Earlier this summer I was asked by online tailors Tailor4less if I would like a free custom tuxedo in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I haven’t had much luck with discount mail-order suit makers but I figured with such a generous and risky offer this company must either really believe in their product or have a marketing rep who is just really ballsy.
Considering how bad the product turned out to be, the rep must have some supersized cojones indeed.
Cost and Ordering Process
- startling low prices: $239 (all prices USD) for a tuxedo made from standard fabrics (polyester and/or super 100s wool), $25-$50 additional for premium fabrics (super 130s to super 180s)
- lots of no-cost options to choose from including functioning buttonholes for the sleeves
- helpful demo videos showing how to properly take measurements
- friendly customer service (albeit only via e-mail)
- free international shipping (although this excludes import fees which were $25 in my case)
- very fast delivery: my first order arrived 12 days after I placed it
- the English version of site is awkwardly translated (for example, they refer to tuxedo trouser stripes as “tape”) although the tuxedo ordering pages are much improved since they adopted many of my recommendations
- Barcelona-based customer service and Shanghai-based manufacturing amounts to lengthy delays in correspondence, particularly with North American customers
Fit and Quality
- the suit generally fit well, better than I was expecting considering the cost (I would expect minor alterations to be necessary with any mail-order custom tailored suit)
- the fabric was genuinely midnight blue (not navy) and seemed to be of decent quality, particularly for that price point (it was described as super 100s wool)
- the jacket pockets were sewn closed which was a smart way to prevent the openings from sagging over time
- spare covered buttons are supplied (large and small sizes)
- the trousers included suspender buttons as I had specially requested
- at 450g (13.3 oz) the midnight-blue material was the heaviest fabric they carried yet they classified it as “year round”, a category that included weights as light as 280g (for the record, 300-340g or 9-10 oz is generally recommended for year-round suits)
- the jacket was comically short – 1.5″ shorter than my other tailored jackets (I thought that leaving the trouser seat half exposed may have been a deliberate fashion-forward style but the illustrations on their web site show their suit jackets completely covering the seat, just as my other made-to-measure jackets do)
- the interlining in the front of the jacket was extremely stiff, to the point where it was almost impossible to steam out the folds created during the packing & shipping process
- the lapel roll stopped well above the front button (as depicted on their site) which made the button appear oddly disconnected from the rest of the jacket
- the lapels are very narrow (as depicted on their site) which guarantees the suit style will become outmoded within a few years
- although the facing had an interesting subtle texture it was very thick and stiff
- the collar was faced when it shouldn’t be
- although I ordered a second pairs of trousers to compare the pleated and flat-front styles (this had to be specified via email as the order form assumes the second pair will be identical to the first) I was sent two pairs of pleated trousers
- the trouser trim was poorly sewn resulting in very visible puckering
- the trousers had a covered button for the rear pocket (instead of the usual plastic button) and for the front waistband (instead of the usual clasp) resulting in uncessary bulk
The waistcoat, meanwhile, was a total joke. While they do offer a classic evening waistcoat style – they call it a ceremonial waistcoat - it can only be ordered online as part of a 3-piece tailcoat set (which is wrong in and of itself). Therefore I was instructed to order a regular waistcoat online and separately e-mail details specific to the ceremonial waistcoat styling, right down to the width of the lapels at their top and bottom (1.5″ widening to 2.5″). Despite all this extra instruction what I actually I received was a regular waistcoat tarted up with notched lapels:
Finally, it’s important to note that there is one significant quality factor I did not explore: the jacket’s ability to hold up to dry-cleaning. Cheaply made jackets use cheap fusing (the gluing of the inner canvas to the outer fabric in the jacket’s torso and lapels) which causes the glue and overlying fabric to bubble up when heated during the cleaning process.
- The company offers a fit guarantee that is pretty impressive, at least on paper. They will either reimburse alterations done by a local tailor up to US$50 or they will remake the garment if necessary.
