Wellington Armani service adds competition
Already awash with suits, Wellington's corporate image is about to be further stitched up as Armani Collezioni has chosen the capital for its first made-to-measure service in New Zealand.
Men will be able to go to Vance Vivian and pay from $2895 for a custom-made Armani suit - or duty free ($2450). With 150 fabrics to choose from, including super fine wools, wool crepes, silks and linens, the suits will be made in Italy.
Made to the highest specifications in the factory that makes Armani Collezioni, Armani's suit jacket features semi-fused construction, and uses natural materials for a lightweight and comfortable feel. A personalised label features the customer's name, and the jacket comes with a possible 32 modifications. Designer Giorgio Armani says: "I looked around and realised that in every field, technology had made new methods of production possible, and yet in fashion, we were still using the techniques that had produced the clothes our fathers had worn.
"I started to ask why it was that as casual wear becomes more and more common, we could not achieve similar levels of comfort with our tailoring."
Each season Vance Vivian manager Conon Ford and co-owner Hamish Vance travel to Milan to buy the Armani Collezioni ready to wear line. The introduction of the made-to-measure service has been a year and a half in the planning, and the first order is expected to arrive in store this week.
"The customer is measured up here. Then their measurements and options - fabric, linings, vents and details - are recorded and sent to Italy where the suit is made," says Ford.
A few doors along from its store on Lambton Quay, Harfords Menswear is suiting up men in Rembrandt Custom suits that start at $795, and Barkers has just launched a "best off the rack range" of suits at a cost of $649.
Barkers' suits come in eight fabrics and two fits - slim and classic. Barkers head of merchandise Paul Biddle says: "In a difficult economic climate, a well- cut suit can make a big difference in how you're perceived in the job market. We saw a real opportunity to make a premium suit at an accessible price point."
Lower Hutt-based Rembrandt has gone a step further and in December launched Rembrandt Suit Hire to complement its range.
"We recognised there was a gap in the market for quality in the type of garment that we do normally," Rembrandt managing director David Lyford says. "Suits are increasingly about an event in someone's life; a job interview or a wedding. In the case of hire many guys out there are not in a position to buy a suit so they hire, and why shouldn't they get a good one?"
Rembrandt's hire service is available from selected retailers throughout the country, including Harfords, but operated from the company's Lower Hutt factory base where garments are cleaned, re-pressed and dispatched.
Another change for the iconic suiting brand, Rembrandt has also introduced a funkier ready-to-wear suit line, Wayward Heir, and will have four of its own stores in Auckland and Palmerston North by the middle of the year. It opened its first New Zealand standalone store in Newmarket in January. Twenty per cent of Rembrandt's suits are still made in New Zealand, mainly its top end, made-to-measure product.
Rembrandt also employs staff in China where its custom suits are produced under contract. The "custom service" includes a cut to fit the customer, cloth he chooses and the opportunity to add features such as the lining colour and style details.
While Rembrandt has been manufacturing in China for almost 20 years, its New Zealand-based made to measure service is staying put. In its factory, it also crafts made to measure suits for a small number of leading New Zealand suit brands, including Earl & English.
HOW SUITS MEASURE UP
Bespoke - fabric handcut, suit handmade, lots of hours, lots of dollars. Think haute couture and Savile Row. Made to measure - Customer is measured, gets to choose fabric, linings and details, including vents, stitching and buttons. Custom fit - Customising a standard suit to fit. Ready to wear - Suit bought off the rack.