An Interview with Kirby Allison of The Hanger Project
1. You named your company The Hanger Project – what’s the history behind the name and your store?
The Hanger Project literally started off as, the hanger project. While on one of the clothing forums, a bunch of users began to vent about how impossible it was to find a high-quality wooden suit hanger. If you know anything about StyleForum members – these guys have scoured the earth in search of the best products. If they couldn’t find an adequate suit hanger, it simply didn’t exist.
I volunteered to the group that if we worked together to specify what the “perfect” suit hanger would be, I would go out, have it made, and coordinate an order for everyone.
Together we worked to create a design that I had manufactured. The first order was simply an aggregated group buy, which are relatively common on the forums. It was so well received we did a second, and then a third. After they kept selling out, I decided that this idea actually filled a valuable void in the marketplace and decided to turn it into a real company
I had so much trouble figuring out what to name it when my roommate at the time suggested the obvious: call it what you have already been calling it all this time – The Hanger Project.
And now The Hanger Project has slowly evolved beyond a company just supplying men’s suit hangers, to a company that helps the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes
2. Store bought hangers tend to stretch out the neck and shoulder areas in suit jackets – how does your design help alleviate this from happening?
Department stores provide as cheap of a hanger as possible without it being offensive to the customer. This is why any hanger that you receive free with a garment is inadequate for the end-consumer. It was designed to meet the retailer’s financial concerns, not around the concerns of the end-user.
The Hanger Project is unique in that all of our hangers are designed exclusively around the concerns of the end-user – the only person that experiences the consequences of a good or bad hanger.
Our primary philosophy towards all of our hangers is to design hangers that protect and extend the life of the garment.
There are many finer points about our hanger design, but there are a few key design characteristics:
1.Your hanger must be properly sized. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to your clothing; the same should be true when it comes to your hangers. A properly-sized hanger extends to the edge of the shoulder without extending past it into the sleeve head, which can damage the drape of the shoulder. This ensures that the shoulders are receiving maximum shoulder support.
2. Size matters. Our 2.5” shoulder flare on our suit hangers are 5x wider than average. They approximate the natural size of your shoulders. This ensures that as your suits rest in your closet, the shoulders are naturally supported and filled-out.
3. Proper slope. Many free or store bought suit hangers have shoulders that slope too dramatically, which causes the garment to slide down the hanger and stretch the collar.
3. Some people might think it’s ridiculous to spend a lot of money on hangers, what would you like to tell those naysayers?
I think it’s ridiculous not to spend money on a fantastic hanger. You spend all this money to buy your favorite suit jacket, and then what, ruin it because you went cheap on the hanger?
You get what you pay for with a free hanger.
It’s important to remember that our garments spend more time in the closet than anywhere else. If we want them to look good when we wear them, we have to take care of them in the closet.
Our hangers are not cheap, but I certainly do not consider them expensive. People spend more as a percentage of the garment’s cost on shoe trees. The shoe trees we sell on our website are actually more expensive than our garment hangers.
On a $600+ suit, what’s $25 on a hanger? It’s nothing. Especially if this hanger reduces trips to the dry cleaner and extends the garment’s life by even one year.
4. How do the sizing, shape and materials used in your different hanger types make your product different from other wooden hangers?
All of our hangers are made with furniture-quality woods. We select the highest-grade woods to ensure that our hangers last for decades.
Our natural hangers are made from absolutely stunning Maplewood. This wood is the only wood suitable for a natural finish, because naturally-finished hangers show all of the imperfections of the wood. If you use a low-quality wood, the hanger just doesn’t look beautiful.
Our traditionally-finished hangers are made from a birch wood, and we are just about to add a third finish from beech wood.
5. Have you always sold accessories (such as shoe polish, shoelaces, ties, and cufflinks) or were those later additions that seemed natural to your business plan?
Our other accessories have been a part of the natural evolution of The Hanger Project. We’ve grown past being a company that just supplies garment hangers to one that helps men take care of their wardrobes. Our Saphir Shoe Polish is incredibly popular. It is the first luxury shoe polish in the United States.
6. How have you seen the market, both in hangers and in menswear online retail in general, change since you started on Styleforum?
I've been really surprised by what I describe as a "rebound to quality." More and more men are deciding to own less but of a higher quality and are becoming more educated, thanks largely in part to forums such this, and engaged in dressing well. This has given rise to IndoChino and MyTailor, which are offering tailor-made garments at accessible prices. Men are owning less, but buying higher quality and keeping it longer. This has helped my business — if you buy less and intend on keeping it longer, you have to take care of it. That's where we come in.
7. How do you keep a step ahead?
Our customers and fellow SF members are our best source of new ideas. I try to stay engaged as much as possible with customers to see where we can be of value and help. This is where I enjoy positioning The Hanger Project — as an offer of help — the most.
8. You seem to have a category named “SPECIAL PROJECTS”. Can you tell us more about where this idea came from?
I started the Special Project series after traveling internationally to find interesting products to add to The Hanger Project. Inevitably during my travels, I encountered phenomenal products that I loved but didn’t fit within the scope of The Hanger Project. I launched the Special Projects series as a platform to offer these products to customers on a one-off, limited basis.
9. With the holidays around the corner, what are the three items from The Hanger Project you suggest every gentleman should own?
Of course, every gentleman should have proper hangers. It’s such a great gifting item for the clotheshorse because, normally, it isn’t something many (or enough) men think to purchase for themselves. Most of our customers already have garment hangers, though.
Second, I think that every man should indulge in a great badger hair shaving brush and fantastic shave cream. The shave cream we offer from Santa Maria Novella is second-to-none and probably my favorite grooming product.
Third, every man should have a shoehorn. I have always been a huge proponent of shoehorns, which is why we have one of the widest selections in the world.
10. What is your favorite accessory sold on The Hanger Project site that you could never live without?
A suit hanger. I even travel with my suit hangers.
If that doesn’t count, I’d go back to a shoehorn. I use one every day.
11. When browsing your site we came across a stunning pair of Golden acorn cufflinks. Can you tell us more about these and if there will be any more custom designs in the future?
Oh, the Golden Acorn Cufflinks really are special. My wife gave these to me as a Christmas gift several years back. They were so stunning that I decided to offer them first as a Special Project and then, now, as a special-order item. They are real jewelry and something that I’ll pass down to my son someday.
12. What can Styleforum members expect to see from Kirby Allison’s Hanger project in the future?
Expect to see more incredible accessories for the well-dressed gentleman!
13. You’ve been a long time sponsor of Styleforum – what do you love about the site and how has your relationship with it and its members affected your business?
StyleForum is very special to me because it is the site that developed my love and appreciation for the sartorial arts. I can remember devouring threads late into the night learning about the finer details of bespoke shirts and the difference between Neapolitan and British Tailoring.
Styleforum customers were my first, literally, and are still some of my best. They created my business for me and continue to be the single largest source of product feedback and new product ideas.