Today I got to Interview John Ballay from Knot Standard. I hope you enjoy it!
Ari: I just want to remind everyone that one of the basic principles of Less Doing is customization and that’s because we fortunately live in a world where there's all sorts of really great access to products from all around the globe at good prices but there is that adage that the thing that is made for everyone is made for no one. There's going to be national inefficiencies that exist in products that are mass produced whether it’s food or software or, in this case, clothing. So, even with clothing, yes, you can find efficiencies by getting things that are custom made. Not just for the look and feel but the utility as well. So with that, John, can you please tell everybody what Knot Standard is?
John: Absolutely and I think you segwayed into it perfectly when talking about the fact that we start out very frustrated with the fact that mass customization did not exist in the [0:59] industry 3 and 4 years ago. When you go into a department store, you're buying a brand off the rack and fitting for your size for your shape and for your body type. We thought, there has to be a better way to do this and three and a half years ago, that spawned the idea that is Knot Standard. The brand name itself stands for the fact that nothing you make with us is ever standard; everything you make is completely custom to your mind, completely custom to your body type and to your interests and style as well. Now what this led to was an e-commerce platform where, from anywhere on the globe, you could order custom clothing. You can do your measurements via webcam, visit your local tailor. When we get your unique measurements, we could produce – within 4 weeks’ time – a fully custom suit, shirt, jacket or blazer and have it delivered to your doorstep in under a one month time period. That’s how the whole idea started and where we are today, of course, is with customers all over the globe. The [2:04] is really being that nothing we could find was [2:10].
Ari: Now, so one of the cool things obviously here, beside the fact that you can do this from anywhere in the world, is I'm particularly fascinated by the measuring process because when people think about custom suits and stuff, I think there's like images in their head and movies with someone standing in front of a three-sided mirror and a tailor is measuring every part of them. So, yeah and obviously to get the right fit, you need to be properly measured. I think most people are used to going into a store and getting 42 regular and that’s the way it is.
Ari: But they don’t realize that there's measurements of your biceps and your neck and your chest with the nipples and then everywhere. So, the measurement by webcam is kind of amazing to me, how does that work?
John: Sure. We were lucky enough, about a year and a half ago, to find out that it wouldn’t be impossible to use your laptop webcam and a cd disc for scale, step about ten feet back from your laptop and, using our program, measure yourself from head to toe and get data that’s good enough to make you a custom suit. I know that you said you very, very specific, 99% accurate data that will then be imported into your measurements and have you measured for like fully custom suits. You touched on the old way to be measured which was famously from the opening scene of Thomas Crown Affair where he’s standing in front of the three mirrors with the video camera with the glasses on; that’s certainly one way to do it but modern technology has afforded us an amazing opportunity to use software that allows us to be measured via our webcam. So through our partnership with [3:57], we were able to offer customers the ability to measure themselves within their home in under 15 minutes time. It’s a pretty incredible thing, the uptake is fantastic.
Ari: Yeah. By the way, I was actually – in my head – I was thinking of the scene in Scent of a Woman where he’s getting measured but besides that…
John: Al Pacino and Pierce Bronson.
Ari: Absolutely; and obviously there's that convenience that once you get measured, you guys have the measurements. If I get a suit and then I want to get some pants, then I want to get a shirt – whatever – I just got back and I order and I know that every time it’s gonna fit me right. Now, what happens if it doesn’t fit – for some reason?
John: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a couple of different ways that you can interpret fit; the customer’s always right. So, if a guy comes in and he’s lean or he’s overweight, we want to fit him how this customer desires it to be. Now, connecting the dots between the two can be difficult especially when we’re working remote. We’re talking to him on the phone if he’s in California or Austin, Vienna or Dubai. It’s difficult because you're trying to think how well is it going to fit this individual and how do we make him happy. So, thankfully [5:12] are 100% guaranteed. If there's anything you don’t like about it [5:17], you can send it back. Obviously when people receive the suit [5:22], we never see suits coming back to us. What we do is we work with them on the alterations. So if an individual wants to go to a local tailor in Austin or in Dubai, we help them source the local tailor and we cover the alterations bill. We put a $75 cap on that on future orders; all of the first orders are 100% guaranteed and we will work with that individual to make sure that we have him in a suit that is exactly how he wanted, exactly to his needs, and something that he’s excited and happy to wear out on the town that first time.
Ari: Right and I think that that’s great. I deal obviously with a lot of people who are dealing with wellness issues and seeing their bodies change and I think it still holds true, New Man, New Suit kind of thing. It just feels good to get a suit that fits right. Let’s talk about price points. I know that, for a while, actually I remember there was an article in Esquire a long time ago – maybe 5, 7 or longer ago and one of the things it said what every man should have is a $500 suit. That one suit that which apparently performs miracles but what's your standard price point?
