In March this year, InStitchu announced an in-store partnership with David Jones, a move that would see InStitchu open a showroom within the retailer’s walls, providing customers with a previously unoffered, instore, made to measure solution. On one side of the deal, it gives the iconic retailer with an innovative and efficient MTM product, and on the other, a chance for customers, old and new, to handle the matured product and immerse themselves in InStitchu’s impressive modern-day retail experience, like in its new Melbourne store.
In an article with AFR, Co-Founder James Wakefield reflected on the unique collaboration saying, “We think it’s going to help position InStitchu as a brand that’s come of age and gone from being a start-up online retailer to a well-established, truly omnichannel brand.” As someone who has watched InStitchu evolve since its inception in 2011, Wakefield’s statement is a fitting summation of the brand, where coming of age doesn’t just refer to InStitchu’s ever-growing presence in a global market, but the quality of the product it produces today.
“As a result of producing better quality products, customers are spending more, more often,” says Wakefield. “The balance between pricing and where a customer’s perception of value and quality meet has been a constant challenge, but we’re confident we’ve got the mix just right now.”
When I sat down with James and Robin to discuss a partnership with TVG, I remarked that it wouldn’t work unless we acknowledged the issues myself and others had with the product and control of quality in the past, how the business responded to them and most importantly, how different the brand is eight years on.
Sitting with the chaps at their flagship showroom at the prestigious 350 George Street address, they’re not trying to hide the fact that they initially launched their business with $199 suits made in Thailand – albeit only for a few months before moving manufacturing to a higher quality operator in Shanghai. They set about to address a problem that themselves and their network had – compiling a custom made corporate wardrobe that didn’t break the bank. Their own travels to Asia initially led them to Thailand, and while they delivered on their price promise, the product lacked the consistency required to scale the business. As any small business owner will appreciate, learning from your mistakes is essential to success and the pair quickly set about improving their offering, pivoting from a purely online service into bricks and mortar, in a move to further establish their credibility and allow customers the opportunity to experience the materials and the process.
Every suit that wasn’t quite right, and the feedback the business received, prompted more development, with James and Robin visiting over 30 manufacturers in China to source, build and hone their supplier relations. An initially limited understanding of fabric and its impact on the final garment prompted InStitchu to seek the guidance of Woolmark to help source 100% Australian Merino wool, ultimately leading to Woolmark certification for all InStitchu suits.
As the product improved, so too did the experience, with the brand expanding their retail footprint as far as Perth domestically, and NYC internationally, while bringing the web development team in house to optimise the efficiency of their online ordering process and analyse the resulting data. In mid-2018, InStitchu acquired their next largest Australian competitor, George and King, but not before they made their most important alliance, securing a $3 million strategic investment from the world’s largest suit manufacturer, Dayang Group.
While this pivotal moment for InStitchu is well publicised, what the press failed to shed light on was what Dayang’s investment meant for consumers. See the suiting game is one that revolves entirely around scale, the more you purchase, the more power you have to negotiate discounts. When your existing manufacturer invests in your business, there’s a vested interest to reduce costs, which you can then pass onto the customer. While transparency, or lack thereof, has been a significant talking point in the made to measure industry of late, InStitchu openly discusses their relationship with Dayang Group, the same manufacturer behind many notable players in the Australian space, but delivers said products at prices others simply cannot match.
“Almost every decision we make is data-driven,” says McGowan “and what we’ve found since working with Dayang is that as our Average Transaction Value has increased, so too has our Customer Lifetime Value.
InStitchu’s learnings, combined with the customer’s real-world perception of value, is what has driven the brand’s retail growth, not only in terms of their formidable balance of quality and price but also from their impressive showroom experience, best enjoyed with a beverage in hand. The consultation, customisation and measuring process delivers the best of old-world tailoring but incorporates technology from InStitchu and experience from Dayang to make the process more efficient and ultimately, reduce costs for the customer.
Aside from its name and the two chaps at the helm, InStitchu in 2019 is incomparable to the company it was when founded in 2011. James and Robin have matured alongside their business, learning, adapting, acquiring and leveraging to create a robust company that champions value, in a setting you’d come to expect from tailors touting garments for three or four times the price.
This article is proudly presented in partnership with InStitchu.