Co-Founder, Cad & The Dandy
The Tailoring Brand Reviving Savile Row Takes on America
British tailoring brand Cad & The Dandy is Savile Row’s largest. Since its establishment in 2008, the company has opened three shops across London, each with their own bespoke workshops, making garments for members of The Royal Family and stars of the big screen. Their NYC pied-a-terre is open full time for new bespoke suits, bespoke shirts and tailored separates as well as follow-up fittings. The addition of their New York location adds to their Savile Row flagship store, original City of London base in Birchin Lane and Götrich, their base in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. Here, co-founder Ian Meiers shares his entrepreneurial journey:
Tell British American Business about your entrepreneurial story, and starting Cad & The Dandy.
I started my career in wealth management at Barclays Bank, which was a great place to gain business experience. Although I enjoyed my time I always wanted to run my own business and in 2008 decided it was time to take action. I looked in to different opportunities and brainstormed dozens of ideas, but the one that grabbed me was an idea for a modern bespoke tailors. Early in her career, my mother had worked as a couturier in London’s Mayfair making suits for the Queen, so I had a good insight in to the industry and could see there was room for a shake up on Savile Row.
Why did you start the business?
I wanted to leave banking and work in an environment where I could create something tangible, something that I was passionate about, and bespoke tailoring fitted the bill perfectly. I could apply my business experience to what was an antiquated industry. Savile Row is a fantastic British institution but I could see that business practices hadn’t changed in decades. Producing Savile Row quality was a must but I saw an opportunity to modernise the style, improve the customer service and offer more competitive pricing to challenge the sky high prices on the Row.
What’s your USP?
Our combination of a modern cut suit, friendly service and aggressive price point has made us the busiest tailor on Savile Row.
Savile Row tailors have their house style and stick to it, where as we offer flexibility and aim to always create what our customers want. We pride ourselves on our classic Savile Row suit, with its high armhole and closely fitting silhouette, but have innovated and offer options of softer shoulders and softer Italian style jackets for the weekend. We recognise customer demands are changing and they don’t want to look like their grandfathers, so we introduced choice and brought the Savile Row suit in to the 21st Century.
I saw room for improvement on how customers are serviced. Some of our competitors are known for their intimidating approach so we make a point of greeting all customers with a smile and a friendly handshake instead of looking them up and down when they walk through our door. We do simple things like publishing our price list on our website so customers know what to expect when they come in. And, we were the first Savile Row tailor to open on a Saturday, which has proved to be our busiest day and something our competitors have started to follow.
Archaic business practices are rife on Savile Row. You need to highly organise your business if you’re going to deliver a slick service to your customers. I set up a cloud based ordering system that allowed me to automate the administrative side of things. This saves on unnecessary administrative work creating a streamlined model that enabled us to take the turnaround time for a full bespoke suit down from the Savile Row average of 4-6 months to just eight weeks. This efficiency also allowed us to bring our pricing down – we’re now offering a fully hand made bespoke suit for a third of the price of our neighbours.
Tell us about your decision to expand into America.
For years Savile Row tailors have travelled to America and today the US market accounts for around 60% of Savile Row’s business. After the financial crisis a lot of our London customers moved back to New York, requesting that we set up regular trunk shows so they could continue to order from us. These became so popular that it made sense to open permanently in New York. It always surprises me that more Savile Row tailors haven’t opened over here, but general operational and staffing issues may put them off.
In the flux of Brexit, you have successfully exported to America and Europe (Stockholm) can you share more about your experiences of this process, and why was now the right time to expand to the US?
Brexit has created a lot of uncertainty, which is never good for business, so I wanted to create a Brexit hedge. Stockholm was an underserviced market with limited access to tailoring and has proven to be a small but good market for us. The US offers a huge opportunity. The economy is strong and the scale of the market is far bigger than we’re used to back home. In the UK I wouldn’t consider opening a high end bespoke tailors outside of London, but in the US there are ten cities I could easily open in. If you deliver and take care of your customers there’s a lot of potential in the US.
What has been the biggest learning for you since opening up in America?
You have to understand why an American would want to buy from your business. Sometimes just being British isn’t a strength when opening in the State,
but for us we quickly realised it was why customers were coming to us – they want the expertise of Savile Row tailors. We’ve made a point of replicating our Savile Row experience in our Midtown New York showroom, ensuring all our staff are Savile Row trained.
What advice would you give to other British businesses looking to expand to the US?
Remember that although the UK and America share the same language it doesn’t mean that business is the same. Laws are different, reporting requirements are different and staff expectations are different. I offered a job to an American and asked her how much she was earning, which is standard practice in the UK, but it’s not in America. It made salary negotiations somewhat frosty. Also, expect to pay staff 30%-40% more in the States and factor in extras like sizeable healthcare bills. In terms of customers, I’ve really enjoyed the American client base, they really engage with what we’re doing. The stories of fiery New Yorkers couldn’t be further from the truth!
Tell us about how you work with innovation and technology
We’ve invested heavily in our cloud based order processing platform. Our system automatically orders up cloth for each order, produces our production schedules and contacts customer by email and SMS to arrange appointments at their convenience. It’s taken away the administrative burden associated with running a bespoke tailoring business. It took significantly more time and money to develop than I initially thought and ten years in we’re continuing to develop it, but the efficiency it has brought to our business is incredible. A couple of our competitors tried to copy our system but gave up part way though as it proved too difficult.
How does the American style differ from the British style?
Historically, Americans have preferred a softer, looser garment than the English. The shoulders have less padding, the sleeve head has less roping and there’s less shaping at the waist. The American suit is a reflection of Italian tailoring’s influence in the US and the boxier fit that came from the introduction of mass suit production in the US, where the “sack suit” was cut with more allowance so it could fit as many people as possible. The cut is not so figure hugging and normally comes with a belt to hold the trousers up. This contrasts to the classic English suit, with a high armhole and structured body allowing more at the waist. The trousers on an English suit are typically worn with a side adjust instead of a belt, which creates a cleaner look. Times are changing though, with consumers having access to more styles of suit than ever before. This is certainly reflected in the Cad & The Dandy customer based in New York, where our customers are often well informed and looking for a sharper, more tailored fit.
What can we expect from Cad & The Dandy
We’re excited about how well the business is growing in the US. We have a way to go, but I can see us replicating what we created in London over here in the States. We’re looking to start trunk shows to Boston, Chicago and Dallas later this year and expand our New York presence with a second shop in early 2020.
Any closing remarks…
It’s been quite a shift from banking, but I couldn’t be happier that I made the leap.