Top 20 Innovators in BC, Indochino Apparel
Congratulations to Indochino Apparel, #9 in 2011's Most Innovative Companies in B.C.
Thanks to Victoria’s Kyle Vucko and Heikal Gani, one of the last remaining items we could not confidently buy online is now available with the click of a mouse. Indochino Apparel has taken a seemingly impossible business model – 100 per cent online retailing of men’s custom-tailored suits – and turned it into a global success. Customers enter their measurements and custom-made, high-quality garments are guaranteed to arrive within two weeks. And starting at just $299, suits cost less than most off-the-rack options.
When studying at UVic, Gani found himself suitless before an important class presentation. After a long, fruitless shopping experience, the two friends determined that most of the suits available were either overpriced or of questionable quality. Like so many of the innovators on our list, Vucko and Gani figured there must be a better way, and when they found that there wasn’t, they decided to create one themselves. With no funding, Vucko travelled to Shanghai to see what it would take to open a one-suit-at-a-time production centre in China. After this trip, Vucko says, “we felt it could be done.” And done it was. Indochino Apparel is now a global company, having served more than 16,000 customers in 60 countries.
For the two young entrepreneurs, the difficulties of starting a company with no blueprint or benchmarks to follow were considerable: they had no money, no access to production and no experience in the clothing business. And yet they hold their own against the big players in the garment industry on quality, price and especially shipping time. All items are made in Shanghai within 48 hours of ordering, which makes the two-week delivery guarantee possible.
Topping their list of challenges was the backbone of Indochino: mass customized production. To tackle this, Vucko and Gani went right to the source. They convinced suppliers in Shanghai to reconfigure their entire shop floors away from the traditional mass-production setup. Manufacturers went from producing 10,000 suits over a four-month period to making them one at a time over a two-day time frame. “It’s a major innovation as far as how apparel has been made,” offers Vucko. Indochino has taken a six-to-eight-month routine involving garment testing, fashion shows and numerous middlemen and distilled it down to a streamlined two-week process.
Our panel cites the ease and convenience that Indochino affords. This includes the point-click-order fulfillment system (which stores all of a customer’s measurements for future orders) as well as something called “the perfect fit guarantee,” which Vucko describes thus: if any customer gets “a suit that’s anything less than perfect, we’ll pay for all of the alterations at a local tailor, we will remake it for free, or you can return it for a free refund. Zero risk.”
This is part of what makes it possible to sell something so specialized from an online company. They erase the worry of having to pay for a disappointing or ill-fitting suit. “I think they did that really well,” one of our panellists says. “No questions asked. If it doesn’t fit, send it back.”
With sales numbers tripling in each of the past two years, Indochino hopes to continue to grow. This means more than just expanding product lines; Vucko says the company plans to move toward “fashion content.” Translated, this means Indochino will soon connect its apparel to an online style guide with tips on what’s fashionable and what first-time buyers should be looking for in a suit. “That information isn’t always easily found and asking that of a sales rep can be uncomfortable,” says Vucko. With an approachable style guide, shoppers can be confident in the fashion as well as the fit. And that will inevitably get more men onboard with Indochino’s innovative approach to custom apparel.