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A Row of Opportunity: Savile Row's pivot towards RTW

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Grammaton Cleric, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. Grammaton Cleric

    Grammaton Cleric Senior member

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    Off the top off my head, maybe 60% or so.

    So - RTW: $2K, MTM: $3K, Bespoke: $5K

    Just spit balling here, I'm no expert on pricing



    I'm not sure I agree entirely. I have no doubt there are quite a few customers as you describe, but from my own set of friends on Wall Street there are several who buy expensive RTW ($2-$2.5K), are enamoured of Savile Row, but balk at paying double the price.

    Thus, if there was a MTM offering by a SR brand that could partly introduce them to a better fit, more customization, at a $1 - $1.5K premium, they would happily jump at that. Once they're comfortable with the process and slightly higher price, I could see at least half of them stepping up to full bespoke. They can certainly afford it, but a 100% surcharge in one fell swoop is a bridge too far for many people.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  2. aravenel

    aravenel Senior member

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    I just ordered an MTM suit through Steed specifically as a "bridge". I can't afford the full thing yet, but I still want things that I can't seem to find in RTW--fabric choices primarily. Having that in between option lets someone like me get what I want until I can afford the full thing, and from the tailor's perspective, they get to build a relationship with someone who will hopefully at some point make the jump to the flagship product.

    Haven't received the suit yet, so I can't comment on how well it will be executed.

    Granted, I know that I'm far from the average suit buyer, but I do think there's a market there--though a very different, and likely smaller, one from pushing RTW lines.
     
  3. Claghorn

    Claghorn Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I suppose this is a better question for after you get your suit, but what would it take to get you to make that next jump (excepting a change in income)
     
  4. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    Interesting thread.

    My personal belief is that most markets in the West are increasingly polarising to very high-end, expensive & luxury products or mass-produced, lowest-common denominator cheap products. These days, reasonably decent quality can be found at both ends of the scale; it's branding/heritage (to justify the effect of higher labour costs on end price) that determine whether you can consistently sell a product at the high-end or not.

    Applying that to clothes, if you just want a reasonably nice, decently fitting suit, you won't go to Savile Row (or even off-Row); you'll buy something cheaper and get it tailored. A company like Suitsupply is an example of that niche. If you want a luxury branded product and but aren't particularly nerdy about the clothes, you'll buy from one of the big designers. Armani and Ralph Lauren are examples of that. These days, SR bespoke only appeals to those who want a very different, more traditional experience; those who have some appreciation for the history of tailored clothes and like the idea of getting a suit made the old-fashioned way.

    Trouble is, until fairly recently, that was an ever-shrinking niche. It does seem like that internet interest in tailored menswear should have some effect on the size of the niche, but it's never going to be massive. Womenswear managed to deal with this problem by subsidising their Haute Couture through leverage of the brand/image created by Haute Couture into their RTW lines. That took a lot of advertising money & time, and they were lucky enough to make that shift at the right time, socially.

    SR has bigger problems. It's left it very late to make that shift, and has frittered time & money away on terrible licensing deals that have diluted rather than enhanced their brands, and failed to modernise their core business model until recently. To try to now compete in the RTW arena on a large scale (e.g. Brioni, Kiton, RLPL, Zegna, etc) would require massive, massive investment and advertising budgets. I don't think they're likely to get that. They could try growing organically, but I don't think they'll be able to really compete adequately on that basis.

    Instead, I think they're more likely remain niche luxury manufacturers, ticking over but not really growing. There's nothing particularly wrong with that; it's a legitimate approach. They'll continue to use their tourist image to sell accessories and some limited RTW to pad out their income. The problem is that, as I understand it, they don't own the freeholds to their properties and that creates a massive problem in terms of increasing rental costs over the coming years.

    Ideally, one of two things will happen: either the SR houses will become a rich men's playthings competing for prestige (in the same way Premier League football clubs have become) and so they'll benefit from a lot of money and relatively low expectations around financial returns; or they'll all agree to move en masse to a less expensive part of town and use the undoubted blitz of publicity around such a massive move to cut prices and so open the bespoke market up to more people again. It would still be a very expensive product, but slightly less so, and would enable them to compete more effectively with designer RTW. This would be an insanely ballsy move; they'd lose the prestige of the Savile Row tag, and would need to rapidly establish their new road in popular culture's mind. It would take an unprecedented degree of co-ordination and with the risk involved, frankly won't happen.

    Realistically, neither of the above options will happen but the firms will continue to muddle along, organically trying to increase sales of accessories and limited RTW lines, as well as raising prices on their bespoke offerings, hopefully just about keeping prices at a level sufficient to pay the rent, and trusting that as the world generally gets richer, enough global elite tourists will still want a suit from Savile Row. IMO that's actually the most risky approach, given property inflation in London, but it does have the benefit of inertia behind it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  5. gegarrenton

    gegarrenton Senior member

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    Absolutely. You are paying just as much for the experience as you are the clothes. It's why I stress to every potential customer I refer that it's imperative to spend time with the house before thinking about getting clothes made. The personality compatibility are as important as the technical know how.


    I think it's most likely and quite alright. It really depends on the lobbying efforts to cap the rents.

    How in the hell is either of these ideal!?! Going on making modest profit and continuing discretion and traditional based tailors that gradually moves along with the times is by far the most ideal outcome.

