By  on July 28, 2009

In bid to boost business and brand cachet, American custom shirt maker Hamilton Shirts and renowned Italian mill Thomas Mason have partnered to produce an exclusive bespoke program.

Called Platinum by Thomas Mason, the cobranded program marks the first time the preeminent shirt mill has offered custom shirts direct to the consumer. For Hamilton, the collaboration allows the Houston-based shirt maker to market a superluxe product.

Available in Hamilton’s Houston workshop, Barneys New York, Mitchells, Pockets, Richards and Stanley Korshak, Platinum consists of more than 1,000 Thomas Mason swatches ranging in yarn count from the 140s to 300s. The bespoke-only program starts at $435 and tops out at $695 for 300s.

Hamilton’s core bespoke program opens at $325.

“We wanted to upgrade our piece goods offering,” said co-owner David Hamilton, “but also offer more value to the wholesaler. This allows them to sell premium product without burdening inventory.”

In a novel move, Thomas Mason has agreed to hold the inventory and will offer the cloth in cut length, or just enough needed to produce the shirt. Generally the mill sells cloth in 300 meter pieces.

“This is a very special agreement for us,” said Silvio Albini, managing director of the Albini Group, which owns Thomas Mason. “Offering cut lengths is a new level of service of us, but to do business in this economy, you need special product and cooperation.”

Selling shirts north of $500may smack of prerecession pricing, but Hamilton said partnering with the mill will give luxury consumers a new reason to buy. “There is a rise of connoisseurship,” said Hamilton. “Guys at this level want to know not only who is making the shirt, but where the fabric is from, too. This gives the retailer the ability to tell another story.”

The program also speaks to Thomas Mason’s growing clout and brand awareness at the consumer level. In the fall, J. Crew launched a line of premium wovens cobranded with Thomas Mason, giving the mill significant publicity.

Does the shirt brand want to follow in the footsteps of Loro Piana and Ermenegildo Zegna and produce finished goods?

Not yet, Albini said. “It is our dream to become a brand some day, I must say. But for the moment, we are keeping our feet on the ground. We have to survive. We have to overcome the difficulties everyone in this business is experiencing. It’s about supporting our core business.”

That said, Thomas Mason is actively pursuing consumer-facing partnerships. “That is certainly becoming more important to us,” he said.

Hamilton is also feeding its opening price business. This summer, it launched a made-to-measure shirt program on its Web site that retails custom wovens for $245. Barneys has picked up the program and will launch the made-to-measure service on its main floor this fall.

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