MEN HAVE LONG BEEN PAYING TOO MUCH AND GETTING TOO LITTLE IN RETURN. THE LARGEST MEN RETAILERS HAVE CONTROLLED THE MARKET AND KEEP HIGH-QUALITY GARMENTS AT A PREMIUM PRICE. SPIER & MACKAY REALIZED THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO PRODUCE AND DELIVER THE SAME HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCTS AT A FRACTION OF THE PRICE OF PREMIUM BRANDS. BYPASSING THE MIDDLEMEN AND DELIVERING THE PRODUCTS DIRECTLY TO ITS CUSTOMERS, THEY TOOK A LEAP OF FAITH. IN 2009, THE OPPORTUNITY FINALLY PRESENTED ITSELF FOR SPIER & MACKAY TO START PRODUCTION. THEY SPENT HUNDREDS OF HOURS FINDING THE RIGHT SOURCES AND PARTNERS TO HELP IN THEIR VISION. THEY OPENED THEIR DOORS, BOTH TO A MISSISSAUGA WAREHOUSE AND TO ONLINE STORES, AND HAVE BECOME ONE OF THE GO-TO SOURCES (IN BOTH CANADA AND THE US) FOR CLASSIC MEN’S CLOTHING. WE WERE ABLE TO SIT DOWN WITH SPIER AND MACKAY AND DISCUSS THE MENSWEAR MARKET, THEIR APPROACH TO CREATING CLOTHING AND WHAT IS ON THE HORIZON FOR THEIR GROWING MENSWEAR BRAND.
WHEN SPIER & MACKAY FIRST STARTED, WAS THERE ANY DOUBT ABOUT LONGEVITY IN SUCH A SATURATED MARKET? TRADITIONAL MENSWEAR CAN BE CYCLICAL AT TIMES AND HAS POPULARITY PEAKS AND VALLEYS. WHAT KEEPS A BUSINESS LIKE THIS GROWING?
When starting any business there are always doubts. But as you mentioned, it was a leap of faith. We did a lot of research into the market beforehand to see if there was a solid opportunity, so it was a bit of a calculated risk. We knew that men will always need dress shirts, even in a down market or as trends change and certainly there were many different options at many different price points so the saturation was also there. But we knew there was still a gap between true high quality, luxury details and affordable price. What we started to focus on was the mainstream brands, the accessible price points and how would could create more value for the customer in that segment. Creating incredible value for our customers is what keeps us moving forward.
FABRICS FROM EUROPE, LININGS FROM JAPAN, CONSTRUCTED IN (COUNTRY); DO YOU SEE ANY PUSHBACK IN YOUR MANUFACTURING METHODS BY NOT MANUFACTURING IN CANADA?
Not at all. I think customers are well educated now and understand that in order to create great, affordable value it has to be a global effort. Think of companies like Bonobos or Everlane. Both started in USA and then realized they had to quickly branch out. The unfortunate fact is that North America is not even producing high quality fabric and trimmings anymore and the skilled labour pool for textile workers has shrunk dramatically. We would love to produce in Canada. It would help in sampling, quality control, shipping times, speed to market. Lots of positives. But unfortunately, we would not be able to produce a garment at a price that is accessible to the average guy.
YOU’RE PRIMARILY A RTW BRAND, BUT THE PRODUCTS YOU MAKE FIT EXCEPTIONALLY WELL AND ARE OF TOP QUALITY. WHAT’S THE SECRET TO GETTING SUCH A GREAT FIT FOR MEN?
A lot of hard work. We’re always listening to customer feedback, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. We’re fortunate to have a parallel custom shirt/suit program that we can extract a lot of data from. We use all this information to develop our OTR fits. We are continuously refining the patterns every season. Minor tweaks and adjustments to improve the fit.
SHIRTS, SUITS, SPORT COATS, SWEATERS, TIES, SHOES…SPIER AND MACKAY IS SLOWLY EXPANDING ITS OFFERINGS AS TOP PLAYER IN THE ONLINE MENSWEAR MARKET. ARE YOU STILL LOOKING TO EXPAND OR JUST LOOKING TO IMPROVE UPON WHAT YOU HAVE THUS FAR?
Both really. We’re looking at new categories while expanding on existing ones. One area we’re really excited to expand into is the casual market. We’ve have great success with our semi casuals, such as the OCBD, polos and chinos pants. We’ve just rolled out some sweatshirts this season that are doing well and looking at moving into t-shirts and denim in the near future. A lot of our customers are suits, sport coats, dress shirts during the week. But come weekend it’s t-shirts, sweats and denim. We are confident that we can bring the same value to this part of their wardrobe.
