When Kyle Vucko and University of Victoria classmate Heikal Gani teamed up in 2007 to start Indochino, ordering a custom suit online seemed like a crazy idea to many. Today, making suit shopping easy and affordable has gained Indochino masses of fans, more than 130,000 customers, lots of buzz – and $13 million in investment capital.
The Vancouver-based retailer is a leader in online custom menswear and a model of innovation. How does it work? The company’s website guides men through the measurement process and delivers hand-tailored suits to their doors in four weeks. Because Indochino cuts out the middleman and overhead, it’s able to deliver a high-quality product efficiently and affordably.
Ahead of his appearance at Retail’s BIG Show in January, we spoke with Indochino co-founder and CEO Kyle Vucko to learn more about what’s driving the company’s success, what makes him a retail rule-breaker and what’s next for the young brand.
We’re closing in on the holiday season and the end of 2013. Tell us about the year you’ve had and any milestones for Indochino.
It’s been a big growth year for the company, and one that’s laid a foundation for even more significant expansion in 2014. We closed a Series B funding with Highland Capital Partners, which not only brought in $13 million in investment capital, but also Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples and an investor and board member at lululemon, to the board. We continued to grow our executive retail and apparel DNA by hiring a COO who had previously run e-commerce for Bare Escentuals, and a CFO. We also had our 15th pop-up retail store, followed by the first instance of running two stores concurrently, which was an exciting milestone.
Technology is central to your brand, from lasers to predictive measurements. Could you lift the curtain and give us a glimpse of how it all works?
We look to technology to accomplish our goal, creating a great shopping experience for guys. Technology helps us solve the problems facing our customers—using tech like predictive measurements to get measurements accurately and easily, the algorithmic grading of patterns to create a custom garment cost-effectively, and responsive design to offer a great shopping experience wherever the customer may be. We spend a lot of time on the technology because it helps us offer even better products and services to our guys.
Indochino’s “traveling tailor” pop-up stores combine some traditional retail concepts with your original digital model. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned since launching the traveling tailor?
The most surprising thing about Traveling Tailor was its conception in the first place! We didn’t set out to create a physical store when we launched in 2007, because we assumed e-commerce would be the only channel we needed. When we did the first pop-up in November of 2011 we were one of the first online companies to do so, and people thought we were crazy. But we’d been listening to our guys for a couple of years, and had learned that there were still those who wanted the personalized experience of shopping in-store. So the challenge became how to create the best in-store experience for them. Since launch, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how successful the stores have been, as that isn’t always the case with pop-ups.
At Retail’s BIG Show, you’re billed as one of “retail’s rule-breakers.” What makes you a rule-breaker and how did that lead you to where you are today?
I didn’t set out to break the rules. I just wanted to help guys get dressed. That meant an online company that could offer accessible custom clothing to men, but because it hadn’t been done before, traditional fashion rules weren’t as relevant. We had to learn to solve problems as they arose, and rather than looking to rules for guidance we looked to our customers and what they were telling us.
Creating a company that was centered on the customer and their needs meant disregarding a lot of the rules, and that continues to be a guiding principle for how we evolve.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received that you would pass on to other young entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with good advisors and try to learn from the best, but don’t be afraid to go your own way.
What’s next for Indochino? A women’s line? Stores?
We want to continue to evolve the business in our goal of creating the best shopping experience for guys. That focus meant we started with the creation of a company that sold custom clothing online, grew to include great mobile shopping and ultimately launched a tech-enabled retail experience. What’s next will depend on what our customers want—we show up how and where we think we can help guys get dressed, and look and feel great. I’m excited to see where they will take us next.