I should start by saying that I was a happy Indochino customer for years. They enabled me to afford some of the best-fitting suits I’ve ever worn and suits that rival far more expensive premium brands. I get compliments every single time I wear one of their suits or jackets.
This “fantasy rebrand” is an effort to raise the bar for the first company to put made-to-measure into the hands of men who – until Indochino – could never afford it. I think Indochino is great, but I think it could be amazing. The challenge is to elevate the brand from an entry-level “first suit” brand into a bigger league among heavier players – something that would also be attractive to a more seasoned and sophisticated suit buyer.
In terms of function, flow, ease-of-use and technical execution, it must be acknowledged that Indochino arguably has the best website in all of men’s wear. It runs beautifully, from desktop, to tablet to smartphone. The bare responsive application is as close to perfect as any online shopping site I’ve ever encountered. All other brands should use it as a case study. Seriously.
The aesthetics, however, are something else. The look and feel is a bit cold and technical. The palette of stark white with gray type and steely blue splash color strike me as more appropriate for a tech website like Apple or Samsung. There’s not much romance, warmth or glamour to it.
I’ve never understood why stylish but affordable brands can’t speak the same visual language used by exclusive luxury brands that make so many aspirational consumers salivate. There seems to be some unwritten rule that less expensive brands have to look more “accessible,” which often translates to cheap, less special, less “exclusive” or even cheesy. Why? Why not look exclusive, chic and sexy as all hell while having a pleasantly surprising price tag? Something for men of real taste and sophistication who might not have thousands of dollars to spend on Tom Ford, Isaia or Savile Row bespoke.
Too many of the merchandise/catalog photos on Indochino’s website showcase the suits in an unnecessarily poor light. The suits sometimes look ill-fitting, which is completely inappropriate for a company pledging a perfect fit. Jackets sometimes look pulled tight (particularly in the chest), and shoulder divots abound. Big no-no. It’s frustrating to see, knowing from personal experience that Indochino’s suits look and fit much better than what is often depicted in the images. They can do better.
The editorial photos used for seasonal collections, promotions, lookbooks, etc. should follow the James Bond rule: shot in a location where we’d love to be, featuring men we’d love to be (or be with). They should be images we wish we could live in. Make it sexy.
Almost invariably, I have to repeat myself when I tell people where I got my suit. “Indochine?” “Indochina?” “Who?” are common responses. An unusual name is good, but an unusual name that is nearly identical to other very common words is a tricky prospect that invites confusion.
I have always found the word “Indochino” awkward to say. There’s an old guideline in marketing that suggests that women’s fragrances should have names that are easy for men to say. When a man is buying a perfume for his wife, girlfriend or mistress, he shouldn’t feel silly or uncomfortable saying the name. Unfortunately, I’ve never felt comfortable saying the name “Indochino.”
As I stated above, the functionality of Indochino’s website is unsurpassed. In terms of its technical execution, ease-of-use and fluidity on all screen sizes, it does what it’s supposed to do pretty seamlessly and should be the envy of every other brand in the men’s wear universe. But good design under the hood is only half the battle.
That said, my suggested fixes to the website are only with the stylesheet, which is the hidden website file that dictates the look and feel of web pages. It controls colors, fonts, font sizes, photo placement, layout… everything about the way a website looks. For this rebrand, I used basically the exact same layout while only making changes to color and font. It wasn’t about reinventing a wheel that’s already working well. It was more about polishing up a junior varsity champion and making it presentable at the grown-ups table.
NOTE: In the home page layout, I took the naughty liberty of using a stunning image from Savile Row house Gieves & Hawkes. You get the idea.
The lighting and the setup against a white backdrop is fine. No problem there. The major problem is with the fit of the suits. This is a simple fix: just make sure they fit. Maybe the stylist on the set doesn’t know better or the person in charge of measuring the models is inexperienced or the retoucher hasn’t thought to Photoshop forgivable flaws. One can only speculate. The art director and the stylist should have a thorough understanding of men’s tailoring and an intimate knowledge of how men’s suits should fit. The clothes should look perfect.
You may have noticed that the name of the company in my rebranded screenshots is “Thornhill & Robie.” Why “Thornhill & Robie?”
Bulletproof star and style icon Cary Grant played many memorable characters in his career, but two of his most memorable in terms of style were in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). In North by Northwest, he played Roger Thornhill, who essentially wore the same iconic blue/grey Kilgour suit throughout the film – a suit so iconic that men’s wear nerds are still talking about it today. In To Catch a Thief, he played cat burglar John Robie, showcasing untouchable sartorial stealth and staggering elegance in casual, suited and black tie settings.
The legendary costume designer Edith Head, who did the clothes in To Catch a Thief, credited Grant with basically running his own sartorial show in the film, often wearing his own clothes. Confirming his place on the throne of style icons, Grant also wrote what is possibly the definitive essay on men’s style for GQ Magazine in 1968. Read it here.
Along with its direct but subtle allusion to a style icon, the name Thornhill & Robie implies a rich heritage, lending the flavor of a staunch and stalwart suitmaker. There’s almost something aristocratic about it, like a well-established name that’s been around for a century. And it rolls off the tongue effortlessly with a rhythm similar to Turnbull & Asser, British maker of some of the finest dress shirts in the world. No bro-speak here.
I appreciate brands that stick with the one thing they do well instead of overdiversifying and trying to be too many things for too many people, often at the sacrifice of focus and quality. But I also wonder why Indochino hasn’t added classic custom tailored outerwear to their offerings. Why not a trench coat in the style of Burberry – in navy, black and classic tan? Or a good Mackintosh? And how about a great topcoat in a nice wool/cashmere blend?
There are also some essential accessories for men that Indochino could definitely pull off. They’ve recently started shipping a complimentary suit hanger and garment bag with each suit or jacket, which is a nice touch. Why not make them available for purchase, along with premium suit hangers in a nice wood? How about other wardrobe tools like cedar shoe trees and clothes brushes (in regular and travel sizes)? I’d also love to see some good umbrellas.
Another idea might be something like a premium “membership” available to customers who’ve made previous purchases and have a proven measurement accuracy. For these customers, there could be access to suits and jackets made with things like Harris Tweed, flannel or fine cashmere. Just a thought.
And the box in which the clothes are shipped? Make it black or deep charcoal with white text.
This is all dressing, of course. But that’s what branding is, essentially. What separates the men from the boys in this game is a little thing called taste. It cannot be taught. Either one has it or one doesn’t. That’s why smart companies that recognize their shortcomings hire art directors, stylists, designers and consultants who do have it.
I would be fun to see a company like Indochino graduate into a more worldly and sophisticated universe. The move would help the brand scratch that exclusive/luxury itch of “aspiration” experienced by so many while preserving its core value of making quality custom suits with surprising accessibility. At the end of the day, what really matters is a superlative product and service at a fair price. The trick is to attract customers who otherwise go to J.Crew, Ralph Lauren, Barneys or their likes merely because the pictures, the image and the label sewn in the lining just feel more fabulous.
Copyright Note: The name “Thornhill & Robie” and all new design elements layered onto existing Indochino designs (except for the photo from Gieves & Hawkes) are my property. The use of any of this material or any of the ideas expressed in this post without my explicit permission is strictly prohibited.