This is merely a generalisation, but Singaporean men have a bad reputation for having a poor fashion sense.
They tend to disregard the whole TPO (time, place, occasion) ‘formula’ when it comes to dressing, sticking to the usual tee-jeans-sneakers combo.
A suit however, seem to have this magical prowess of making any man look good — when the occasion calls for it, of course.
Kenneth Chia, 34, and Lyn Chan, 40, share this same sentiment and the common ambition to “make the world look good, one suit a time.”
A Passion For Fashion
Kenneth had served in the Republic of Singapore Air Force for a good seven years before he joined the tailoring world.
Meanwhile, Lyn is a veteran in the fashion industry; boasting ten years of experience, which was predominantly spent with fashion house Lanvin.
She oversaw its business development and marketing department, and was trained in the knowledge of fabrics and fashion buying for its clientele.
The two decided to marry their background in tailoring and fashion to start up their own tailoring brand: A Gentleman’s Tale.
With the determination to “create [their] own rules of the game”, they decided to offer mobile tailoring services, which is a first in Singapore.
We wanted to have a business that was not just selling a product or a service, but a business that provided an experience for each of our client.– Lyn Chan, co-founder of A Gentleman’s Tale
Bringing Their ‘Shop’ To Customers’ Doorsteps
Although A Gentleman’s Tale specialises in professional business wear for both men and women today, it started out targeting mainly men.
With that in mind, they felt that their business model should also cater to this group.
We needed to think how men think, which was why we decided that instead of [getting] men to visit [us at our] shop, why don’t we bring the shop to [them]?– Lyn Chan, co-founder of A Gentleman’s Tale
In 2015, they invested $10,000 to kickstart the mobile tailoring business.
They started off taking public transport to meet the customer — either at their home, office, or carpark.
They would lug along a cabin-sized trolley bag and a backpack filled with fabric books and working tools.
However, taking MRTs, buses and taxis have its limitations. They could only meet a few customers in a day, and it was inconvenient to travel to clients who stayed in inaccessible areas.
A year later, they managed to save up enough money to place a deposit on a small van, which they later turned into a “mini mobile showroom”.
It was furnished with a rack for hanging samples, drawers and shelving units, full-length mirror and a pop-up changing room.
Catering to busy executives, late-night appointments are a common affair; making them one of the few tailors in Singapore that operate 24 hours.
Despite their mobile tailoring service, many customers still requested to make appointments at their shop (which was non-existent).
After much contemplation, they began planning and saving for a space.
They modified a shipping container at River Valley into a showroom in 2017, which catered to walk-in clients and carried a wider variety of fabrics.
The Best Of Both Worlds: A Tailoring Bus
The duo didn’t just stop there.
They wanted to combine their mobile tailor service and the showroom experience so they saved up further for a tailoring bus, which comes with a walk-in wardrobe and 3D body scanner.
When we first came up with the idea in early 2018, there were a lot of sceptical opinions from others. Most said it would not work, [but we continued to believe] in our idea.– Lyn Chan, co-founder of A Gentleman’s Tale
When they soft-launched this new concept in February this year, they received very positive response from their customers.
People were “excited” about their bus, especially the 3D body scanner, which takes precise (98% accuracy, to be exact) and fast measurements.
To increase its accuracy level, the customer would have to wear form-fitting clothes.
The entire scanning process takes only two seconds, drastically reducing the time needed to manually take and record measurements.
According to Lyn, it typically takes two three-hour sessions to individually measure 70 employees. With the new 3D scanning technology, it has shaved the time taken to under three minutes!
Each client will have their measurements taken using our unique measurement system of a minimum 18 points measurement for males, and 24 points for females. [This ensures] that no small nuances are missed.– Lyn Chan, co-founder of A Gentleman’s Tale
“Their measurements will be transposed onto the fabrics they have chosen. We are able to customise anything that a client chooses — from two different lapels on a suit, to unique shirt placket and shirt yoke,” she added.
It takes them approximately 21 to 30 days to tailor a suit, including the fitting sessions.
Prices start at $600 for a suit under the entry-level fabric range, and $130 for shirt or pants.
Hiring And Rental Challenges
When asked about business challenges, Lyn said that their biggest problems are “hiring and the increasing cost of rental”.
Their 3D scanning technology has alleviated the first problem in a way, as it allows them to hire staff with zero tailoring experience.
From a small team of two, A Gentleman’s Tale headcount has since more than doubled with four full-time staff and a number of interns and freelancers.
As for rental, Lyn commented that “most businesses plough back more than 50% of their earnings into rental.”
This is a significant sum of money, so they are currently looking at ways to minimise the cost of rental and grow their team at the same time.
On their end, Lyn said that every penny they earned has been reinvested into the business for expansion, with additional funding injected along the way.
Sharing future business plans, Lyn revealed that A Gentleman’s Tale has ambitions to go into e-commerce.
Specifically, their plan is to launch a ready-to-wear collection and sell them online.
“We will also continue with more collaborations — in terms of accessories — with other vendors, giving our customers a complete experience of A Gentleman’s Tale.”
Such collaborations are necessary for a business to grow because “no man is an island,” said Lyn.
Beyond that, they are also looking to “upgrade” themselves from a mobile tailor to a “traveling tailor”, in an attempt to fully utilise their recently-purchased bus.
Featured Image Credit: A Gentleman’s Tale / Enterprise Singapore