LOS ANGELES — Klein Epstein & Parker is taking made-to-measure to the masses.
This story first appeared in the November 14, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After starting with one store on Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood two years ago, the Los Angeles-based men’s wear retailer is branching out to a third location in the fashionable San Francisco neighborhood of Hayes Valley on Dec. 5 and has plans to swell to 100 locations, mostly via franchise, over the next seven years. All the while, Klein Epstein & Parker is committed to widening the audience for made-to-measure clothing by attracting young men — and later, women and boys — to the service by keeping prices for personalized suits under $1,000.
Husband-and-wife team Jeroen and Miray Bik both have extensive fashion and retail résumés. She worked at Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren and Oilily USA, and he was chief executive officer of European retail chain Jan Zeeman, owner and operator of The Society Shop, a men’s retailer in the Netherlands, and director of sales at We International, which today has around 250 stores. The pair set out to make Klein Epstein & Parker the antithesis of traditional department stores and men’s specialty shops.
“In men’s fashion, it’s really like the Fifties — nothing has changed. The stores look stuffy. They’re focused on a target group that is only well-to-do,” said Jeroen Bik. “We want to democratize made-to-measure. We want it to be affordable for everybody.”
The trick to affordability is automating made-to-measure procedures. In the store, there are 90 sizes available that customers can try on, and Klein Epstein & Parker records how customers deviate from the sizes closest to them.
“We put in the basic information in the computer. We say to the computer, ‘Arms minus two, hips plus five.’ We have about 90 to 100 places where we can add, and then the computer makes the pattern,” explained Bik. “By measuring, making the pattern, optimizing that on a piece of fabric, and having it done by a laser-cut machine, that’s all possible these days, and that’s where the efficiency comes in.”
It takes roughly 20 to 25 minutes to complete the process of measuring and selecting the various elements that go into making the clothing. Customers can choose from among 50 buttons, 900 fabrics, 150 linings, 50 cuffs, 100 types of collars and more.
“Our biggest concern is to bring the choices down for the customer because it can be overwhelming,” acknowledged Bik. Garments are delivered five weeks later.
The Biks perhaps pay almost as much attention to the stores as they do to the merchandise. The locations are small — the Robertson Boulevard unit is 700 square feet, and stores going forward are expected to be around that size both to foster an intimate customer experience and because it’s cost effective not to have extra square footage. Dark colors are prominent — brown is the dominant hue, but red and off-white play roles, too — and those colors are juxtaposed with steel that infuses an industrial sensibility into the stores.
“The idea of mash-up is really important in all faces of the brand, so whether it’s the store and materials you see, there’s this idea of old meets new, but in a new way. There are also the tensions of luxury, but street. We do it very intentionally,” said Miray Bik. Following that line of thought, the brand’s name, which combines the last names of the managers of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley, has a throwback quality, even as the brand puts a contemporary spin on made-to-measure.
“People are always like, ‘It sounds like an accounting firm,’ and we’re like, ‘We know, isn’t that great?’ That’s part of the tension we love,” said Miray Bik.
To make Klein Epstein & Parker stores turn a profit, it’s necessary to sell a suit a day, but the brand is doing at least double that number in the Robertson Boulevard location. (In addition to made-to-measure, Klein Epstein & Parker sells ready-to-wear items that account for some 10 percent of its revenues.) The franchise plan is still being developed and the owners believe urban street-front locations would be best for the brand and they hope to attract retail sales executives seeking to branch out on their own or young entrepreneurs looking for a new challenge.
Jeroen Bik asserted it’s hard to beat its business model. “We have little stock, and we have a lot of sales. We have sales per square foot that start at $10,000 and go up to $12,000 to $13,000,” he said.