test and retest everything from the quality of fabrics to the workmanship, with an emphasis on fabrics that are suitable for the Australian climate. In the end, a master tailor based in Bangkok with a long list of European clients was selected to create the Vinspi branded suits.
One of the most welcoming features of the Vinspi product is that the site offers the ability to completely customise your suit – choosing the fabric, the lining, the number of buttons, the number of pockets, the lapel, the pleats, single or double breasted and single or double vents at the back. Or, if you have no idea what you’re doing, you can opt for one of a number of different pre-designed suits instead, taking the confusion right out of the ordering process.
Regardless of which option buyers choose, the most difficult part of the ordering process is the measurements. There are a few to take, and you’ll need a helper to get you through them. But the Vinspi site holds your hand every step of the way, providing clear, simple video instructions of how to measure each part of your body. And once you’ve measured yourself once, Vinspi hangs on to your measurements so you won’t have to go through the process again.
With the order placed, the Vinspi machine kicks into gear.
“The first thing that we do when we receive the order is look at the style of the suit, the measurements of the person and the options that they chose. We double check that it all fits into place,” Lim explains. It’s a matter of making sure things match up with expectations. For example, a twenty-something man ordering a suit without back pockets would raise eyebrows, so Vinspi’s immediate course of action is a simple phone call to ensure that it wasn’t a mistake during the ordering process.
When it’s all confirmed, the tailors begin cutting and sewing, with the suit taking between four days and a week to create.
One of the key differentiators of the Vinspi service is its tailored fit guarantee. If there’s some part of a suit that doesn’t fit as a buyer expected, Vinspi offers a $50 alteration credit for customers to take their suit to a local tailor for minor alterations. If the alterations are somewhat major, the company will replace the entire suit.
The process is simple – customers contact Vinspi about the alterations, who will create a simple print out with the required adjustments that the customer can take to a local tailor. Once the alterations have been made, customers scan in the receipt and email it to Vinspi, who then credit the customer the cost of the changes, up to $50.
“It really gives customers a more tailored fit, something that’s really bang on their preferences,” Lim said.
Vinspi is targeting men who traditionally spend a lot of money on off the shelf suits who don’t get to experience the benefits of a tailored fit. But suits are just the beginning – the company already offers tailored business shirts, and is considering expansion into things like sports jackets as well.
But in the short term, the emphasis will be on expanding the range of fabrics on offer, as well as the number of pre-designed suit styles in order to cater to a wider audience. Lim has a fairly detailed blog on the site to help guide fashion victims through the process of making decisions about their purchase, which will continue to track the latest trends in suit fashion.
“The important thing about suits is that suits are meant to exude strength – they accentuate your shoulders and your chest area, and a lot of men are just not too sure about getting the right sort of fit, they’re not sure what they’re supposed to be altering,” he said.
“So the best piece of advice I can give men is to not be afraid to really get a suit that fits you well. Settling for a something that’s off the rack can be really inaccurate, so don’t be afraid to go for a tailored suit. It’s a lot more affordable nowadays, and you’ll realise that the end result is a lot better.”
And as we discovered while ordering our own tailored suit, he’s 100 per cent correct.
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Nick Broughall is the Australian Editor of TechRadar.com, where he gets to indulge his passion for geekery and the lastest technology. He is also the Editor of EFTM.com.au, where he gets to indulge his passion for manliness, from sampling fine liquor to the joys of growing a beard. It's a pretty good life, really.