After first being intrigued and then appalled by my experience with online suit maker Indochino, I thought it might be useful to recount my experience of prolonged delays and repeated errors as I waited over 4 months to get my suit.
What is Indochino?
Indochino was founded by Kyle Vucko (its CEO) and Heikal Gani, both students at the University of Victoria at the time, with the simple concept of selling reasonably priced made to measure suits online. While initially a straight digital play with consumers measuring themselves, the company began opening showrooms for consumers to sample fabrics, get measured and fitted with their product.
At the end of 2017, there were 11 showrooms in the U.S. (including two in California) and 8 in Canada. By the end of 2019, there will be 39 U.S. showrooms (with 7 California locations) and 11 locations in Canada.
The Indochino selling point is that once they got your measurements right, a suit that fits you perfectly can be delivered to your door with the click of a button.
The company advertises heavily on Sirius radio, which led me to walk into their Beverly Hill showroom after easily scheduling a visit through their website.
November 20th – My Journey Begins
I walked into the Beverly Hills showroom, which opened in 2015, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. My sales associate was new and explained that the company was doing a lot of hiring due to the holiday demand and expansion. The in-store experience was very positive and I purchased a Howden Birdseye Navy Suit for $359 with a customized label inside the jacket. See current website ad below. (Note they may want to consult the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Against Deceptive Pricing if the suit is never really offered for $799.)
I ordered a second suit but canceled it by phone after my wife hated the design. The process was simple and the person I spoke with said it is probably best to start with just one suit anyway to get the fit right.
To give this initial date some context, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers would face his old team the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time the next night. The Lakers would win and improve to 10-7, with hope abounding that King James would carry the team back to the playoffs.
December 5 (Day 16) – A Surprise from China
The suit was shipped directly to me from China and boy was I in for a surprise. The tailoring was awful, the suit did not fit properly and the sleeves were different lengths. This necessitated visit number 2 to the Beverly Hills showroom, which was a nightmare during the Christmas shopping season.
In my experience visiting the Indochino showrooms, I have found that they have three types of people:
- Category 1: Amateurs who are new or relatively new to the industry;
- Category 2: People in between Categories 1 and 2; and
- Category 3: Skilled tailors.
Luckily during this visit, I got a Category 3 skilled tailor who took one look at the suit on me and decided we would have to start over again.
December 21 (Day 32) – Take Two
My mulligan suit arrived on the Friday before Christmas, although I was not able to make it to the Beverly Hills showroom for alterations until New Year’s Eve. I was warned that because of the holiday crush it make take a month before my suit would be ready. That is when I took to Twitter to express my frustrations to @Indochino over my less than stellar first experience.
To their credit, Indochino responded promptly.
We’re sorry to hear that your order has taken some time to resolve the fit. With made to measure we expect that some adjustments will be needed on a first time order. This is because there are no additional fitting appointments while your garments are being constructed. Instead, we work backwards and make adjustments to the finished garments until we get the ideal fit. The good news is that once this process is completed, future orders will come fitting out of the box.
On January 31, 2019 – exactly one month later – the alterations were finally ready. Unlike initial orders from China which are delivered to your door, you had to return to the showroom to pick up alterations.
February 7th (80th Day): Stop Making Sense
I returned to the Beverly Hills showroom and discovered one of the big flaws in the Indochino model. The model only works if you have skilled people who can measure and alter garments correctly. In letting out the jacket, it was now an oversized David Byrne-like jacket.
Compounding the problem, I was matched with another Category 1 amateur who sadly is now a manager at a newly opened location. Mr. Category 1 was floundering in figuring out what to do. To her credit, the very pleasant store manager recognized this and took over and tried to alter the oversized jacket.
On February 12th I received word that the alterations were ready. I returned on February 15th for the 5th time only to discover that the jacket was still Byrne Couture. For only the second time, I saw a skilled tailor who explained to the others what needed to be done, leaving me with some degree of confidence that my 6th visit would be my last.
I relayed my assessment of Indochino’s fundamental flaw to @Indochino.
I think it is a problem with your business model. I have seen 3 levels of competence in the people I have dealt with in my visits when it comes to alterations. Two were amatuers, one had some skill but knew her limitations and [would] call in someone else and twice I dealt with people that really knew what they were doing. If you are rushing to expand without having the infrastructure in talent to do it, this will just repeat itself.
While I was thanked for my feedback, as February came to a close without any word on my suit @Indochino now directed me to contact the store directly to find out the status. I called on March 4th and was told they notified me on February 22nd that the suit was ready (but I never received any email as I had before).
March 6th (107th Day): Still Not Right, But What’s the Biggie?
I came by again on a rainy Wednesday. I brought my wife along for what I thought would be the triumphant debut of my new Indochino suit. Good thing I did.
