Suitsupply is betting that women want to wear suits.
On Wednesday, the 18-year-old men’s suiting company opened its first flagship for Suistudio, its sister brand focused on women’s suits. The store, a 4,000-square-foot space in Soho, opened in time with permanent Suistudio stores in Frankfurt, Germany and Milan. They joined locations in Amsterdam and Shanghai, opened late last year. By December, a Paris store will be added to the mix.
Styles range from classics that can be purchased 365 days a year, including tuxedos, to trendy suits made for the season; there are new drops every month to keep inventory fresh. The average price for a suit is $599.
“When it comes to this category, there’s not much difference in how that men and women shop,” said Fokke de Jong, Suitsupply’s founder and CEO. “We’ve found all the clichés to be untrue: Women are not more fickle, and they don’t want to spend time browsing.”
They are also willing to visit destination locations, rather than stick to stores in high-traffic areas — a signature strategy of Suitsupply’s established to cut costs. (Suitsupply’s and Suistudio’s Soho stores are exceptions, but they’re not street-level; shoppers must be “in the know” to discover them, according to a brand representative.) And for fitted, tailored pieces, they’d rather shop in-store than online.
De Jong said he saw a white space of a direct-to-consumer brand dedicated to quality, tailored suits for women. (There are plenty specializing in workwear, including Argent, Of Mercer and Modern Citizen.) The men’s business, on the other hand, has a fair share of competitors, including established and emerging brands like Indochino and Black Lapel. “Our big question was: Is it not there for a reason, because there’s simply no market and no way of making a healthy business there?”
In 2017, Suitsupply saw 19 percent year-over-year growth, claiming $300 million in annual revenue, with 41 percent of those sales coming from the U.S. Still, it reportedly had a loss of $13 million, owed to opening 27 stores and launching the women’s business. To compare, Indochino, launched in 2007, reported a 50 percent revenue increase in 2017, including an $11 million boost in the U.S., when it expanded from 10 to 20 showrooms. The company doesn’t share annual revenue.
The Suistudio concept was tested over the past year with pop-ups in Amsterdam, home of Suitsupply’s top-earning store, as well as Shanghai and New York. The big takeaway was the same tenet on which booming subscription fashion services like Stitch Fix are based: Women don’t want to think about style, but they want to look good — a polished, go-to suit gives them that practicality. They also want to move away from fast, throwaway fashion.
“What Suistudio does is bridge the gap between the cheap-quality, untailored, bad-fabric suits and the $3,000 Givenchy suit,” said Kristina Barricelli, Suistudio’s vice president.
De Jong said the fall of business and even business-casual dress codes is not concerning because of Suitsupply’s take on suiting, which has nothing to do with a uniform or conformity. Business men shop Suitsupply, but so do Bruno Mars and P.Diddy. What’s more, even Suitsupply’s store in Silicon Valley, a poster city for casual workwear, is thriving. “Everybody is not going to work in hoodies,” he said.
Getting the fit right for women was more complicated than expected, and proved a multi-year process; while some of the same tailoring techniques used in the men’s suits translated well, new patterns and production lines had to come into play.
Suistudio plans to get its new stores off the ground through a combination of in-store launch events and marketing campaigns with local influencers. A majority of the stores are opening adjacent to top Suitsupply locations, meant to help with awareness.
Like other direct-to-consumer brands, Suitsupply has found opening stores to be a more cost-effective customer acquisition tool than digital advertising, and the company is using those learnings to grow Suistudio.
“If you’re all selling similar product and you have to acquire all your customers through the same channel, eventually, the gross margin is going to go to Google,” said de Jong. “But don’t get me wrong: A lot of brands use stores as alternatives to performance marketing or call centers. We actually make money in our stores.”