    The Premiere League comparo is funny, since it's a shining example of how it's being held back by not being professional enough. The NFL is so far ahead in this regard. When you become an NFL owner, you make money on the team, period. It's the reason it's so rock solid financially. Please note that my EPL team is Chelsea, who are easily in the top 3 of worst offenders in this regard, so I'm not arguing out of self interest.
     
  6. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    I'm an Arsenal fan, so I totally appreciate the long-term benefits of a solid financial model. But it's also pretty obvious that it's held us back massively in the short term; building the Emirates and having to control costs aggressively in the decade since that decision is the reason we currently lack the squad to challenge consistently for the PL, let alone the Champions League. By contrast, Man City and Chelsea's respective sugar daddies have kept them in the fight. Even 'pool have John Henry. The hope is that now the Emirates is paid-for, we can get back into the transfer market and compete properly again. But we're starting from back in the field compared to the less financially-challenged clubs. Actually, Man Utd face the same problem now (but worse, as they're in lots of debt), of needing to spend a lot to get back up the table.

    Grammaton's OP asked us to consider how SR could compete with mass-market RTW brands like Brioni & Zegna. My "ideal" answers are from the perspective of that question: i.e. that the only ways it could actually manage that would be through rich owners' financing or extremely risky moves to cut costs of their core product. I don't think they're "ideal" from a more general perspective of "how should SR run its business". I think the middling option I outlined that you also quoted is the most practical. But I also don't think it will work in the long-term (i.e. 2 or 3 decades down the line), based on how much rents are increasing. I think they'll all have lost the rental battle by then. They'll have to move somewhere else then, but by then any publicity buzz around such a move may be gone. I'm not massively optimistic, to be honest. The Gieves model of some remaining bespoke, used as a halo to sell indifferent RTW where it can, will be all that's left by then, which will be a shame.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  7. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    This narrative is appealing to many customers, and marketed properly, can sell clothes. The problem is not the price of real estate. It's that SR firms have refused to adopt any viable business model that would position them globally, to invest properly in marketing, and accept growth and possibly diversification of offerings as things that need to happen. Lobbying for rent control is a losing battle. The only way forward is to focus on growth, not fight acceptance of realities.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Why is this a shame? Why can't it be very good RTW with bespoke as a valuable cost center? Certainly, the great culture houses gave done this very successfully.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. gegarrenton

    gegarrenton Senior member

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    Thanks goodness for Arsenal, keeps Mourihino winning! :)

    I don't think SR is going to compete with mass market RTW, unless they become mas market RTW, then what's the point? There is a small demand for traditional bespoke tailoring. Fill that need, augmenting with licensing, accessories and limited RTW. Like I said, Poole and A&S do this very well already, in different ways.
    They don't need to be global unless they want to, that's the entire point. This isn't a huge menswear corporation. This is small, mostly privately owned niche providers who will turn out people who just want a small specialized firm if they opt for global branding. The ones that maintain a solid business model will reap the customers turned out by those who go #menswear.
     
  10. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  11. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    They need to sell a lot more product, is the bottom line. This means expanding their offerings and also growing their customer base, especially outside of Europe or North America, which, frankly are not growth market. They need a marketing push in the middle and far east. Working more closely with celebrities would not hurt. Scoff if you must, but working with Hollywood helped Brioni tremendously.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  12. gegarrenton

    gegarrenton Senior member

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    No, they don't, is the bottom line. They don't need "growth" in the sense of a shareholder led corporation unless that is their goal. Their overheads are pretty fixed and if rent is capped on SR then it's really capped. They are mostly profitable businesses currently as well.
     
  13. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    A lot of brands have revived fairly recently, two of the most notable being Gucci, the other, Burberry.

    You are right though, it won't work unless the firms embrace complete reinvention.
     
  14. Macallan

    Macallan Senior member

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    The Gieves & Hawskes rtw model, was to try everything - half-canvas suits, some fused jackets, Gieves fusion line, blazer shop and casual wear. They should have kept it simple with a decent half-canvas product; instead, it seems they are were targeting too many things.

    They become 'lost' and this had a negative impact; hence, the closure of a lot concessions.

    The shop space on Savile Row has seen so many changes, as they try different things.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2014
  15. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Why should the rent be capped? You are saying that overheads are fixed.... either exception of the most important line item.
     
  16. gegarrenton

    gegarrenton Senior member

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    I'm not arguing that it should, it's up to London and Westminster in particular to decide if the cultural impact is great enough. If is is indeed capped, the overheads of the tailoring business are pretty much what they are. It's a highly mature industry and costs are pretty well pegged right to inflation these days.
     
  17. JubeiSpiegel

    JubeiSpiegel Senior member

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    Norton & Sons seems to have an nice approach to it i think. It continues it's bespoke, but with the added venture of RTW through a sister label (E. Tautz). Maybe some of the other houses can consider a similar model for competing, paying the bills, and even expanding.

    I wonder how tailors that have moved off the Row have faired, for example Edward Sexton. It might serve as a glimpse on how a SR house, potentially leaving the Row, would fair...
     
  18. gegarrenton

    gegarrenton Senior member

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    Norton does a very good job I think. That is a good strategy they use as well.

    Guys like Sexton and Everest have no problem being off Row. Much lower overheads and simpler operations. They are also very low volume compared to Row houses. They also have big names to bank on though, so I don't know how others would fare.
     
  19. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    That model seems to be working very well, from what I've seen.

    E.Twits is developing a name independent of Norton, which is awesome.
     
  20. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    The fact that they are lobbying so hard for this makes me suspect their profitability. Of course, we can't be sure about privately held companies.
     

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