The man making Suitsupply fly
There is nothing quite as intimidating as walking into a deathly-quiet tailor's shop with only vauge idea of a new suit you want made, and an even more vauge idea of how much it is going to set you back. Allaying these fears was the driving force that led Dutchman Fokke De Jong to set up his company Suitsupply in 2000, which today has stores in 24 countries and a recently opened store in Dubai's City Walk mall.
Since its inception, Suitsupply has looked to fill that gap between high-street and Made-to-Measure - allowing men to purchase trendy, modern cut suits that are high-quality and price accessible. Evidently, with nearly €200 million (Dhs800 million) in worldwide revenue in 2016, and a growth rate around 25 percent year-on-year, they must be doing some right. To find out what, Esquire Middle East spoke to De Jong when he popped into Suitsupply's Dubai store:
What's the dream that Suit Supply is selling?
In a phrase, it's not your dad's kind of suit. We wanted to bring a whole new energy into the process. We wanted to provide an affordable, but higher quality product than what appears on the high street in the H&Ms of the world. We are all about tailoring, and therefore we stress that our staff know everything about fitting, anatomy, how garments are made and are up-to-date of stylings. Quality of product, and of service.
This market does have a history of brands sending in the "A-Team" to launch stores, and then deteriorating after that. How will you look to combat that?
The quality of service is our lifeline - it's one of the main things that make us who we are. If someone comes in for a fitting and we put the pins in the wrong place, then we're dead. Our training is very thorough and you need dedication to maintain that standard of quality.
You opted to open your first store in the UAE in City Walk rather than a more obvious place like Dubai Mall. Why is that?
It's all part of the business strategy. We are a destination supplier. In every city we are based, we try to pick locations that are less in demand, and therefore encourage people to visit us specifically rather than drop-in while browsing. People don't tend to impulse buy suits, they normally have made a decision to come to us specifically because of our quality product and service.
This location strategy means that we can have really fun stores that provide different shopping experiences, including a villa in Greenwich, New York; a rooftop terrace in Chicago; and now a stand-alone store at the back of City Walk Dubai.
Is there a type of demographic that you target here?
It's mainly people that live and work in Dubai, but because our pieces have different cuts I'm not a believer in cutting things up into demographics - elegance is universal.
How many jackets should an average man have in his wardrobe?
I'd say 50! But, I'm rather obsessed with jackets, and have access to as many as I want! I think the key is versatility. I'm wearing one of ours at the moment that is knit, but has no lining. I wore it in Amsterdam last week, but it is still light enough to wear in Dubai. It's high twist wool, traveller quality and therefore it won't crease even if you slept in it.
The brand doesn’t seem to have much of a Dutch flag on it, is that intentional?
We want it to be an international company. Our HQ is in Holland, but it's a mercantile environment. It has fitters from all over the world and only 10 per cent of employees are Dutch. We don’t adhere to a Dutch image, we don’t have a huge tailoring culture in Holland, it’s our smallest market in fact. We try not to stick to a particular country, we try and keep away from such identifications as 'We are form Italy or the UK that’s why we are good' image. Our customers are more cosmopolitan. The Italians and Brits take themselves too seriously, our approach to the products, the marketing, the stores are different to them, it’s all very high end, high quality products but not in an intimidating environment. You would not get that if you adhered to the old world of posh & stuffy stores