The Menswear Style Podcast

Mats-Ola Ström, Co-Founder of Tailor Store

May 20, 2021 Menswear Style Episode 126
The Menswear Style Podcast
Mats-Ola Ström, Co-Founder of Tailor Store
Show Notes Transcript

You’re one of a kind, so why shouldn't your clothes be? Forget everything you thought you knew about sizes and fit, Tailor Store do true made to measure. No shady business, just really good custom-tailored clothes. Their tailors take pride in every step of the craft which includes cutting, sewing, and stitching garments with the utmost precision and care. Feel as good as you look knowing that your garment is made with sustainability in mind by well-compensated workers. Discover the true potential in custom clothing with unlimited design options. All their fabrics and designs are carefully selected to give you superior quality dress shirts at the best possible price.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Mats-Ola Ström, Co-Founder of Tailor Store about the story of when two friends decided to start their own bespoke clothing eCommerce business from Sri Lanka and Sweden in 2003. Our host Peter Brooker and Mats-Ola also talk about the difficulties of operating a company from different countries, using machine learning to accurately take body measurements, the process of making a bespoke garment, fabric trends, and how the pandemic has impacted the demand of formalwear.

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. On this episode I'm going to talk to Matt Ola, strum co founder of Taylor store. A little bit about Taylor store. You're one of a kind. So why shouldn't your clothes be? Forget everything you thought you knew about sizes and fit Taylor store do true me to measure, no shady business. Just really good custom tailored clothes. Their tailors take pride in every step of the craft, cutting, sewing and stitching garments with the utmost precision and care. feel as good as you look, knowing that your garment is made with sustainability in mind by well compensated workers. You want it, they've got it man discover the true potential in custom clothing with nearly unlimited design options. All their fabrics and designs are carefully selected to give you superior quality dress shirts at the best possible price. And here is Max Ola, in his own words to talk about Taylor store. As you mentioned, I'm one of the founders and Taylor store was originally founded in 2003, together with my longtime friend, Magnus loadbearing. And yeah, we there was, of course, some beer and some laughs involved in the beginning. And we had this crazy idea because Magnus my friend, he went to university, and in his last year there he went as an exchange student to Sri Lanka for six weeks in the summer, and he came back wearing a really nice shirt. And he told me he paid something like five pounds, something like that for that at the tailor on the street. And we started discussing you say, can we do this? Can we like import this stuff and sell it and we both have background being tech nerds. And we were used to doing a lot of programming, but we didn't know a lot about menswear, so, but I was recently unemployed. And he was finishing up his last year in school. So we kind of thought we had nothing to lose. So we got in contact with some of his old bosses in Sri Lanka. And asked him Can you find some guy that we can use to send to just probe the market and see if we can find some supplier? And so one of them did. And we got a contact who helped us build a first little tailor shop in the middle of the jungle in Sri Lanka. So is this bespoke at this moment? Are you building a website that is just going to be ready to wear now it was always bespoke from the beginning. Okay, we never did ready to wear because we saw the possibilities of of custom were there what we could do. And he gave us a unique selling point to the customer that you can get your fully customised shirt to your measurements for almost no money. So we started building a website during the fall of 2003. And then accidentally we published it and accidentally we caught an order to without doing any marketing or even letting anyone know we existed. So then we got a hunch that hey, this, this might actually work. And back then, I I can't be proud of the quality that we delivered. And looking back with what we No no, no, no. We probably wouldn't have started it but we, we moved on and we we tried our best to improve the quality. And finally, years later, we had a product that actually was really good at a really good price. So and is this still through the Sri Lankan tailors or? Yes, still with the same tailors? Yeah. We had a small house in the middle of the jungle and then it grew to another house and another house and until we got actually Magnus his old boss. We employed Him as our boss down there. He still is our boss down there to this day one Yeah, um, how does that work? Is he kind of like a native speaker or Sri Lankan? No. Is there any kind of barrier? How do they speak relatively good English, these guys? They do. It's an old English colony. So they have English as a second language down there. And not everyone speaks it, but most people know a bit of it. Okay. So excuse my ignorance on that, because I've not been to Sri Lanka. But I have been to Thailand and hollyanne. Over in Vietnam. And so I don't know if you are familiar with hollyanne. But they might not really know. They have like a, one of the main streets is a UNESCO protected city and one of their main streets is completely wrong retailers. It's like 100, or tailors down there. And my girlfriend and I said, whilst we're here, let's get a couple of suits and shirts, because you know, it was very good money and the quality look good. And as we were buying this stuff, and we were impressed with the garments, I just said, Look, this is something that we could do when we take home, you know, we can still order online, they have arrangements, etc, when getting sent over. And gradually, I guess the idea kind of spurned into is, well, let's see if we can snowball this and have other people involved. And maybe we'll set up a store similar to yours. And I'll just cut to the end. But the main hurdle that we had was that we couldn't find anyone at ground zero there that will talk to the seamstresses or talk to them. And it was just one step too far the date was there, all of the all of their clients and their databases, it wasn't digitised, but it will all that waiting for an opportunity to come along. So yeah, maybe you can talk about those steps for you and how you managed to kind of get it