DO YOU SEE SPIER & MACKAY IN A PHYSICAL LOCATION OR REMAINING AS AN ONLINE-BASED BUSINESS? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP FOR THE BRAND?
We actually have two physical locations right now. One is the Mississauga warehouse, which is open to the public and the second is our “flagship” shop in Downtown Toronto. Our main focus is online, but we are looking to expand our retail footprint as we plan on becoming more of an omni-channel brand.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE ONLINE MODEL HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL? THERE ARE DOZENS OF OPTIONS ONLINE FOR MENS CLOTHING, BUT WHY ARE MEN CHOOSING TO PURCHASE YOUR CLOTHING COMPARED TO OTHERS.
I think we just provide the perfect balance great style at a great price. Spier and Mackay isn’t the only men’s clothing brand making great clothes, but we pride ourselves on perfecting fit. I think our customers know that our fit is one of the best in the market and thats why they choose our products over others.
ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT SPIER AND MACKAY IS THAT YOU’RE CONSTANTLY PRODUCING UNIQUE AND BOLD PATTERNED JACKETS. OTHER MEN’S BRANDS PLAY IT SAFE WITH THEIR INVENTORY, WHILE YOU’RE ALWAYS TRYING DIFFERENT THINGS EVERY SEASON. WHAT’S THE MOTIVATION BEHIND THAT?
Thats what we love to do. We love making clothes that men want to wear. We love a blue or grey suit just like everyone else but our production team scouts for unique patterned wools and tweeds every season. It also great when we get so much feedback from our customers. They allow us to keep experimenting and trying new things.
WHAT’S THE NUMBER ONE THING YOUR CUSTOMERS ALWAYS SAY ABOUT THEIR SPIER AND MACKAY PRODUCTS? WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
That we’re simply the best value in menswear hands down. The price/value ratio is nearly unmatched. The fit, quality and styles are all on point and the price is unbeatable. This was our goal from day one and to have our customers acknowledge that is very rewarding and proves that menswear doesn’t have to be expensive to be high quality. Even on a modest budget, anyone can dress well.
DOES BEING BASED IN CANADA POSE ANY PROBLEMS? HOW IS THE MENS CLOTHING SCENE THERE?
The biggest issue for us is logistics. Shipping internationally out of Canada is very expensive and slow. Considering that this year more than 70% of our sales were outside of Canada it’s been a challenge to find ways to keeps those costs down as we expand. We just signed on with a new shipping partner in November that will greatly help in this area.
As for the menswear scene in Canada, it’s fairly limited. There are only a handful of large retailers, and Canadian men are limited to what they stock. The moderate market in Canada seems to have been eroded. It’s either high end brands or fast fashion now.
DO YOU MIND SPIER & MACKAY BEING RECOGNIZED AS A BUDGET-FRIENDLY OPTION? DOES THAT CONNOTATION TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR LEVEL OF QUALITY IN THE NICHE?
Not at all. We’re really proud that we can help men dress better and afford quality pieces. Guys that have tried our products will instantly realize the quality they are getting. It’s simply unmatched at the price point. From the fabrics to the construction to the fit, our goal is to be the best value and being great value means being affordable for the average guy. That perfectly fine by us.
FOR SOMEONE LOOKING FOR A GREAT, VERSATILE JACKET OR SUIT, WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR A FIRST TIME BUYER?
Keep it simple. Navy or Medium Gray suit. They go with anything and are appropriate for nearly any occasion. A great Navy blazer/sport coat. Like a hopsack or a traditional serge cloth. Again, it a jacket you can pair with almost anything and works in so many situations. Most important is the fit. Make sure it fits well and have it tailored to fit perfectly.
WE CAN TELL THAT YOUR JACKETS ARE VERY ITALIAN INSPIRED. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? IT SEEMS LIKE MORE AND MORE BRANDS ARE MOVING THAT WAY WITH MORE UNSTRUCTURED JACKET. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
Customer feedback. Just keep our ears open. Listen to what our customers are asking for. It’s that simple. I feel a lot is also of the trend is influenced by social media. Lots of great looks are being shared online and a good majority of the #menswear movement is inspired by Italian silhouettes and soft construction. It’s just more relaxed and comfortable right now. It’s the suit look without being the “stuffy” suit look.
ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO OUR READERS?
If you haven’t tried any of our products, take some for a spin. We feel you’ll be pleased and surprised that great fitting, high quality menswear doesn’t have to cost a fortune.