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Pursuitist Q&A: Talking Custom Clothing with Alton Lane’s Colin Hunter  

Pursuitist Q&A: Talking Custom Clothing with Alton Lane’s Colin Hunter  

Pursuitist Luxury Best Luxury Blog

2013-03-04 04.32.47 copy 2Bespoke men’s clothier Alton Lane is revolutionizing the way gentlemen shop, offering a high-end custom clothing design experience with a best-in-class digital platform to gain 3-D measurements and a cutting-edge online interface that allows men to shop from the privacy of their homes online.

We were originally interested in speaking with the brand after hearing about some of their ultra-luxe fabric offerings (think the Treasure Chest, featuring 24-karat gold and platinum threads) which can run upwards of $20,000 a suit, but once we heard that dress shirts started at a reasonable $89, we knew this was a line offering something for the everyman and the jetsetter alike.

So we called up Colin Hunter, the brand’s co-founder, and asked him to give us the skinny on his burgeoning brand for this latest Pursuitist Q&A. Check out the ten things you need to know now, below.

Why did you start Alton Lane?

I always hated the experience of getting clothes. I didn’t like stores that had sales people who didn’t have time for you, or didn’t know anything, and online, I still wanted someone’s opinion of ‘does this look good’ or ‘what size am I.’

I wanted something that fit me well, but I thought my options were to go to a place like Brooks Brothers or Paul Stewart and get a suit and have it tailored … that was really my only option. I wouldn’t go to a hotel room to meet the traveling tailor – that was out of my price range.

I started Alton Lane with the idea of getting clothes that fit me better, combined with an experience that I could actually enjoy.

What is your average client?

On the one hand, I think what I love about our business model is both from fit and experience, we are anti-average. What I mean by that is clearly because what we make is custom we’re not forcing you into average on a fit standpoint, but we’re also really able to cater the experience to the individual – from ages seven to 87. We have customers on very strict budgets and we have customers who are billionaires.

We’re really meeting customers where they are, and thus have a much wider customer spectrum than most brands. That said, our typical age range is 26 to 44 and we do a lot of weddings – more than 500 last year alone!

You have a fabulously tech-y fitting process – tell me about it.

To me, data and experience are the future of retail. Really our decision on the measuring side started first and foremost with customer experience. There are two elements of that – when you’re coming into get measured, if you did measurements a la Saville Row, you’d do 6o hand measurements, sketches, posture, and pictures. We can now capture a lot of that in 30 seconds vs. 30 minutes of work, and eliminate any error.

Our customers are busy, and we know that there are a lot of things they’d rather do than be in a store … even a really cool store. Now you can spend more time looking at fabrics or just get in and out faster. And, as a result, over 60% of the time, you have zero alterations.

Where are you expanding next?
We just did a soft launch of our mobile showroom. It’s a 31-foot airstream that we built up the way we want it. It has our 3-D scanner in it. For select customers we can bring it righ to your house. Our 8th location, San Francisco, just opened, and Dallas opens soon too. Our goal is 40 showrooms in the next five years. 

How would you help a guy determine his personal style?

We pride ourselves in our team. Most {staffers} can tell your style in the first 30 seconds that you walk in. Most guys – even if they aren’t able to articulate it – will know if they like or don’t like something. Then {our staff} can offer tips – certain patterns, cuts, etc. that are most flattering or economical. Our goal is the same as our customer – make them look amazing in our clothes. If we can do that, we have thousands of people marketing our clothing for us! There’s a lot of choice. We have over 3,000 suiting fabrics. As long as it fits you well, there are a lot of directions {our staff} can go with someone.

What are five things every man needs in his wardrobe?

  • Two amazing, go-to-suits.fall-shirts-twitter-6k2as (1)
  • A collection of at least 10 great-fitting dress shirts, with at least a few in solid white.
  • A favorite pair of jeans.
  • A go-to blazer.
  • An excellent pair of shoes. 

You know the trends. What’s in, and what’s out, for 2015?

  • There’s definitely a focus right now on different textures, both in the suiting and shirting side. I’m in the process of picking out our shirts for the next six months. There are some amazingly soft flannels. I’m looking for the perfect date night shirt – someone wants to get close to you in, but you’ll feel great wearing it, too.
  • There’s also a focus on what I’d like to call ‘snappy casual.’ You’re wearing jeans and a blazer with a nice button down. Guys are looking for an interesting blazer instead of the standard blue – maybe something with window panes and an interesting texture or pattern in the fabric.
  • On the suiting side, we’re still seeing a slim silhouette, both in the cut of the suit and the shape of the arms. We’re also seeing variations of the traditional. Less of the classic Brooks Brothers grey or navy, but more of a variation – a rich blue, grey sharkskin, a more modern weave. Men want looks that they can wear to work and feel a little more stylish and cool.
  • There’s also a move towards more fun topcoats and overcoats.
  • Baggy is out.  Even off the rack clothes with jeans or khakis are more form fitting.

What’s next?

We now have hundreds of thousands of customer measurements and data points. We’re in the process of using that data to develop the best fitting off the rack shirt on the market with more casual patterns.

The holidays are upon us. What would you suggest as a great holiday gift for the stylish man in your life?

A custom shirt – they start at $89. It’s accessible gift for a lot of people. For someone who’s never had custom – understanding what it looks like and what it feels like to have something just for you, it changes your wardrobe. It comes along with an experience too. 

You guys have a super luxe line of $20,000 and up suits. Have people actually bought these?

Yes, it’s clearly not our average customer. But there is a market for it. I had a gentleman come in not too long ago that wanted to see our most expensive suit. It was more about exclusivity than about cost for him.

We’ve dressed two presidents; we have customers on almost every major sports team. We have customers for whom money is not a huge concern but who want something truly unique and aren’t afraid to spend on it.