October 21, 2005

english cut and american growth


English Cut just wrapped up its third, and by far its most successful U.S. visit. Poor Tom and Lucy are exhausted. Heh.

While he was there, Tom was interviewed by Businessweek's Stephen Baker, for an upcoming podcast. He was also interviewed by Public Radio's "Marketplace" for an upcoming segment. Full credit goes to our PR man in New York, Dave Parmet for setting those up.

Meanwhile, yesterday English Cut was briefly mentioned yesterday in the same breath as The Manolo Shoe Blogger (one of my favorite blogs) in The Guardian. I was so happy. [You can see the print version here. Thanks to Phagnat for scanning it.]

The Manolo, of course, is an anonymously-written character blog based on the famous shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik.

So it turns out the real Manolo's press secretary isn't too pleased with her good employer being parodied, as written here in the London Times:

It�s a good thing that I checked with Lesley, Manolo Blahn�k�s trusted press secretary and right-hand woman, that Manolo, sorry Mr Blahn�k (she calls him this), isn�t in fact the same Manolo who described John Galliano in his online blog as a �freaky little fashion troll�, or captioned a picture of Hugh Hefner looking old in a Hawaiian shirt with the words �someone call the coroner�. That Manolo, says Lesley, is an impostor, some guy in New York who is obsessed with shoes and uses the pseudonym �Manolo the Shoeblogger� to launch his bitchy sartorial bombs.
If English Cut ever got around to buying advertising, would we buy space in a magazine? A newpaper? TV and Radio? No way. It would be a blogad on the Manolo Shoe Blog. No question.

The amusing thing is, a certain tailor I know (I won't say who) used to cut suits for the real Manolo Blahnik, back in his Anderson & Sheppard days. Small world.

Yep, so there's been plenty of English Cut stuff happening recently. That's always the case when Tom's in America.

The good thing is, we're not trying to compete with the designer labels. Let them worry about the factories in China, the $40K magazine ads, the celebrity freebies, the politics involved with getting Bloomingdale's to carry their lines, their ever-more hollow methods of trying to convince the uneducated that their stuff is the real deal.

In America, the common perception (and an erroneous perception, in my opionion) is that the Italians make the world's best suits. We've created a niche for people who beg to differ. We've created a niche for people who are anti the generic globalisation of fashion.

And America is easy for us. You turn up, you attend to your appointments, you sell some suits, you return to England a few days later, you make the suits, a few months later you get back on a plane, you try the finished suits on your customers, and you keep repeating the process.

Whether we sell twenty suits or two hundred on a single U.S. tour, it takes about the same time i.e. 7-10 days. Then it's just a question of getting back to England and getting the suits made in time for the next trip.

But when the London business gets busy, things are far more disruptive. Suddenly Tom is spending half his time on the London train (a four hour journey), going back and forth between Savile Row and his tailoring studio here in Cumbria, staying overnight in a hotel. In short, the London selling process doesn't scale as well, and at least when it gets busy, it seriously delays his U.S. delivery schedule.

So the immediate plan is for English Cut to spend more time building our trade in the USA, and less time worrying about the other markets, including London.

Of course, we'll still keep a regular foothold on Savile Row. Tom is a Savile Row tailor, and needs to be there, period. But that doesn't mean that's where all the business' growth has to come from.

Ah, the joys of creating a Global Microbrand. I highly recommend it.

Posted by hugh macleod at October 21, 2005 2:36 PM | TrackBack

Hugh, you mention scalability.

For how long can Thomas continue to make the suits himself? If the intention is to eventually really scale, surely he needs to start distancing himself from the notion that he needs to spend a proportionate amount of time for each penny he brings in?

Or is the intention to remain a dedicated single tailor, in the true spirit?

Just wondering...

Posted by: Martin at October 24, 2005 11:59 AM

Martin, Tom doesn't make the suits all by himself. He's the "cutter". He measures and designs, then cuts the actual cloth. Three other tailors- the coatmaker, the trousermaker and the finisher (the person who sews the buttonholes etc) do the actual sewing/putting the coat together. All freelancers. That's the normal way of doing things on Savile Row.

But for a small, two-man business with hardly any overheads, it scales fine. We make a very good living.

We want to stay hardcore traditional tailors. The more hardcore, the better.

Posted by: hugh macleod at October 24, 2005 12:13 PM

"The Manolo, of course, is an anonymously-written character blog based on the famous shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik."

I'm all in favor of any blog that advocates good English tailoring, but I do want to draw your attention to the above quote.

While The Manolo does work in the fashion industry, and while he proclaims his admiration for Manolo Blahnik, he does not nor has he ever based his blog on Manolo Blahnik; there are disclaimers on every page of his blog to the effect that no, he is NOT Manolo Blahnik.

As far as we, his loyal readers, can tell, The Manolo is of Spanish extraction, and in Spain, Manolo is a common name. It's as if someone were to get snarky because Tom Mahon uses the name "Tom;" it's just not that uncommon a name. (Or even if someone were to get snarky because Hugh uses "MacLeod;" that's a name that's pretty well-known in the U.S. thanks to the television series.) I imagine that The Manolo posts under his first name in an effort to retain some of his privacy, and not to see his work credited to others, or to see himself accused of misrepresentation.

Posted by: La BellaDonna at October 24, 2005 4:56 PM