Last week a reader stopped me on the street.
He asked me why a certain tailor, who will remain nameless, had not yet returned to London for his next editing and did not answer the e-mails.
I understand why he asked me. I had presented it to the tailor writing a post, after all, and recommended the final product.
But I can not, of course, begin to intercede on behalf of all the thousands of readers who have problems with dozens of artisans mentioned on Permanent Style.
I can provide a forum for such complaints. Consistent complaints can inform if I continue to recommend a manufacturer. And I can write posts that tell the artisans in general to pull out the bloody finger.
It should not be that difficult.
This is not e-commerce, where everyone expects next day delivery, free returns and email replies within 24 hours. (Indeed, where often this is the only thing that separates one online store from another.)
This is tailor-made. The customer is already willing to pay more and wait longer than any other retail area.
All that generally they want is communication and coherence.
At a minimum, before a craftsman decides to start trunk shows, they should be able to:
- When will they come back?at least twice a year and ideally 4-6 times.
- Follow us on. Perhaps the most important point. Customers are ready to wait if they know they are definitely waiting for some time.
- Keep visiting until a commission is over. Once a craftsman knows he will stop coming, he alerts and finds a way to complete the existing orders.
- Communicate in a coherent way. Do not start to give your mobile number, but reply to all emails within 3-4 days of the date of receipt, even if it is only to say that you would fully respond to the following week.
- Communicate clearly and honestly. If a piece is likely to be delayed, say it. And say it before the appointment, so a customer does not show up and finds that there is nothing there.
This should not be much. I'm aiming for the least.
Yet it always surprises me the way in which many artisans ask me to come to London – for example – without having considered these things. Without a plan on what to do if it does not work.
These requirements mean that the startup of trunk shows is a big commitment.
It means the costs of travel and accommodation for at least one year of visits, which certainly – unless you charge large margins – make a loss.
But this is all that is tailor-made. It is long-term, on regular customers, on building a relationship. Anyone who does not realize that he has not managed a tailor-made business for a long time.
I remember when I helped Luigi Solito (top right) and Luca Avitabile to come to London for the first time.
At the first visit, Luca had three or four clients; Luigi did not have any. Luca does not have a minimum for shirts, so it was an easy thing to start with.
At the second visit, Luca had five or six; Luigi had none yet. But there were a couple of requests.
Now, several years later, Luigi has dozens of customers, Luca even more. Their problem is trying to adapt to everyone (they can not come just for several days, because everyone wants to come on Friday or Saturday).
Saman Amel (above) grew faster, but the story was similar. A couple of dates at the start, followed by a little more when I saw the tailoring, and then even more when I covered the knitwear.
The knitwear turned out to be an interesting over-the-counter medication for them, in the same way that the shirts were with Luca and Luigi.
Even Saman and Dag must now adapt more to everyone – four days recently, instead of two in the past.
Dag to Saman Amel is much better in the communication of Luca and Luigi. But this last has always arrived consistently and usually delivered.
Cloth is the best in the category – sending reminders via email for upcoming shows and confirmation of appointments.
And I'm sure one of the reasons Elia Caliendo (below) proved so popular in London is that he often comes and always offers what he says he wants. (Even though he could be better with email).
Tailors, shoemakers, knitwear manufacturers: please do not start traveling until you do it regularly and professionally.
If you do it badly, poor experience can damage a reputation for years. And in many cases, the brand is your name: your personal reputation, not just that of a company.
I love tailor-made men's clothing, but I can often be disappointed with the service.
I hope this piece – and I will show it to anyone who asks it to travel – will help in some way to improve it.
Photograph: All Jamie Ferguson or permanent style