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Toonari Post was lucky enough to get in contact with made-to-measure suit maker Black Lapel co-founder Derek Tian. We talk about the Black Lapel brand, their suiting and their future. Black Lapel has been around for a while now and they’re top notch when it comes to staying on the pulse of men’s fashion. This is reflected in their style blog The Compass as well as throughout the fit and finish of their suits. With a few teasers to the Fall 2013 line up, this is a hop into the minds of this rising custom suit maker.
Toonari Post (TP): What is the vision of Black Lapel?
Derek Tian (DT): To help men dress, live and become better every day.
TP: Is there anyone famous or a memorable client who wears Black Lapel? (I think everyone who wears Black Lapel is a star but I had to ask)
DT: Jeremy Lin was an early customer and wore a BL suit to the TIME 100 gala. We particularly enjoyed walking him through the styling process and even teaching him how to knot a proper tie.
TP: Do you recall who was your first, second and third Black Lapel client? If so, who were they?
DT: The very first few clients were our close friends and family. They were kind enough to be our guinea pigs and have watched us grow and improve since the very beginning. To this day, they are some of our most loyal and vocal customers.
TP: How have you refined Black Lapel since your 2011 launch?
DT: We’ve been making non-stop incremental improvements in fit and construction based on customer feedback and the observations of our concierge team. We also keep a close eye on traffic and sales metrics and try to deliver more of the types of products and content that our customers are interested in.
TP: How long have you been working on The Compass?
DT: The Compass in its various iterations has been with us since the launch of the site in February 2012.
TP: What makes The Compass different from other style blogs?
DT: The Compass has always been a way for us to share what we’ve personally learned in our own collective style journeys. As such, it’s evolved over time to reflect our own stylistic growth and maturity.
TP: Does having The Compass help you market Black Lapel to its readers?
DT: It does give us a chance to highlight some of our own products. We’ve really expanded the scope of The Compass and touch on subjects well beyond just custom clothing. The relationship also goes both ways. Readers often pose questions in response to our articles, which of course, leads to ideas for new articles (and sometimes product features!).
TP: What is one of the riskiest choices you guys have had to make for Black Lapel?
DT: One of the decisions we made early on was to minimize 3rd party investment in Black Lapel so we can focus on growing the business the way we want and not be slaves to an investor’s return on capital. That’s not to say returns aren’t relevant, but growing intelligently with firm controls on quality and the value-added nature of our services is of key import to our team. So to date, we are almost completely self-funded and have as much hustle in everything we do as the day we started.
TP: Where does the foundation for a good suit start? Is it the shirt? The blazer? The attitude?
DT: The foundation for a good suit starts with knowledge, both external (What do you need the suit for? Where will you be wearing it? How do you need it to perform?) and internal (What is your body type? What colors work best with your skin tone? Do you tend to burn hot in a suit?). Armed with this knowledge, you can really design something that perfectly suits your needs and fits you uniquely well.
Part 2 of the Black Lapel interview will address their Fall 2013 lineup, the transition of suiting fashion from summer to fall as well as style advice.