John: Yeah, absolutely. A segue off the Esquire comment, we’re actually in last week’s issue of Esquire’s bio black book which all the newest technology companies innovative on custom suiting. So, I think the old article has certainly come a long way, in terms of what the modern perception is for what you should pay for a quality custom suit. Our prices start at [7:08] for suits, 350 for blazers, and $75 for shirts. Online, you’ll see that the ceiling is around [7:17] for suits. You can actively say that we work in between the 500 to $1000 range for custom suits and we work in the 75 to $120 range for custom shirts available at knotstandard.com. Within this price range, we've also gone out of our way to include branded fabric such as Harem Sherry, Scabal, VDC, some of the biggest names in Italy and in respect of Italy, to give people an opportunity to comfort that. Not only are you getting value but you're getting a very big brand name fabric as well.
Ari: I think that’s amazing. I'm not just saying this; people can honestly look at this as an investment in themselves, the way that they present themselves not only in business but professionally in general. Another thing that I want to point out to everybody is when we’re talking about the custom suits here; we’re not just talking about fit. We’re really talking, you can go into this more John, but details as far as the cut and the pleats even. I mean everything.
John: Absolutely. On that note, fit is first off most important. If you're going to focus on one thing, it’s the outfit; get the fit right. Once you have the fit right, from there your options become the word fun is how we describe it here in the office. Checkered lining, do you want your name inside the jacket? Do you want your son’s name or a phrase by your favorite artist or poet? All of these customization angles are the details. The jacket; do you want it to be double breasted or single breasted on the jacket. Do you want your pants to be flat front, cuffed? The options are seemingly endless [9:09]. Everyone wears business trousers from time to time and they have their preference; pleats or no pleats? Cuffs or no cuffs? Making it easy for the customer. Your jacket, would you like it two button or are you a taller guy and want the three button? Making it simple for the customer. Walk him through what he should choose for his body type and then from there, you can get really unique. Do you want your last button hole on your sleeve to be purple? Do you want your inside of your jacket to say something special? There's some really cool things we can do and getting creative with the customers is really one of the most [9:43]. If a guy comes through and buy a standard maybe suit. What does he do the next time? How far outside of his realm of comfort does he go in terms of customization? One of our favorite things to see are our repeat buyers.
Ari: Yeah and I even think one of the cool options you have is to have a ticket pocket which would normally be kind of pretty old school but nowadays it’s a great thing for an iPhone or something. I think that’s a really nice little added feature.
John: Exactly. The ticket pocket has really skyrocketed in popularity. I think [10:19] an English innovation from the [10:22] but we have a lot of customers who request a ticket pocket because conveniently it’s about the same size as an iPhone. We assume that’s what most customers are using it for...
Ari: It’s funny how that works out. So you have suits, you have shirts, which are all really amazing looking, and then you have some more casual stuff like blazers and trousers? Are there pants for other kinds of things like polo or things like that?
John: Yes, absolutely. We have a lot of things in the works for the holidays. Not to leave out too much of the excitement, but we are going to be coming out with some cashmere scarves. We’re looking at doing polo’s [11:04], a couple of cool holiday surprises that I’ll keep under wrap until they come out in our campaign here in the coming weeks. But, really taking Knot Standard from a custom suiting brand into a full-fledged apparel company is obviously the long goal and with that, what do guys want? They want style, they want cufflinks, both of which [11:25] right now through the spring. [11:28] custom and unique to their own specifications. The answer is yes and you'll be [11:34] first of the year. The options really are endless but what we try to focus on features of casual and formal guy’s wardrobe that he needs and he wears every day. And through the request of our customers, we’ve been able to come up with a group of what we think those things are and [11:54] rolling them out on the website here one week at a time.
Ari: That’s just awesome. John, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me but I like to ask this sort of finishing question whenever I interview someone. What are the top three things that you kind of…. your top three personal tips for being more effective every day. Whether it’s productivity or wellness related; what are those three things that just make you more awesome every day?
John: Yeah, absolutely. The first of which is have a plan. I think that’s the biggest. Wake up at whatever time, have a plan. If you're a 6:30 riser and you want to go from 6am to 10pm full-fledged, know that you're going to be filling up in those inner minute chunks throughout the day. Be scheduled. The second of which is exercise. I think it’s a huge thing for [12:49]. And the last of which I think is you definitely need a sense of humor. I think that everything we do could all be taken too seriously. Whether you work in MMA or you're selling custom computers, I think you should have a sense of humor, smile, laugh and just try to enjoy yourself and what you're dealing in. Those three things; I think it makes for a lot healthier and happier life.
Ari: I like those. I think those are great. Tell everybody where they can find out more and buy a suit.
John: Absolutely. All of the listeners can go to www.knotstandard.com; Knot Standard is with a “K” by the way. So, www.knotstandard.com and using the code 8M10 at checkout will receive 10% of their first order. This is for people globally. For anyone based in the New York area that wants to come [13:46], we’re offering all of your listeners, their first custom shirt for free, on us, upon scheduling an appointment with our office here. Between global listeners and all the New York City listeners, we’re excited to see you [14:01].
Ari: Well, thanks John, that’s a very generous offer. We’ll have all that information in the show notes as well. So, John thanks a lot for your time and we look forward to seeing more custom apparel coming out from you guys soon.
John: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate it.