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Custom Made-to-Measure Suits by Black Lapel or Designer Off-The-Rack Suits?

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Made-to-measure suits from Black Lapel

Made-to-Measure Mythology

When a lot of guys hear the phrase “custom suit” they have visions of filthy rich fat cats barking orders to their underlings while a team of tailors scurries around getting their measurements for a made-to-measure suit. Or, perhaps they imagine a stuffy old aristocrat being driven into town from his country manor to try on his made-to-measure suit. Maybe they even know someone who took a business trip and came back with a suitcase full of custom suits he had made on a layover.

Like most mythology, these ideas are based on facts, but things are different today. High quality custom clothing, made with the same cloth, construction and cuts you’ll find on high-end off the rack suits, is available to a much wider range of people than ever before. Unlike getting a higher priced, more showy designer label suit, (“Did you happen to see the label when I took off my jacket?…Because I really wanted you to notice the designer label when I took off my jacket. But enough about me, let’s talk about the label on my jacket.”) getting a custom suit made-to measure by a skilled craftsperson is not solely the domain of the rich and famous.

A Case for Custom Suits

We’ve all felt it before – the anxiety of spending a bit more money than we’d like on article of designer-branded clothing. And it often goes against our natural instincts to pull the trigger…an internal conflict often arises in this familiar form: “I don’t really want to spend this much, but I’d love to have (designer) brand X.” So why do we do it? We splurge (or “invest,” as we euphemistically like to say) on luxury brand name products for two main reasons: 1) we believe we are paying for better quality and 2) we desire the social elevation associated with owning luxury brand products – wealth, class, taste and sophistication. And without a doubt, these reasons are important to many of us. We all want good quality and we all want to feel like we’re part of something exclusive – there’s nothing wrong with that. But the better question to ask is how can you get a product that satisfies the aforementioned criteria without breaking the bank, and in return, get an even better investment?

In this article, we’re going to break down Black Lapel suits vs. some notable designer brands. The purpose is not to push our products on you (though we obviously won’t be upset if it convinces you to give us a try!) but to show you that the menswear space, particularly online, has some great options that are worth exploring. From high quality tees to chinos, specialty accessories and other types of casual wear, there are brands that will satisfy your quality criteria without diminishing that crucial swag factor. But since we make, know and love high-quality suits, we figured it’d be best to start here.

So what do you get when you go with a Black Lapel suit vs. an off-the-rack (OTR) designer brand?

  1. Equal or Better Quality: From fabric quality to construction method, a Black Lapel custom suit can compete with, if not surpass that of an OTR designer suit. A Black Lapel suit, for example, is made with 100% Australian Merino wool and crafted by master tailors with over 20 years of experience. And yes, we make all of our clothing in China (specifically, in Shanghai) and we’re not afraid to admit that because what may (or may not) come as a surprise to you, is that most luxury brands do as well. Are tons of cheap, inexpensive clothing made in China? Sure. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that many quality, luxury goods are now also made in China.
  2. Personally Designed: Going custom means having control over a dozen different options so you’re not limited to any particular detail. With an OTR brand, you take what you get.
  3. Individualized Fit: The most obvious benefit of going custom means owning a suit that’s made for you and only you. With an OTR suit, you are conforming to a pre-determined size that’s meant to fit as many people as possible. Since no two bodies are built the same way, this will naturally result in an inferior fit for many.
  4. Brand Yourself: Your “swag factor” (as we often call it) isn’t determined by the amount of money you spend on clothing, it’s determined by intelligently spending money on clothing that makes you look and feel your best. There’s nothing wrong with dropping loot on designer-brand clothing, unless you think that doing so will somehow transform you into James Bond. James Bond would be James Bond with or without a Tom Ford suit…and so long as he’s got that Bond swagger and looks good in what he wears, we’d still dig him. So remember that a brand does not and should not define you. You should define yourself in whatever you choose to wear – i.e., you should brand yourself. And in our humble opinion, there’s no better way to brand yourself than to wear high quality clothes that are made by you, for you.      

That all being said, how does a made-to-measure company like Black Lapel stack up against some of the best designer brands at 2x-4x the price? Let’s take a look:

Comparing custom made-to-measure suits by Black Lapel to designer off-the-rack suits

How does a made-to-measure company like Black Lapel do what it does?

