How a startup from Amsterdam turned suit-buying upside down to become the go-to brand for American guys

Suitsupply Dallas 2SuitsupplyA Suitsupply store in Dallas, Texas.

It’s not glamorous. There are no fancy 5th Avenue storefronts or Fashion Week shows. Even its name sounds more utilitarian than upscale.

But the European suit maker Suitsupply has quietly made a name for itself as the place where convenience, quality, and price all meet, becoming the place to reliably get a decent suit in a trendy cut.

Founded in 2000 in Amsterdam, the company landed in New York 11 years later and made a bit of a splash. GQ called it the “JetBlue of suits” for its aim to provide better service and quality at a lower price point.

But what really made tailoring aficionados take notice was a 2011 Wall Street Journal article, where in a blind test two suit experts compared a $614 Suitsupply getup to a $3,625 Armani suit and saw “little difference,” ranking the suits in a tie for first.

Suitsupply holds up that article as evidence of its approach to keeping costs down with vertical integration and what they call “destination” stores: locations that are off the beaten path and away from major shopping thoroughfares, like its rooftop store in Chicago and its villa-like destination in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“We shifted the whole category upside down,” Suitsupply CEO Fokke de Jong told Business Insider.

Suitsupply attracts the man looking to buy his first decent suit without breaking the bank. The suits start at $500, trending upwards based on fabric and style choice. But it doesn’t only attract first-timers — Even fashion industry icon Tim Gunn shops there, as he says it gives him options with quality fabrics to have fun.

“Because if I spend thousands on a suit, I’m going to have to wear it over and over again,” Gunn told us in January.

Suitsupply CEO Fokke de Jong and VP Nish de Gruiter at Miami locationSuitsupplySuitsupply CEO Fokke de Jong (left) and VP Nish de Gruiter (right).

Suitsupply uses imported Italian fabrics, sews their suits in China, and includes details you’d usually only find in suits that cost twice as much, like functioning button cuffs. De Jong compares it to the way H&M and Zara have brought mid-tier clothing to a more affordable segment of the population — Suitsupply is just doing it in a higher tier of the market.

“We’ve proven that we can make a product that’s a lot higher in quality than people would normally expect for the price,” de Jong said. “And I’m not saying a little bit. It’s a lot.”

Suitsupply considers itself a bit of a non-conformist, and has been known for its provocative ad campaigns — one too hot for London and that was later banned, and another that caught flak in America for having both a “censored” and “uncensored” version of women in bikini tops.

Suitsupply VP Nish de Gruiter says this risk-taking attitude also comes through in its suits, which are cut slimmer and tailored to be a little more experimental than traditional suppliers.

Suitsupply New York SohoSuitsupplyA Suitsupply store in New York City, Soho.

Now, 5 years later, the company is poised to take over the rest of the country. Suitsupply has 19 stores in North America and 6 more opening before the end of the year, each offering in-house tailoring with most procedures done while you wait. 10 more stores will open on the continent in 2017.

“We base our store locations out of our online sales,” de Jong said. “We have a very strong online business in the US and that’s a good pointer on where we want to be with our stores.”

That’s another area where the company is experiencing success. About 30-40% of Suitsupply’s sales are done online. That’s a high percentage for a category whose shoppers might think they need to have a tailor’s expert opinion before they purchase a product.

Suitsupply New York Madison AvenueSuitsupplyA Suitsupply store in New York City, Madison Avenue.

Suitsupply may have hit US shores at a good time — just when American men were finally waking up to the importance of both wearing a suit and how important it is to fit well, de Jong said. Suit sales in the US grew 10% from 2009-2013, according to Fortune, and it’s possible that Suitsupply’s irreverent take on the serious classic propelled it into the forefront of this trend.

It’s hit about €170 million ($190 million) in worldwide revenue as of 2015, with a growth rate of about 25% year over year, according to a report by the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. De Jong also said he expects the company to hit €200 million in revenue in 2016, according to the newspaper.

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