“A well tailored suit is to women what lingerie is to men.”
Many women can attest to that fact: nothing looks better on a man than a well-tailored suit that he can be proud of. But a good tailored suit in Singapore can be expensive, with more affordable ones costing anywhere between $600 to $800 — and even then quality is not assured.
In come two NTU students, with a passion for good suits. While most men — upon discovering the steep prices — simply lament the high costs or hop to Vietnam or Thailand for cheaper alternatives, Gary Ong (23) and Jonathan Wong (22) decided to start a tailoring business instead, to make sure that no one else would have to face the same problem.
And Mr Gentleman (Mr. G) was born.
They aren’t the typical tailors you would expect. Gary is a second year undergraduate in Business, Banking and Finance, while Jonathan is a second year undergraduate majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Neither have studied fashion design in any capacity.
In fact, they only began working with master tailors 3 months before they started the business — they wanted to understand what goes behind the making of a suit or a shirt, and also find out more about style-advising and pattern-making.
While their tailors are the ones who craft the suits, they coordinate, advise, and fit clients to make sure that every suit fits perfectly.
“It is really an art that is not to be underestimated; we would definitely not be good enough to craft beautiful bespoke suits within 3 months,” said Gary, when we spoke to him about the craft behind Mr G. “We spend time to make sure we go to extra mile for our clients and yet we respect the art enough to put our entire trust in our master-tailors to put together quality pieces for our clients.”
The Travelling Stylist
The worst mistake you could make when you look at Mr Gentleman is to take their age as a measure of their competency. While they are young entrepreneurs, they do not take any job lightly. In fact, the common thread that runs through Mr G is a dedication to personalised and customized service — from start to finish.
A clear example is the way Mr G operates. Mr G doesn’t have a storefront, nor does it need one. They are self-professed ‘travelling stylists’, which means that as part of the customer experience, they will visit you in your home or wherever else at your convenience. And on top of measurements, they do up to 2 fitting sessions with the finished product to make sure that the suits fit well.
To them, going to the customer simplifies what custom clothing means to Singaporeans, especially to those who are satisfied with buying an ill-fitting off-the-rack suit that costs more. Their goal: to make the experience as personalised and accessible as the suit they make you.
“To us, bespoke means catering to every need of our clients and providing that kind of personalised service which would allow us to establish a much more meaningful relationship with them and have a better understanding of what they need.”
And when asked if they would ever invest in a storefront, their answer was surprising: not likely. While a showroom to show off their fabric collection is a possibility, their focus will remain solely on their ‘travelling stylist’ concept, to ensure a personalised experience through and through.
“We would still hold true to our value system of always going the extra mile for our clients,” said Gary.
The Working Student
While most people would wait till after graduation before they start a business, Gary and Jonathan believe that the time is now. With their idea conceptualised fresh out of the army, they have been — and will be — working through most of their university life, and are not showing any signs of stopping.To juggle both a university education and a tailoring business is no mean feat, especially when the business requires daily quality meetings with clients and liasing with master tailors to help clients craft the suit that best suits them.
Because they have to juggle both school and work, their work hours begin only after 6.30pm, when their classes end. They will then start their appointments, ending their days at 10.30pm or 11pm in order to begin on their schoolwork. They also work through their weekends, to lighten their weekday load.
When asked why they didn’t wait for graduation, Gary stated that it was something outside of schoolwork to keep them inspired, sort of like an extra-curricular programme.
“Jonathan and I believe in seizing the opportunity as it comes,” he said. “Furthermore, at any one point in time, we strongly believe that we should have something apart from the regular academic work that keeps us inspired and motivated. For others, it could be the desire to pursue excellence in other areas such as music or being a part of a school committee within the University. For Jon and I, it would be Mr. G.”
10 Months and More to Go
To date, Mr G has been around for 10 months in Singapore, and have recieved 300 orders locally. Their work has been recieved incredibly well, and they have even joined startup community The Platform Collective, where they are bartering their tailoring services with other startups in a large collaborative effort.Both Gary and Jonathan will also be speaking at The Platform Collective’s startup forums on the 4th of March, to share some “Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get In School“.Despite their heavy workload and having a university education to pursue, they have yet to turn a customer away. And when asked what their biggest challenge is, it surprisingly isn’t about juggling school or finding work-life balance, but the fact that they recognise that they are still small fish in a large ocean.
“The fact that within Singapore itself, many tailors are definitely older than us and the industry itself is age-old and it has definitely been around for a considerable amount of time. The receptivity of the brand and the trust people have in us will definitely be scarce at first,” said Gary.
“Nonetheless, it is just an absolute privilege to stand for something and believe in something so strongly before the world even believes in it and as long as there is that dream worth believing in, the struggles that will come don’t matter anymore.”