Custom Fitting Experiences: the Good, the Bad & the Beautiful

Your clothes should fit! It’s not a bold statement, not a controversial statement and not a statement that should really need to be made. But there are guys everywhere going Relaxed Fit to the grave, with pants that would be fit for Chris Pratt (pre-loss of weight and mega-stardom), shirts that would be at home on Seinfeld and jackets that could be loose on an NRL Front Rower.

To ease the burden on us all, a number of companies are introducing custom-fit experiences into their offerings, all with varying degrees of customization, build and capability. I recently was lucky enough to visit Indochino, Blank Label and Bonobos in Boston for three different in-store perspectives on how modern menswear companies are approaching fit. First, let’s get to know the background a bit.

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indochino winter blazer collection

Indochino – Made to Measure

Indochino is one of the leaders in the made-to-measure menswear industry, featuring suits and shirts fitted to your custom measurements. In the past few months, they have launched their 2015 Winter Collection, aiming to keep you warm in your suited glory throughout the miserable months that await us. The collection is grounded in earth tones and textured patterns, with the palette focusing on tan, chestnut, charcoal, espresso and other deep tones. Featuring 100 per cent merino wool, wool-cashmere and wool-silk blends, the suits are constructed to keep the heat in. Naturally, I had to find out more.

I booked an appointment with Indochino in Boston and had an excellent experience. The philosophy of Indochino seems to be to collect as much information as they possibly can before they build your suit from scratch. That means fourteen measurements in total, ranging from stomach size to wrist size, a fabric selection, and a number of additional customization options around the suit’s appearance. About a month later, poof – your selection arrives neatly packaged in a box to your home.

When I got my suit, constructed with their 100% merino wool Midnight Fineline Stripe fabric, it fits excellently right out of the box. Indochino offers you $75 coverage for alterations, but I’m not sure I will have to use any. The suit is extremely comfortable, fits great and looks great. Overall, I was very pleased with my experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to avoid the tailor for their next suit purchase.

Indochino has locations in New York City, Boston, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Toronto, so if you’re in one of those areas you can go into the showroom to get a custom measurement. Otherwise, hop online and submit your own and they’ll build you one of these seasonal pieces from scratch.


Blank Label – Made to Fit

Blank Label offers similar products as Indochino with a slightly different approach. Featuring pants, suits, shirts and some outerwear, the measurement process is slightly less intense at Blank Label, but still very involved and comprehensive. I booked an appointment in their Boston fitting room and loved the overall feel of the experience. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by quality clothing in a quiet showroom away from the bustle of the city below.

At Blank Label, you are given a few sample shirts to try on and see which feels better. From here, ten measurements are taken and you select customization options for the collar, buttons, placket and more. Then comes the most exciting part – the fabric selection. Blank Label has an excellent range of choices, from traditional, if standard business styles, to more transitional or casual twills and types of denim. I opted for a dark navy shirt with a green check after much deliberation. The shirt takes about 7-10 days to arrive and once it does, you can have them remake it.

I undertook this option, as the shirt came out a bit too tapered for my liking. I sent them some pictures of me in the shirt, popped it in a box with a shipping label and again, 7-10 days later I had my shirt. This time around, there were no qualms at all – the shirt fits excellently. It is truly fit to my dimensions, and as Blank Label saves your measurements, I can hop back online and have another one made to my style any time. Blank Label is truly a great place to go for stylish shirts that fit you personally – their range of colours and fabrics is impressive and your measurements are saved, offering an end to end package to simplify the process of getting clothes that fit.

Blank Label

Bonobos – The Guideshop

At this point, everyone should know about Bonobos. What started as a couple of guys making pants that fit better grew into a huge menswear company running the entire range of your needs, from the beach to the board room. One interesting piece of their business is the Bonobos “Guideshops”, of which there are twenty around the U.S. The guide shops seem counter-intuitive, in that they are stores where you can’t buy anything. Once you step into one, however, it becomes clear the value they provide.

I booked a Guideshop appointment online to try on a sweater and the Banff quilted jacket. I sent some quick information about my measurements and when I arrived on the scene, multiple sizes of the jacket and sweater were out for me to try. In the Guideshops, Bonobos essentially has one of everything, in every size, so you can almost always try on the item you may be interested in. I went through the motions, trying on different sizes before I settled on the Banff jacket. What happens next is the store manager will then place your order to arrive in 1-3 days. So you get to confirm all of your fits in advance and then have your personal shopper place the order for you – good deal, right?

While the manager was putting in the request, I browsed the store. It immediately became clear that if I had unlimited disposable income or more extravagant tendencies, I would have bought everything in the entire store. Their offerings continue to grow and become more impressive and walking around I found at least ten items I wanted.

Once the jacket arrived, it fit perfectly as I knew it would due to my Guideshop experience. This is surely the least intense fit option of these three business models and perhaps the one that is most casually accessible. I plan on going back to the Guideshop in the near future to find my next round of well-fit clothing.


In conclusion…

All of my experiences were great with these three brands. The good: the customer experience was excellent with all three brands. Whether in person or via email, Indochino, Blank Label & Bonobos work very hard to make sure your experience is devoid of any problems as you strive for a perfect fit. The bad: you do have to wait to receive these types of items, with the time lag increasing as does the customization. Indochino suits come in about four weeks, Blank Label shirts come in about 7-10 days and Bonobos is the same as just ordering online. The beautiful: the clothing, of course. Check these brands out online or in person to see where I’m coming from.

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