Knotty and Very Nice | Knot Standard Custom Men’s Clothing
“It’s okay to try this! I am comfortable with this.” That’s what Matt Mueller, CEO and co-founder of Knot Standard makers of men's custom suits, wants guys to say when they venture onto their website or into a showroom.
“Hey, I left a pretty lucrative IT job (former VP at E3) to start this company. I would love for our customer to not only say ‘it’s okay to try this, it’s worth a shot. But that it’s a success.” Matt is a risk taker, but a calculated risk taker. He and Knot Standard’s other co-founder John Ballay and senior executive Tarig El Sheikh seem to know the risks are few and rewards plenty if you offer a solid product.
To say that you trust Matt Mueller is an understatement – he is an amiable, easy-going, fashion-savvy business guy. To say that he believes in his brand and its advanced methodologies would be selling him short. This guy is on a mission to get great custom made suits on men – and do it in the most advanced and customer-focused way possible. And to be good at it - really good at it.
So how did guys from ‘technology’ and ‘finance’ get involved in fashion and custom menswear? Well, by NOT knowing anything other than what worked for them and immersing themselves in the process until they DID know how it worked for EVERYONE.
Here were two expats working in Dubai. Working hard and trying to stay looking good. When they took their suits they had bought from off the rack of some large department store for alterations to some of the tailors they had come into contact with, Matt explains, “They gave us the crazy eye and said…’yeah, no – these suits aren’t going to work. You are going to have to start from scratch!’ and essentially opened our eyes to the world of custom made.” he laughed. “And quickly.”
“Our wives looked at us and said there is a business here guys - as more and more people wanted to know where we got our suits made or asked for our help,” Mueller continues. “And we started getting pretty good at understanding the business of making custom suits and inner workings of fabrication. And we started buying up fabrics. Lots of it. We literally wanted to learn the entire process from manufacturing to delivery of a product.”
Mueller’s enthusiasm is evident, “We wanted to become the go to experts. And ultimately, people became believers in us and our abilities and the concept of custom made. First the expats in Dubai, then our friends from other places. As we peeled back the layers of what a tailor really was, we didn’t see anyone in the market doing what we wanted to do. And the key for success was going to be about ‘fit’ and getting it right for every guy.”
“In 2010 we did a test of some of our custom made products and sold about $15,000 in a week. And our idea went from ‘hey wouldn’t this be nice’ to ‘this thing actually works.’
We started our website in Dubai and essentially ran it from there for the first few months. Did a promotional push in New York and sold $50,000 over the course of a single weekend!” Mueller is not only enthusiastic but you can feel his energy building.
“And at that point we both quit our jobs, and we took some funding, many of our friends and so forth and launched in the US. And today we have physical showrooms in Dubai, New York, Washington DC, Dallas, New Zealand and soon in Los Angeles. They are extensions of our website and a place where guys can congregate and see and touch the experience first hand.”
“You realize that 98% of suits are not custom,” says Mueller, “and many guys don’t know how to buy a suit correctly. Period. Our showrooms give us an additional vehicle to make the experience right for the guy looking for the perfect suit for the right occasion, at the right price point and definitely with the right fit.”
“Our guys tend to be the guys who understand quality and generally appreciate fabrics so we have the capability to sell a $500 or a $5,000 suit.” Explains Mueller. “We have done away with the ‘you have tos’ – 'you have to buy online, or you have to buy from a showroom or a traveling tailor, or you have to go to a trunk show to have access.’ We are able to offer all of those things to our guys and they all work.”
When I asked about guys who might not have the confidence when customizing their own suit Mueller details their findings. “When a guy buys from us online he will make two customizations in the first order, usually 5 in the second purchase and by the third purchase they are up to nine customizations. Comfort comes with time and confidence.”
“Once a guy realizes he can stand in front of a webcam, allow it to scan him from side to side, and create a custom suit and the darn thing fits better than his other suits and says ‘these people have never met me and look.’ He usually gives himself permission to stretch himself and his choices.”
With full disclosure I tested the products myself. I used the webcam technology to create a pair of pants and the more typical tape and measure process to create a shirt. Both came out perfectly. Yep, I was incredibly surprised and quite frankly it was damn easy. The hardest part was waiting for them to make the items and mail them to me. And for a company that is so technology based, they are incredibly high touch.
“We have doubled down on our investment in our customer centers because so many of our guys have loads of questions before they even start to make a purchase.” The maturity of custom suits online is just about right. “Five years ago people said we were crazy. Three years ago we weren’t so crazy, but they said the suits were crap. And then about a year ago, we started to hear – you know this stuff is really starting to look pretty damn good,” Mueller chuckles. “So we have started to pick up traction in the press, some celebrities use our product, higher profile executives and we have strong word of mouth - that drives our need for customer service needs to be there. It’s like talking yourself through that first date.”
Knot Standard has learned that most men while shopping look for a high direction and high support experience. And they have also come to discern that it is often better to offer only limited amounts of information or ‘new’ knowledge for a customer ONLY when he is ready to learn it or really needs to know.
The Knot Standard guy is either someone looking to spend $500-$1,000 on a new suit and usually guys who are on average between 30 and 35 years old, are first level executives and need to dress the part. That’s the demographic Knot created the company for - the guy that begins to stand out as he moves up the food chain.
Then there are the guys who have had custom suits before. They have made the switch to a custom or tailored experience some time ago and are willing to spend between $1,000-$5,000. These guys have been exposed to a more urban and executive track and are comfortable in the environment.
“We realize that there is potentially a shift back to what was happening around the early 1900s when all suits were made custom,” says Mueller. “The technology and the manufacturing are allowing us to do that faster. We have also been able to test and are currently testing internally a reverse engineering system. We basically have the sizes for all the major brands out there. And guys that say ‘I fit perfectly in a HIGH END NAME BRAND X jacket,’…well we understand the cut and sizes and can work that into the customization.”
Sometimes it’s just as important to know what goes on behind the garment as it is to know how the garment looks. Knot Standard is making sure you are covered.
5 Things A Knot Standard Guy Needs To Consider For A Successful Suit
Fit is most the important thing to know about a suit.
Fit is more important than fabric, more important than the brand, or even the price. If it fits, it’s going to look better than if it doesn’t - even if it’s made out of a paper bag.
Every guy should have four suits.
A Black, navy, charcoal or lighter gray. But for the fourth suit he should play a little and go as far away from his comfort zone as he is willing to go. That fourth suit will be their favorite suit – the one people compliment them on the most and the one that they will feel most uniquely special.
People always ask what suit do I wear that's made for year round?
Almost every suit made today, short of a heavy flannel or linen can be worn year round. The fabrics have come that far. Very little risk.
We often deal with the ‘What is too crazy?’ question.
Nothing is too crazy. Just push yourself one step further than you normally would. Wear that red lined jacket. The difference between pulling it off and not - is your ability to act like you’re supposed to be wearing it.