One Saturday in January, Keith Carlisle hopped on a 4:20 p.m. flight out of Dallas and landed in Milan, Italy, at 1 p.m. the next day. The following morning, Stanley Korshak’s men’s merchandise manager and buyer had two appointments before hopping the train to Padova, home of Belvest, a menswear company. When he woke up the next day, he took the 4 1/2 –hour train ride to Naples and spent a day at Kiton, purveyor of some of the world’s most expensive suits.
Over his four days in Italy, Carlisle scurried around on his hands and knees, climbed step-ladders, and unrolled and unspooled between 2,000 and 3,000 rolls of fabric, looking for the colors, weights, and patterns that would appeal to Dallas men. Of those thousands, he returned with 80 to 90 ideas for the store’s made-to-measure collection.
“I’m always looking for the last cut, the last bit of what was once a 50-meter run of fabric,” he says. “I’m always looking for things like that, because then I can tell my client, ‘This is it … this is the only one.’ Because it will never be made again; the cloth will never be made again.”
Those 80 to 90 bolts then sit and wait for the right customer to walk into Stanley Korshak. More than 35 percent of the company’s total business of men’s suits, sports coats, and dress trousers are made to measure, Carlisle says, triple the industry average.
“We have a dressy clientele, and a lot of them have huge wardrobes,” says Stanley Korshak owner Crawford Brock. “They’re not looking at the wall and saying, ‘Okay I’ll take a navy or gray suit.’ They’re looking at these bolts of fabric—and we have [thousands]—and then they play buyer. They pick it, and we make it.”
André Phillipe does things a little differently. For one, there’s no showroom or store, and no immediate plans to open one. There are also the tattoos that dot the arms of the owners and employees, and the sports cars on the company’s website. And then there’s the cockiness.
“A lot of clothiers are in the business to be great clothiers, and that’s fantastic,” owner André Phillipe van den Broeck says. “They want to make custom clothes, they have the demo they want to go after. But we want to go much further than that. We want to become a legitimate fashion house, not just a custom clothing manufacturer.”
Okay, maybe cockiness isn’t the right word. But brashness sure is. The company launched in March 2013 and is already dressing one future NFL Hall of Famer—they won’t say who—and hopes to outfit that player’s agent’s whole roster. Most often Van den Broeck is aiming for a more entry-level consumer (his suits start at just below $1,000), with the idea of creating customers for life.
“We see great value in latching onto the 35-year-old up-and-comer that we can stay with as he builds his career, as opposed to the 64-year-old C-level exec,” he says. “We think that guy understands and appreciates our style more.”
That style—self-described as “Frank Sinatra with tattoos”—may be coming soon to a retailer near you. The company recently met with “one of the largest luxury retailers in the world” and, true to style, hit them with a Kanye West-soundtracked marketing video.
“The custom stuff is always going to be who we are as a core,” van den Broeck says. “Will it always be our greatest revenue generator? I don’t think so. You latch onto a couple of these retailers, and suddenly your custom business is dwarfed by the retail side.”
A quick warning about Pockets: you should probably clean your closet before you head into the store. That’s because, in addition to asking you what you need, they’ll check it out, literally, for themselves.
“Before a guy buys a single suit, we’ll go through his existing wardrobe, see what his holes are, see what he needs, see what needs to be called,” says co-owner Andy Weil. “There are things that maybe shouldn’t be worn. Styles do change over time.”
And Pockets should know. The store’s been around for decades, albeit in a different location. Last year, the store changed hands from its owner, David Smith, and Weil and Doug Duckworth took over, moving it to the Plaza at Preston Center. With those changes came one huge constant: Duckworth, who’s been at the shop for 36 years.
He’s now making custom suits for the grandchildren of some of his original customers.
“I like getting to know you, your habits, your colors, your needs, wants, desires,” Duckworth says. “If you’re pleased with what I did, you bring your son in here. Got the kid on Saturday? Bring him in. Now they’ve grown, they know me, they’ve heard Dad talk about me.”
Part of the store’s success is its willingness to meet with nearly any vendor. Every season, Pockets will work with 45 to 50 different vendors, looking for the right Glen plaid, or the perfect windowpane. Even if it’s a guy they’ve never met, they feel like they should give him a few minutes.
On a recent visit to the shop, Weil, Duckworth, and sales associate Nelson Huff stood over a table, poring through hundreds of blue swatches while a vendor pointed out the attributes of each. Some let out the wrinkles well, some were spring weight, and some would look darn good fashioned into a tuxedo. And Pockets would be proud to find them in your closet, should they take a peek.
Edward Baumann Clothiers
Bob Baumann is an expert at getting you to do things you don’t want to do. Take John, for example. John is a businessman, in every sense of the word: buttoned-up, well-paid, well-connected. He also doesn’t want his company’s name in this story, which means he is probably a really good businessman.
John walked into Bob’s shop up in Addison, looking for six dress shirts and a suit. Twenty minutes later he walked out having bought two suits, six shirts, and a sports coat. And a new pair of jeans. And a shirt to wear to concerts.
“What people don’t recognize is that 85 percent of our clients are people who don’t like clothes,” says Baumann, who’s owned and run Edward Baumann (his middle name is Edward) for 24 years. “They would rather go mow their yard than go shopping. So we try to create an experience that a guy would want to go through. We interview him for 15 minutes and try and find out who he is, what he does for a living, where he is in his career.… Then from there we try to show him as little as possible, and give him directions on how we would dress him.”
John chimes in: “My story is that I have no style. I have style because of Bob.”
That’s because of this kind of relationship. Baumann asks John about his son, and then they crack open John’s folder. Tucked inside are swatches of every shirt, suit, and slack that he’s ever bought from the company, stapled into neat rows. Ginghams blend into solids, which blend into stripes. Ten years of style, lined up in a folder, ready for the next installment.
“To me, I want to help John get what he wants out of life, and I know John wants to look good and get compliments,” Baumann says. “And he wants it to be easy. And I know I wanted him in today, because I knew I could sell him more here than just over the phone.”
See? Bob Baumann is very, very good at getting you to do things you don’t want to do.
The vicuña makes its home high in the peaks of Peru, clambering over rocks and tough grasses. The llama cousin produces the finest wool in the world, but at such a slow rate that it can only be shorn once every three years.
Hadleigh’s owner Ed Shaikh slides a vicuña jacket over my shoulders and I can say, unequivocally, that it is the most perfect, comfortable, stylish garment I’ve ever placed on my body. It’s also the most expensive, probably by a factor of 40.
“I would appreciate it if you don’t mention prices,” Shaikh says. “… But if you compare it to the price of a car or something.”
So, this vicuña jacket is roughly the cost of a 2014 Honda Civic Coupe EX-L, with 17-inch painted finish alloy wheels—not the 18-inch, HFP diamond-finish alloy wheels, of course—plus the remote engine start system and destination and handling charges. It is a very expensive jacket, and I am immediately disheartened that it will never be mine.
“It’s not about the price,” Shaikh says. “It’s about quality and the rarity of what you do.”
Hadleigh’s feeds off this exclusivity, to be sure. The hidden shop sits on the second floor of Highland Park Village, up a tiled outdoor stairwell. It’s tiny, though a door tucked behind a changing room mirror leads to another area that’s dedicated to the shop’s seasonal collections. Since opening in 2009, Shaikh’s clubhouse has expanded from suits and shirts to custom ties, luggage, slippers, and iPad cases. Handcrafted buttons will soon adorn a new line of cardigans.
“The customer comes in, and they just love it,” Shaikh says. “Because they want to be a part of something like this. It’s taking a bespoke life to a different level.”