At the corner of Wall Street and Williams Street in New York City's Financial District, a nattily dressed twentysomething pulls up in a smart car. He opens the trunk, lays out an array of fabric swatches, and starts taking a client's measurements. It's the same process tailors have used for decades--only his shop is a car, his fitting room is a sidewalk, and his notebook is a tablet computer.  

When the fitting is complete, the man's measurements are sent to a factory in Bangkok, Thailand, where skilled tailors will cut a bespoke suit from his chosen fabric. In four weeks, he will have his very own custom suit.

The company behind this new spin on an old business is BookATailor, a New York-based clothing startup founded by 26-year-old Jacomo Hakim and his father Fred in 2012. On January 1 the startup, which had $5 million in 2015 sales, released a smartphone app that allows customers to book an appointment for a tailor to come to their office or home (or street).

Jacomo started BookATailor as a kiosk at a mall in New Jersey. He felt like he was missing out on a lot of potential sales by being stuck in one place in the suburbs, so in 2014 he got the idea to open a showroom in Midtown Manhattan and but a tiny electric smart car to drive around the city. He'd park on the street and place a mannequin dressed in a blazer, white shirt, and bow tie onto the roof of the vehicle. Soon enough, sales started coming in. One customer bought $12,000 worth of suits and coats on the street.

Since then, BookATailor has grown to 12 showrooms and six franchises across the U.S. It now has a fleet of 12 smart cars that take to the streets to help fit the company's 15,000 customers for business apparel.

Ordering an on-demand tailor on your lunch break has novelty appeal, but the company says its prices are the real draw for customers--$499 gets you a bespoke suit and two shirts. (BookATailor also offers two shirts for $99 and one suit for $450.) To date the Hakims have raised $1.2 million from family and friends and are currently in talks with venture capitalists. The company has 120 tailors in its Bangkok factory making shirts and suits from materials ranging from generic threads to high-end fabric like Loro Piana wool.

A tailored suit for everyone

The on-demand custom clothing industry is a bit crowded, with a variety of companies like Suit Supply, which sells off-the-rack suits with alterations, and Indochino, which lets you do your own measurements at home. But BookATailor says none of them can match the technology running behind its ordering and manufacturing process.

Every aspect of the suit--the number of pockets on the blazer, the type of collar and cuffs on a shirt, and more--is barcoded and entered into the company's system, Hakim says. If there is a mistake, he can find out where and when it occurred. "I monitor the entire process--from the point when a customer gets measured, to when the order is sent to Bangkok, to which tailor cut a certain lapel," he says.

BookATailor just opened a showroom on Wall Street, a location aimed at drawing bankers, traders, and lawyers who spend money on suits but still want a great deal. But when its mobile tailoring shop is parked nearby, the business attracts a wider crowd.  While standing on the sidewalk, Hakim was approached by tourists, a construction worker, and a taxi driver.

"Our suits are for everyone," he says.

Published on: Jan 5, 2016