When most people think of a custom suit fitting, they imagine quality service coupled with designer expertise in a personalized shopping environment. For many, a custom suit was something only accessible to the very wealthy, or for someone personally connected to a tailor.
Enter Black Lapel. In 2012, the men's retailer moved to capitalize on a soaring menswear market that topped $419 billion worldwide, according to Euromonitor data. It's an increasingly competitive field, with a mushrooming crop of start-ups vying to offer men everything from suits and jeans to shirts and subscription boxes.
Founded by Derek Tian and Warren Liao, Black Lapel designs, and delivers custom-tailored suits and accessories, mostly online — and in the process makes formalattire more accessible and affordable. For both Tian and Liao — neither of whom has a background in men's fashion — creating the perfect suit is both a labor of love, and the challenge of a lifetime.
"We didn’t come from any existing knowledge, but we both wanted something more challenging, so we started exploring around and we met each other," Tian, a former commercial real estate financier, told CNBC.
Men’s formalwear is projected to see breakneck growth in the coming years, with growth in men's designer apparel expected to outpace that of women, according to a recent report by Digiday.
Fashion, of course, is a notoriously fickle industry, and what's perceived as popular during one moment can quickly fade from the limelight. Take the case of Combatant Gentlemen, a competitor to Black Lapel that rose to prominence as a favorite among millennial professionals — only to fall on tough times.
For Black Lapel's founders, “it was challenging because we were creating a brand. A lot of our focus from the get-go was ‘how do you do this the right way,'" Tian asked.