It’s a typically overcast Friday afternoon when the Straight meets Kyle Vucko, the CEO and cofounder of Canadian men’s suit label Indochino, at the brand’s new 4,300-square-foot storefront at 159 Water Street. The room is pure Gastown, with exposed cedar beams and brick walls. Over 50 bolts of cloth hang from display hooks, each one representing dozens of possible suiting combinations.
Attired in an Indochino midnight-blue houndstooth two-piece, with a patterned, cutaway-collar shirt and a thin tie ornamented with a tie clip, the entrepreneur is almost impossible to distinguish from the handful of customers waiting for their appointments on the tufted, antique leather couch or those being measured at one of the metal-and-glass fitting stations.
That similarity is no accident. Vucko founded Indochino with Heikel Gani in 2006 while the two were still undergrads at the University of Victoria. The idea for what would eventually become Internet retail success came from friends who were looking to buy suits for graduation and job interviews but were unimpressed with the limited offerings in the provincial capital. By visiting www.indochino.com/, customers anywhere in the world could create their own custom suit at home—choosing from a variety of styles, cuts, fabrics, and lapels, as well as shirts and accessories. Orders were filled in the company’s Shanghai factory and mailed back within four to six weeks.
“It started slowly,” Vucko remembers of the site’s 2007 launch, “with friends and family and word of mouth. We were selling probably a suit a week in the beginning.” Seven years later, Indochino boasts 120,000 customers in 130 countries. In addition, the company has launched a dizzying real-world expansion, with four North American brick-and-mortar locations having opened in the past two months in Toronto, New York, San Francisco, and now Vancouver. More locations are being scouted in major markets.
Indochino is ahead of the industry curve in this regard. Internet behemoth Amazon.com recently announced plans to open its first physical location, in New York, one day after Indochino’s San Francisco location opened its doors. While Vucko was prepping the launch of the Soho store, Piperlime.com, owned by the Gap, was doing the same only steps away. Meanwhile, U.S.–based menswear site Bonobos.com, founded the same year as Indochino, has ventured into so-called Guideshops, similar to the pop-up stores Indochino first employed over two years ago.
While the company advertises the website and the local storefronts equally, Vucko says that a physical location changes the nature of the client relationship for the company. “Really, it’s all about the convenience of our core customer. And some people like the hands-on approach. They can come into the store and feel the fabric and get advice from a stylist.” (Prices range from about $449 for a starter two-piece up to $1,000 for a premium wool three-piece.)
The average first fitting in-store takes between 30 minutes and one hour, with a second fitting (often more of a final check) usually occurring about four weeks later. Even with a street-front location, it’s a time line that doesn’t suit every man’s lifestyle. The Indochino shopper has to be cognizant that last-minute types are out of luck. The company is looking at shortening wait times, and Vucko foresees a distant future when made-to-measure suits purchased in-store could be turned around in one week.
Until then, Indochino’s grand experiment to continually reach out to “a broader set of guys” continues apace. “You learn so much more about the local market, and the experience on both sides is so much more personal,” Vucko says. For example, Indochino partnered with Dîner en Blanc Vancouver this past summer to create a capsule collection of white suits.
“For us,” says Vucko, “it’s a new way of doing business and we’re excited to keep learning as we go.”