“Fashions fade, style is eternal”. So says French couturier Yves Saint Laurent. As a fashion label, staying relevant is a constant battle. And it is not just about the design but the whole philosophy, technology and appreciation of the industry, one that has an insatiable lust for recognition and innovation.
But one aspect of this fickle game has managed a graceful and quiet staunchness; the elegant gentleman’s suit.
And in Malaysia, one brand stands tall amongst its peers as the purveyor of fine garments for the suave metro-male; LORD’s Tailor.
In the company’s 44 years of history, it has seen its measuring tape and chalk sizing up the figures of many a great man, including the likes of Muhammad Ali, Mel Gibson, Shah Rukh Khan, Jimmy Choo, Tun Mahathir and many more local and international celebrities.
At the centre of it all is the formidable husband and wife team of Robert Loh and Liew Lee Lee, now assisted by the junior Lohs in the family.
Changing traditional business practices to meet newer demands.
Comparing the business model of LORD’s ten years ago to LORD’s today, it is definitely a very different looking company and brand. LORD’s was known as a bespoke tailor service that offered suits for men after a distinguished level of quality and fit.
Four years ago, in 2013, they launched their Ready to Wear arm, which has now been renamed to LORD’s 1974, to cater to a wider audience within the entry-level luxury menswear market. This evolution was necessary to maintain a competitive edge. We asked Olivia Loh, who looks after communications for the brand, to comment on this.
“Today, we not only offer bespoke but ready to wear and made to measure suits as well, and the level of service we provide is not just as a tailor but a trusted style consultant for men. For us, it is also a paradigm shift internally as a company to think of ourselves more as a menswear fashion house than just a tailor.
In order to phase the business to what it is today, there were various new departments that we had to set up including new manufacturing workshops for shirts, pants and suits. We decided we did not want to work with external factories to develop our products because we wanted to ensure that the same level of attention to the craftsmanship and finishing of our ready to wear products are the same as our bespoke apparels.
In fact, each suit that we sell on the racks of our store in The Gardens Mall goes through the same strict process of production that we place on our bespoke suits.
The construction of each suit takes almost an entire day to do and it is a process that cannot be rushed. This is of course a large capital investment but we believe will pay off for the company over the years. Due to this, the workforce has expanded two-fold since the inception of the ready to wear model 6 years ago.
From a marketing perspective, we have been quite aggressively showcasing a whole new facet to the styles and fit that you can find within our stores by doing Fashion Shows and experiential events in the last 4 years starting with the very first show we did at Suria KLCC with KL Fashion Weekend back in 2013.
It is a very laborious exercise to put together a fashion show and to plan the collection ahead which could take up to 6 months of careful fabrics sourcing and selection and designing before the outfits go to production prior to the show. But this has pushed us to increase our exposure to what the big brands are doing overseas as well as finding new sources of suppliers that we have not explored before.
The exposure definitely led to our decision to setup the new Made to Measure service. With Made to Measure, which is fast becoming a popular service amongst the big menswear brands as well, the suit comes fully customised to your needs and style requirements.
Mr. and Mrs. Loh talking about the new breed of customers that are thronging the LORD’s swanky boutiques
Bespoke vs RTW, where to focus next?
A simple question with a complex build up. Kenny Loh, the creative brains behind this well-established outfit has the answer.
“Well, we would have to say both. They are 2 very different markets. Most bespoke customers will never go back to ready to wear once they have tasted a suit that fits them like a glove, providing them with a different level customisation and comfort.
It used to be a bit of a niche market but there is a growing number of people with greater awareness of the difference between a bespoke suit and a ready to wear suit, who are keen connoisseurs of the artisan approach to making suits who are becoming regular bespoke customers at our stores. The options available in bespoke in terms of the much wider selections of fabric styles and qualities, as well as the personalisation of the cutting of their very own suit is another factor that draws new and regular customers to our stores.
As for the ready to wear market, it is a growing segment of the menswear market, especially with the increasing trend of wearing suits amongst the young and trendy who want to have more styles of suits without needing to fork out the higher price tags for bespoke suits. The big differential factor of our ready to wear collection is the fit.
Our tagline for our ready to wear is “The Perfect Fit”. This is the culmination of 43 years of experience put on paper. Our founder personally saw to the creation of the blocks for the suits and have applied his knowledge of the Asian body type into our sizing to ensure that our suits fit the Asian body better than most European or overseas brands.”
Digitalising Lord’s Tailor
Lord’s Tailor first began back in the 1970’s. Its founder and managing director Robert Loh trained under some of the most skillful masters and renowned tailors