I co-founded A Suit That Fits back in 2006 with my old school friend, David Hathiramani. I had graduated with a Degree in Aeronautical Engineering when I embarked upon a gap year in Nepal. It was there, as a volunteer, when I stayed with a family of tailors who made me a bespoke suit. I loved the suit so much that, on my return to the UK, I teamed up with David (who was working as an IT Manager at the time) and together we set out to make bespoke tailoring accessible.
With my experience in tailoring, and David’s background in IT, we were able to revolutionise the way tailoring was done – and our team and customers can use our innovative Style Wizard to create a suit at the click of a button.
In 2006, we started the business online, and quickly built a studio network to make sure that we delivered a personal service; we also have local pop-up TailorStops for our customers’ convenience – everything goes through our online system so that is the glue that binds it together efficiently. By having appointment-only studios, we are removing the overheads of retail rents and passing that value back to our customers. This year, we opened our very first studios outside of the UK – in New York and Ireland.
We’ve also understood the importance of social media and, in particular, Twitter as a way of talking to our customers. We don’t use it as a channel for customer care – as we like to speak to customers or see them face-to-face – but it’s a good means for communication and we always value the feedback. All of our Style Advisors have a branded Twitter handle so they can communicate personally with their customers. Over the years, we’ve always listened to feedback from customers and our own team. That feedback is of huge value to us and enables us to refine our service from all angles in ways that benefit the people that use it, which makes growth that much easier. Furthermore, we trust in our team and their specialist expertise, enabling them to make changes and be a real part of the business growth.
Britain is a global hub
As a British business we always see being based in the UK as a major benefit as it means we’re well positioned in between the US and Asia; and Heathrow is a convenient hub for meetings due to the volume of flights it handles. We are also really well positioned to capitalise on the need for professional services across Europe.
When it comes to managing suppliers and services abroad, the fact that I had a personal relationship with our suppliers in Nepal made a great foundation for a really effective working relationship. We’ve got a brilliant administration team in Nepal but given the language barrier as our team grew, we’ve learnt to communicate in different ways; a picture says a 1,000 words! All the team uses Google Apps so, by virtue of a data connection, we have a real-time chat system that works on computers and phones which logs every conversation for reference later on. Communication has not always been easy, and our understanding has certainly grown over time with more than 100,000 bespoke garments now produced.
When you’re trading internationally, there will be language barriers, time differences, cultural differences, in addition to local politics, which all affect your operations. For me, the most important aspect to overcome these challenges is trust; you have to work hard and with integrity in order to build it up when working on opposite sides of the world. Lack of trust becomes the biggest barrier to trade, and having it is the greatest facilitator; if ever you have to go down to the specifics on the terms and conditions of the relationship, that is a sure sign that something is very wrong.
Importing means that our customers can enjoy the traditional heritage of tailoring that has been built up over hundreds of years in Nepal; our master cutters each have over 30 years’ experience. We can be competitive on quality at a reasonable price, and as we pay significantly above the local rate to make sure we attract and retain the best tailoring talent, we ensure that everyone gets a fair deal from tailor to customer, right through the supply chain.
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