This must be too good to be true right? How else would a company like Black Lapel create designer-quality custom suits at inherently discounted prices? For one, we’ve done extensive traveling, research and testing to find the best. And secondly, we have streamlined our business to eliminate many costs that would traditionally get passed on to you. Specifically, we have:

  • No physical storefronts: The entire custom shopping experience is completely online. The benefit is that we can pass on the savings of a lean operation directly to you – i.e.,  not having to maintain the costs of having physical stores (inventory, rent, equipment, sales people, etc.).
  • No 3rd party distributors: We don’t wholesale to stores, who would mark up items before selling them to you; we make each suit individually for you and ship it directly to you.
  • No designer label markups: Ever wonder why a designer brand will sell a regular t-shirt for a couple Benjamins? Because they can – some people will buy it. Can we do the same? Sure. Many customers often tell us that we’re crazy because they’d willingly pay double the price of what we charge. Then why don’t we? By making luxury-quality clothing more accessible, the world is a better place because more men can dress better and feel better about themselves. Real talk.

Many of you might have had your doubts about what you would get when you pay less for something that’s supposed to be of equivalent quality. After all, the market has conditioned us to think that higher price = better quality. It might be true in some cases, but often times, the premium you pay comes from the brand name itself – and how important that is to you is really a matter of personal choice.

So before your next clothing purchase, go online first and do some exploring. Find brands that stand behind quality products and care about how these products can help you look and feel better; understand their customer service policies and email them to see how they can help you achieve sartorial goals.  There are some companies just like ours who are built to give you a lot more bang for your buck and are passionate about making sure that you’re entirely satisfied with what you get. We encourage you to come and see for yourself. So the next time you want some fresh custom clothes, we’ll be waiting.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about clothing, your job, your next date or life in general, we’re happy to talk shop.  Just email us at concierge@blacklapel.com or talk to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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29 thoughts on “Custom Made-to-Measure Suits by Black Lapel or Designer Off-The-Rack Suits?”

  1. Are your suits fused, half canvas, or full canvas?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks for the question, Cade! Our suits come half-canvassed with full-canvas available in our Savoy Line Suits only.

  2. im so happy to have found you guys, now I can order 5 awesome well tailored suits for the price of one of the higher end ones. Once I get my finances together, you guys will see me ordering at least once a month

    1. We’re ready for you, Sylvan. Drop us a line when you’re ready to stock up your wardrobe.

  3. I definitely have to get my first navy suit from you guys. I’m slowly starting to build my wardrobe as transition out of the military seems close, yet very bright. My civilian field would have me in business attire, so starting now will allow me to build on a budget, instead of last minute pandemonium, which ironically is my field…emergency mgt not contracting.
    Going to the tailor was fun, but having to spin her up on the more modern look was interesting, though she did show her limitations. And she seemed the more experience out of the few others in town. This town doesn’t have any decent tailors for OTR suits. Gosh I miss the city. I ordered best to my fit with advice/articles from you guys and GQ, but it just didn’t fit right.
    Now all I need to do is just throw out 85% of the clothes in my closet so I can convince the wife that it’s about that time I continually look as good as her and the kids when we go out, and not just on specific occasions.
    I whole heartedly believe you fellas are onto something here with the customization at a more than agreeable price for the quality and options you provide. If not my next navy suit, I’ll just make sure that my very next suit will come from you guys.
    As far as brand name, I’d rather wear a solid looking, well crafted, form fitting, no cutting corners to fit most suit and still tell somebody it was a “Black Lapel customized”. I’m past the over the top brand names that think their names justify their prices, I’m not the 1% and thank goodness. Last time I checked, historical names are only remembered for their amazing accomplishments. Getting a custom suit fitted beyond the ordinary to your one of a kind body is downright a historical moment for style.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks for showing the love, Jeremy. It’s good to hear you’re building that wardrobe right. We’ll be with you all the way. When you’re ready for that navy suit, you know we’ll suit you up right!

  4. Where are your suits made?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Black Lapel suits are handmade by our team of tailors in Shanghai.

  5. A few years ago I was doing an unpaid internship which required me to wear a suit. Naturally I was running a fairly tight budget but I still neede to look good in my suits, so i would by OTR suits which might be a little to big for me, but then take them to my tailor to alter the suit so it was a perfect fit! If, like me, you don’t have much money to spend this is a great option, and the fit will be perfect

    1. Kudos to you, James, for prioritizing looking good in your suits. When you dress better, you feel better and when you feel better you do better.