- I sent photos of the short jacket and they agreed to remake it. This time around they asked me to indicate the length of an existing jacket and the resulting replacement was the correct length. (They really should have asked for this measurement up front. Their standard instructions ask customers to wear a properly fitting dress shirt and trousers during the measuring process which is a very wise idea, but there was no mention of also wearing a jacket. Instead they based the jacket length only on the distance from the shoulder line to the the middle of the thumb which none of my other tailors do.)
- The jacket had a proper self collar (as I had instructed them).
- Surprisingly, despite my not commenting on the stiffness of the jacket, the replacement had a much more pliable interlining and also a thinner, more refined lapel facing that allowed the lapel to roll properly.
- due to the previously mentioned lengthy delays in correspondence and the very specific additional measurements I had to send (along with photos), the replacement jacket did not arrive until a month after I first informed the company of the issues with the original order
- the jacket didn’t fit as well as the original and the sleeve heads were poorly constructed as were the pocket openings (wrinkled from being sewn too tightly)
- although I took this opportunity to request that the lapels be 1 cm wider and was assured this was no problem, the lapels on the replacement jacket were actually narrower than on the original
- as nice as the new lapel facing was, it no longer matched the facing on the trousers as it was noticeably blacker and shinier; when I asked for new trousers to match they refused without addressing the issue (other than asking me what I meant by “facing”), informing me only that one jacket replacement was enough (even though I had specifically asked for trouser replacement instead of another jacket in order for them to save costs)
- as for the trousers, despite sending them the above photos they steadfastly refused to accept that both pairs were pleated and instead repeatedly insisted that one trouser just had an ironed crease (not surprisingly, they declined to indicate which was which)
- they did not even deign to acknowledge the complaint about the puckering on the stripe
- similarly, they insisted that the waistcoat was just what I ordered online, ignoring the custom instructions I had emailed to their sales rep as requested (not to mention the fact that they had sent me a regular waistcoat instead of the “ceremonial” waistcoat shown on the web page that their very own sales rep had pointed me to)
I have to say I really wanted this suit to be a success. Besides the obvious benefit of receiving a complementary tuxedo for myself I wanted to be able to tell my readers I had found a very affordable source of classically styled and decently tailored evening wear, an extremely rare combination these days. Thus I provided the company with plenty of patient instruction and plenty of opportunities to follow that instruction. Unfortunately they turned down most of these opportunities leaving me with mismatched and missized jackets, shoddily trimmed trousers and a comically incorrect waistcoat all of which are unusable.
While my only investment was $50 in import fees and my valuable time, if I was a paying customer I would have been livid. As I learned long ago, a tempting discount can result in lost money as easily as saved money. Yes, their $239 tuxedo is less than a quarter of the price of a locally-tailored equivalent but if it ends up in the garbage then that’s still $239 gone up in smoke.
September 24, 2012
Two and a half weeks after my post I received an official response from Customer Service. In the interest of balanced reporting, here’s what they had to say:
- they are always working to improve their translations
- their response time is 24-48 hours regardless of the customer’s location and allows for the fact they don’t work on weekends (even though I actually waited six days for an answer once)
- material samples can be provided upon request so that customers can be sure of their fabric choice before placing their order (they misunderstood that my complaint was not about the quality of the fabric but about the incorrect categorization of its weight)
- remakes takes longer to construct than original garments and customers are informed of this “in the first communication”
- Tailor4Less will reimburse up to 20% of import fees and provide the value of the remainder in credit
- they pointed out that the first jacket length was made to my specifications (in fact, as noted above, I just gave them the measurements they asked for in the order form – it was their decision to use those particular measurements to determine jacket length that I have a problem with)
- they are sticking to their claim that only one pair of pants is pleated and the other is ironed; they also reminded me yet again that I was actually only entitled to one pair of pants as part of this review process
- they finally admitted the waistcoat they provided was not what I ordered and offered to remake it
They concluded by telling me I should take into account the fact that they have a 98% customer satisfaction rate. I didn’t bother asking them for the data behind this claim just as I won’t bother to order a replacement waistcoat. Their failure to truly understand many of my complaints, their ongoing silence regarding the poor workmanship and inconsistent standards and their inability to differentiate between something as simple as a pleat and a crease make it clear that they view most of my issues as my problem, not theirs.