Knot Standard began a few years ago as an online custom suit maker. The ever-growing company has since expanded and now has showrooms in New York, Washington D.C., Dubai, Dallas, Houston, Austin and Chicago where you can visit for a consultation and measurement. Its president, John Ballay, spoke to me about its unique services and how it can help you (custom) suit up for a fraction of the cost of what it would be for you elsewhere.
How did Knot Standard start?
This business started out as granular as possible in the art of tailoring. We started as basic as basic gets. My business partner Matt Mueller and I were living in Dubai and we had the opportunity to get custom suits made. I was working in finance in private equity IT. To get a suit made at a reasonable price, this $600 rate, is something that we could not wait to show people who visited. So you have friends and family and they come to town and they get the whole experience with the tea and the coffee and the fabric and the swatches. We knew that didn’t exist back in the United States at that price point and hadn’t been democratized yet. We started thinking: What if we started videotaping a tailor measuring a guy? What if we re-created that and had the ability to create quality inputs into this process? Would that work? There didn’t seem to be anything that was as competitive Stateside and on top of that, the generational tailors were not passing this art down. So we made a platform of videos of how to measure yourself with a local tailor and had a very successful launch with friends and family.
And from there?
There was this very real demand. Guys were sending in their measurements. There was this kind of stampede of demand and we kind of hit a chord with what the U.S. consumer wanted. And in tandem you had this growth of menswear where suddenly no longer acceptable for guys to care. And the second factor was that there was a maturity in the custom market. Ultimately, we started running pop-ups.
How has the business developed?
Through customer demand it slowly began to pick up steam. We tried one in Dallas. And New York, Dubai, DC and Dallas. We have an online look book where you can also transact directly. So you can buy 80 suits or 100 shirts online. If you are looking for more you can book an appointment in one of our seven showrooms.
How does the online business differ from the in-person one?
It’s about half and half. We have guys coming from our website and the other half coming in through direct appointment. And the showroom offering is a portfolio over 7,000 fabrics. We see such high repeat rates because unlike the old world of tailoring where everything was traced out because it is done off of a digital file. It is, in theory, identical.
Who is the Knot Standard customer?
He is 28 to 49. It starts at a consultancy level at a bank or marketing firm who is just out of college who has tried the Hugo Boss or Ralph Lauren and who is looking for something that is unique and better fitting. That is the entry level of people we get in here every single day and at $795 out of the showroom, there is an amazing opportunity for these guys. It’s what you get at a retail store for $1,300 or $1,400. Not only is there an inherent value proposition in it, but it’s all custom. We will take you from a B- off-the-rack suit to an A. And all the alterations and working with the stylist are fully guaranteed. So it is fully risk-free from $795.
How long does it take to get a suit after being measured for one?
Turnaround time is four to six weeks. We want our customers to know it does take time to make something nice, but that through technology we are able to get it done fast.
What are your most popular suits?
The go-to suit, which is probably 80 percent of our customers, is what suits have been for basically a decade: two-button with a lapel, double vent and no cuffs.
Talk about your in-person showrooms.
They’re open seven day a week. We think of it as doing a haircut. There’s always someone available but it’s always better to know who you are going to see so that we are fully prepared to meet all of your expectations. Our online business has been really robust – with more than 100 shirts, suits, overcoats and accessories, it’s a full package regardless of where you are in the world. It’s a really easy concept to get and to use. We do sell the highest quality suits online. There is not a single component we are not covering. Guys are either going to the department stores or they are coming here. There is not another custom option with 360-service besides what we are doing.