Men have been buying bespoke tailored suits (i.e., suits that utilize new patterns for each customer as opposed to made-to-measure suits that modify base patterns) for decades. Though styles have evolved, the process for purchasing a suit has remained unchanged. Men can either go to a:
- Local Tailor: Customers visit a showroom, choose fabric, and are manually measured
- Distance (online) Tailor: Customers visit a website, choose fabric, submit their own measurements
- Traveling Tailor: Tailors visit customers to show fabric and take measurements
These methods use either labor intensive processes or processes that improve efficiency while potentially sacrificing fit and customer satisfaction. The local and traveling bespoke tailors typically require 3 to 5+ fittings with the customer to achieve the desired fit. However, an innovative company has drastically improved their operations and transformed the shopping experience for men by combining the traditional showroom with modern technology.
Business and Operating Model
Alton Lane is a custom menswear company that offers a unique experience for customers shopping for business attire by integrating an elegant showroom with technology. When a customer arrives to a fitting appointment they first enjoy a drink while reviewing fabric options. They then are measured using 3D scanning technology (figure 1) which uses 32 sensors to capture an image of the customer within 30 seconds. This is immediately sent to the storeroom computer where employees can make alterations based on customer preferences. While the scan is very accurate, Alton Lane still takes manual measurements and fits the customers in sample garments to ensure a complete understanding of the customer’s cut preferences. After the fitting, the pattern is hand drawn and the material is laser-cut (another technology-based improvement to traditional manual cutting). The finished garment is quality checked and shipped to the customer. While Alton Lane still requires manual steps within their process, they eliminate the need for multiple fittings and reduce production time through their use of technology.
Figure 1: 3D Scan Results
Alton Lane also utilizes technology to improve their customers’ experience by saving their fitting information, allowing seamless purchasing of garments in the future. Although the initial fitting takes time, customers who have not had any significant changes in physique are unlikely to need additional fittings. Alton Lane’s confidence in their technology is evident, as they reimburse 120% up to $100 for any alterations. These uses of technology will reduce the amount of time a customer needs to spend at the storeroom, improve efficiency in manufacturing, and simplify the re-ordering process.
Areas for Continued Improvement
Alton Lane stores data from the 3D scans and fittings in a database for use in future customer purchases, but is currently missing an opportunity to put this information to work. The company could utilize this data to determine trends in the preferences and body types of their customers and develop a line of off-the-rack clothing that is better fitting compared to competitors. This would be particularly appealing to men looking to purchase jackets, slacks, or shirts that are high quality and form fitting without the price tag usually associated with tailored clothing. Alternatively, they could sell their findings to high-end retailers who already participate in the off-the-rack clothing model.
Alton Lane should also invest in a cost effective, portable version of the 3D scanner that they could rent and ship to customers. This would widen their consumer base to include customers who are unable to visit the showroom or who prefer online shopping. This at-home concept has started to appear in other retail industries, such as footwear. A prime example is ‘Foot Fairy’, an app to measure children’s feet and shoe size at home, accurate to a hundredth of a centimeter. Portable scanners already can be found on the market, such as the SCANIFY handheld 3D scanner system or the XYZ Printing 3D scanner, which can process 3D images of people. If Alton Lane could partner with one of these companies, they could integrate their measurement software with the portable 3D scanners.
While there are still manual steps within Alton Lane’s processes, they are making strides to integrate a traditionally manual process with technological advancements, including 3D scanning, laser-cutting, and data storage, to offer customers a high-quality product with modern speed and convenience.
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Main Image: Alton Lane. “Home Page.” http://www.altonlane.com, accessed November 2016.