from there to Yeah, as I as I mentioned, it was really important for us to get this contact, and to really be able to have some one single point of contact to manage everything. But it wasn't easy. I mean, we have lots of funny stories that in 2003, the internet was not widespread. So the guy who handled our connections down there, he had to go into town every day and go to an internet cafe and see if there was a new email from us. And wow, that was really primitive. actually took us one and a half years before we actually went down to see him for the first time. And before that, we had sold 1000s of shirts and all were delivered. So it worked out but we really feel felt that we needed to go there and meet him then. And of course the same thing. There was no cell collect connection or or internet in the jungle. So yeah, so the communication as the linchpin. Yeah, yeah, that was a really big problem. But we managed through that. And finally, we got him an old modem and a computer that he could have. So they actually could, we were completely paper based back then. So we did print out from we built a system that stored all the measurements, and then they printed them out and gave to the tailors and they follow the instructions. So they could do that. And yeah, sorry. Yeah, no, no, I was gonna ask, how has the technology moved on for you now as in I, so I actually had a suit through tailor store. And I remember actually, must be in about five years ago, I'll guess. Yeah, I remember giving the physical measurements. My girlfriend measured me up. And we and we sent the measurements along now revisiting your website, again, you have a new apps a new kind of technology that can help people in measurements, perhaps you can touch upon that for us. But yeah, sure. Well, a lot has happened both since back then. But in the last five years, we have done a lot of improvements in the digital domain. That is one thing that we can using machine learning and years and years of customer measurement data. And a lot of experience that we have developed the algorithms for this app to to accurately take your measurements using Bluetooth to photographs. And this is an in house solution. It's not something that we bought. It's completely made by us. It's all about podcasts. You're listening to Matt solo. This Week in tech with Matt Stoller is my new app. Yeah, really? No, actually, we are both nodes. And still to this day, we're doing coding, both me and my co founder. So that's kind of our passion. So is that hobbyist for you? I mean, like, Did you get schooled up on coding Did you get through education or just stuff you're learning as you're going? Well, in my experience, usually the best coders are dos. That's Do it from passion, not from men education. So But back to the to the app, that we found that the results that we were getting from these algorithms were much better than having people that weren't that experienced taking their own measurements, it's more accurately using a tape because a tape can be put so many ways in the body. And you might be relaxed, you might not be, you might be just had a big meal. I mean, it's there's so many variables that makes the app more accurate than than doing a normal type. And another thing is that we take the responsibility for the measurements from the customer to us, we guarantee that your that your garments fit, and they don't have to worry about that. We are not satisfied until they are comfortable in the garments. And once you are you can order again and again again. So it's it's proven really great. And right now I can I can divulge that we are working on an even better algorithm that is based on many, many more profiles of data that will be even better and easier to use as well. So and can you patent this technology? Or once it's out there? Can other people grab hold of it? And then on their own sites? Well, I would say that the it's not. We're in the EU. So software is not patentable. And still, there is a lot of background data that makes this possible that you just can't copy if you don't have the data. So we're not worried about that. I mean, like someone wanted to set up their own ecommerce store, because I have seen it on other sites before I'm trying to figure out once you release it, they don't go out. Great. Thanks for doing that. We'll have it. Yeah, yeah, no, no, that's not really possible for them to do. But there are other companies doing the same thing. And selling into a service, for example. And we tried some of them out. But it's always felt better to have your own solution that you have full control of that. So can you talk a little bit about some of the suits, please. And some of the shirts? I'm interested to know, what are the common requests by some of your clients, old ones and new ones, and you get to experiment at all with different fabrics, maybe a bit more quirky of fabrics? How bespoke Do you really go over there? Well, we have a pretty good production system and production technology. So we can experiment very easily by just buying a few 100 metres of fabric and trying it out if we want to. And it's easy to test on demand. Of course, that said, if we look at the top T, top 10 of our fabrics that are sold, it's white, white, white, white, and light blue. So okay, a white shirt. You mean and yeah, mostly Yeah. Yeah, no light blue shirts as well. And then suits is of course, the staples, the the black, the dark blue ones. And but we would like to offer even more than we do today, we have over 200 short fabrics, for example, we would like to extend that as well. And the suit fabrics as well. But we have to test some and remove some and buy new ones like that. Often there are customer requests, of course. And sometimes it's easy to, to arrange for that. But sometimes it's a little bit too non commercial for us to do. So. We have issues. But that said, our product manager and she is real really good at experimenting with new blends of fabrics and for example, silk blends or wool blends or things like that and find new exciting products to work with. So that's really fun to try out. I mean, everyone at the office, they are test pilots for new things. Yeah, well imagine your own wardrobe must be pretty. Yeah, it's huge. And how do you I'm imagining you have your own wing of your house dedicated. My wife wish I did. And where do you get the fabric from? Are they also in Sri Lanka as well? Are they local? Yes, some are local. Very few. Select few because it's right I used to have a large fabric industry back in the 80s. But there was a civil war for about 