On the plus side, the jacket actually fit and I was no longer eligible to be a stand-in for David Byrne. On the downside, my wife immediately spotted that the sleeve lengths were uneven. In either my 4th or 5th visit, I asked them to check if the sleeve lengths were even and I was told that it was. This time, the tailor confirmed the difference by measuring. She mentioned to my wife that a small difference was not unusual, but my wife was not buying it. She also seemed frustrated noting this was not brought up in our last visit (although it was).
March 16th(117th Day): We’ll Get to It When We Get to It
I called the Beverly Hills store, since it had been ten days since my last visit, and was told that my suit had just gone out for alterations the day before. Of course, this is different than what I had been told in the store when they explained alterations were done on site.
The gentleman I spoke with also told me that alterations were running 4-6 weeks as they still had a backlog from the holidays. So it was not as if they were just hosing me, they were hosing everyone so I shouldn’t be mad. Of course, in businesses that actually care about their customers, backlogs are addressed by hiring more people and not pumping more money into advertising.
March 21st (122nd Day): Finally
I received an email informing me that my suit was finally ready and was able to make a same-day appointment to pick it up. Upon arriving for the seventh time the store manager remembered me and helped me with the fitting. She even measured the sleeve lengths to confirm it was even. She is the type of professional the company needs more of.
I noticed, however, that in altering an oversized jacket to one that fit, the lapel lines did not meet evenly but at that point, I was not going to pursue it. Below is the suit, along with the custom monogram “Rhody Rules” in homage to my home state.
While I was getting dressed, I noticed another customer was being fitted by yet another new face. Once he was completed, he advised the customer that he was going to have the tailor review his work as part of their standard procedure. This was a much-needed improvement that hopefully will lead to fewer errors.
After 7 trips and 122 days, I finally had my suit. It is fitting that the Lakers, who were full of hope 17 games into the season the day I was first fitted, were eliminated from the playoffs on the day I picked up the suit.
To put the 122 days into context to other feats:
- Walking across the United States – 67 days (by Richard Llew Evans)
- Columbus sailing to New World – 70 days (approx)
- Days to reach Mars – 168 days (Mariner 9)
The False Promise of Indochino
The basic value proposition being touted by Indochino was that once you suffer through the initial pain of tinkering with your measurements, future garments will be perfect. In between my 5th and 6th visit to Indochino’s Beverly Hills showroom, I posited the following question to @Indochino:
If I order again from you, will you promise that if the product is not right on the first try I will get my $$ back?
The response I received was a polite but firm “no”.
We can understand your frustration with the length of time it has taken to achieve your fit. We always update your profile when adjustments are made, and always work off your most recent set of measurements, so once your fit has been perfected, future orders will fit the same. Unfortunately we can’t provide a refund on any order, but you will not have to go through the same process for future orders since your profile will be updated!
To which I replied:
To be clear, you are urging patience with the assurance that next time this will all go smoothly – but you won’t guaranty that. So if my next order is another cluster, well that’s just how it goes. Is that more or less the case?
Again, @Indochino’s response was a polite but firm “no”.
As mentioned since we do update your measurements the model behind that concept is to prevent these fit issues going forward. Should any of your body measurements change in the future we recommend reaching out to our team before placing another purchase to ensure the garments are constructed to match your current fit. On any order, once the fabric is cut we are not able to provide a refund as your garments are made-to-measure to your fit, but should any fit issues arise on your next order, we can ensure you will be taken care of as we do our Fit Promise on every order.
Also, shouldn’t the process that is promised to yield a correct second suit, be able to produce proper alterations in the first suit?
In reviewing the Yelp reviews for the Beverly Hills showroom what I experienced is a common occurrence. The review from Jack T illustrates this point:
Service is good. But I had to go back 3 times to alter my suit. And it’s still not the fit I wanted. After wearing it for less than a month. The stitches begins to fall off, and there are 2 holes by both sides of the pockets.
In fact, Indochino is doing poor to mediocre on Yelp! across the board for its showrooms in North America. A review of the Yelp! reviews at 28 locations yielded an average review of 3 stars, but 38.8 percent of them were one-star reviews. In San Francisco, which has the second highest number of reviews, over half of the 213 reviews were one-star reviews.
Bottom Line: Indochinogo
While the Indochino price was competitive with what I might pay at a local tailor (excluding alteration charges) when you calculate the hassle of seven showroom visits (which means approximately 8-10 hours of time in driving to/from and in the showroom) it simply is not worth the small amount you might save.
The investment in time might be worth it if you could be assured that a simple click could deliver the suit you desired in short order the next time, but from what I observedIndochino simply is not hiring the right people and implementing quality controls to make this a reality. Going forward, I am definitely an Indochinogo.