      Allow us to make the case for custom even on a budget: While a portion of men can get a decent fit off-the-rack, most guys will need a good deal of tailoring to get a good fit. Erring on the side of too big can make that tailoring job quite expensive because saving a suit with shoulders that are too big is a nearly impossible job. The next thing you know, you’re paying your tailor all the money you saved on that “deal” that you got on a suit off-the-rack and all you’re left with is a suit that’s been hacked up six ways from Sunday and still doesn’t fit perfectly. Meanwhile you could have had a custom suit for the same amount of money.

      Don’t get us wrong, we understand the financial considerations of unpaid interns (just about everybody at Black Lapel was one at some point), but considering that a suit is an investment in your long-term wardrobe, not fast fashion, saving up for one that fits you perfectly and looks great may be more fiscally sound.

  6. I don’t know who hired you to respond to comments, but you’re like a PR magician. I almost want to buy a black lapel suit just to complain about it, so you can deftly charm me into buying another one.

    1. Ha! We’ve been complemented before but never on the deftness of our charm. Well played, sir.

  7. Black Lapel, your response to PEPPERR’s comment is “Fair Point.” Is Black Lapel implying, or admitting, that their construction quality comparison in this article is misleading or inaccurate? I would hope that the comparison is 100% accurate. If not, this is concerning and makes me question the integrity of this business.

    On another note, the second to last paragraph begins with improper grammar. Black Lapel writes, “Many of you might of had.” It should read “Many of you might have had.”

    1. Thanks the the heads up on the typo. We’ve made the correction.

      As for the chart, we realize that many Canali suits are full-canvassed, which is why we originally replied to Pepperr’s comment by stating that it was a “fair point.” Still, the suit we are referring to in the chart above is indeed half-canvassed and, at the time of publication, was priced at $1,800 (see this link for details: http://www.mrporter.com/product/316040). We appreciate the fact check but rest assured, the comparison is appropriate!

  8. A garment from Canali that runs for $1800 will be fully canvassed.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Fair point Pepperr. FYI, we provide full canvas upgrades on all of our suits for an extra $200. Even with the upgrade, a custom suit from us would still be over $1000 cheaper than a Canali. 😉

  9. The key to having the best look is not (all the time) wearing expensive clothes but wearing an expensive-looking set.

    I think this article sums up the whole concept. It is not, all the time, having designer brands. True enough that one should aim for equal and better quality, the best combination (which only you can visualize), the best fit (by personally customizing), and a look that’s exactly you. You just need the eye and practicality to do this.

    So before you, the readers, start to think that designer brands are more superior, think again. The best fit always comes from your specification and not theirs. Nice post, btw!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hear hear Jao! Well put and thanks for the kudos!

  10. Had my doubts with you guys earlier if I had to give you my business. Did some online blog research but still not convinced but eventually pulled the trigger anyways and crossed my fingers. First suit arrived… flawless . Needless to say you guys deserved every penny I’ve spent.

    1. Anton, we’re beyond flattered you took the time to write this review! Thank you so much for the kind words. We hope to continue exceeding your expectations! 😉

  11. Fit is the king, without no double. There is too many factors determine a quality of suit. It is not the most important factor whether the suit is made in China or Italy, made with full canvas or half canvas. It is all depends on the process of making a suit. Most of all, it is the time and care spending on eliminate the defects while achieve the best fit. Chinese tailors certainly have the technique, but the time and care is not there. Regardless modern technology vs. traditional craftsmanship, I have to praise founders of black lapel for bringing this level of quality at such affordable price. I admire their entrepreneurship.

    1. We really appreciate the sentiments Neo! We’re constantly working on improving and will aim to keep on earning and deserving your praise and admiration! :)

  12. Atelier Canova says:

    James bond suits are always a dream wear for any gentleman. Thanks for the share.

  13. Youssef Manar says:

    Of course, Black Lapel is the best online!

    1. Thanks Youssef! We’re flattered! Let us know if you ever have any questions about our suits!

  14. I loved the e-mail that led me here. I just thought to myself “yup, these guys are doing it right.” Love the suits!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks Jim! That means a lot!

  15. Chris Jones (@IPv6Freely) says:

    One thing that should always be taken into consideration is that a WELL-FITTING suit trumps an expensive suit – any day.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Absolutely! “Fit is King!”

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