30 years and it collapsed much of the economy in the country. So there's not much left, sadly. So most of our fabrics come from India or China today, some from Turkey. Okay, well, and what are people asking for in ways of fabric? Is there like a type of wool? Are we gonna getting lighter with some of the balls as well? I'm just trying to get a very I know, it's a bit of a generic question. But maybe Yeah, of course, join the dots on what the trends are and what people are asking for. You must be seeing some Yeah, yeah, of course, me personally, I love the light rules. They're perfectly they drape very beautifully. And they're really, really comfortable to wear. But different locations called the different fabrics. So we tried to have a pretty wide assortment to offer something to everyone. Now for the summer, linen is very popular. And as well as people using the app and giving you their data and details that way, do they also get the opportunity to send you say like photos of suits they've seen in films on certain characters? Yeah. Do you have that kind of? Are they able to access you that way? Yeah. We have a if I, if I may say so myself, we have a great customer service. They are very dedicated. And they try really, really hard to please every customer. And everyone can of course, mail their wishes to them and have an a reply very quickly, and to get help with what they're looking for. We cannot always provide them with what they want. But in most cases we were able to help. Great. Well, good to know. And how is things with the pandemic over in a Sri Lanka and with your own in house team? How's it how's it panning out? Yeah, well, we had 2020. In March, we had we went down to South Africa had a great photoshoot with a couple of models came hometown. Yeah. The food in Cape Town is it's beautiful. It's it's really a dream destination. It's so good. Then we came home and we went to Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks to do some work down there. And the day after we landed in Copenhagen and went back to Sweden, Denmark close down, and then Germany closed down and everything and we just saw the sales plummet the first month or two in the entity pandemic. It was it was a really scary situation, actually. But we had to do a lot of restructuring and and just cutting costs. And that has been good for the company, of course, because sometimes you need to have a look at yourself in the mirror and see what do we what are we spending our money on. But there is definitely less demand in general for well dressed men's wear. Because most people they they spend her workday at home right now. And I was talking to a stockbroker the other week and he said, Yeah, well, in the beginning of the pandemic, everyone, they dressed up in their shirts and suits when they were sitting in the zoom meetings. Right now. It's, it's widely accepted to just wear a T shirt because no one cares anymore. So that was kind of depressing. Yeah, confidence booster. Yeah. But still, we have seen a little bump back now during 2021. We are we're seeing the return of the demand. Actually. Not in 2019 levels yet, but we're getting there. So I think there must be an appetite for it. Still people like you say can spend enough time at home but there's only so much time you feel good about yourself in yet and gown, right? Yeah. So I know a lot of people speak to a lot of people in the trade they just as eager to wear that good buttoned up. As they are just around the house. Now we expect that there is a huge pent up demand that will just release when everyone gets their vaccines and start returning to normal life. Probably around this. Autumn. Something like that. Then, then we're ready. Good to go. Well, mozzarella, thanks so much for taking time out to speak to us today. It's great to finally meet you. I do believe I spoke to Magnus eavers and he interview it was an impersonal forget. Yeah, no, it's and it's great that you've stayed the course as well. I think there's been a lot of people including myself that have tried to follow in your footsteps and yeah, try to get things going and and I know how hard if not Mission Impossible it is to do something like that. So well. The idea is not new. I mean, I met 100 people like you saying exactly the same thing. We went to Thailand, we picked up insurance found that everyone got the Thailand Yeah, they find it a good business idea, but no one makes anything of it because the first few steps are really really hard to do. Yeah. Yeah. I felt like such a cliche. You know, I should have just started. Honestly, I had a whole business plan out about six months dedicated to that thing. Just couldn't get it off the ground. Anyways, that's me. I'm glad you did, though, makes it a lot easier for me to buy suits. That's how I always ask this of Swedish people when they come on. I presume you Swedish I know. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The most famous Swedish person for you. Is it dove London? Or is Latin Ebrahim of edge? Well, I'll have to go with slot on it. Yeah. I would like to go with often. But so I'll chalk that up. I've got a poll going over and I pull it out once. Yeah, back in the day. It used to be Bjorn Borg. The tennis player. Yeah. But yeah, I'm not wearing his pants. I was gonna show you. I've got like, Oh, yeah, I bought loads and loads of young bull pants back in the day because I bought one and they're just so comfy. And they've stayed with me because I haven't really changed my way. He sold it too early. He doesn't make any money off it. Still has he sold the brand name. Oh, really? Such a good name that I mean, you don't have to do anything in life. If you got a name out there. You just stick that on anything? Yeah. I digress massively. That solar. Thank you so much for coming on, taking time out to speak to you and best of luck for the future. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Well, thank you, Matt sola. Once where you can check out all the information and get in touch with the guys over there at Taylor store.com we'll leave all the details and links over on the show notes over at WWW dot menswear style.co.uk or the social app menswear style. Give us a follow Say hi, let us know you're out there receiving this broadcast. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of The menswear style podcast. If you like what you hear, why not leave a review. It does help our egos and if you want to be a guest on the show. Tell us about your brand and your journey. You can email us here at info at menswear style dot code at UK until next time,