Suits make the man

Think of a well-dressed man and the image of one wearing a suit is likely to come to mind.

Perhaps you would think of actor Daniel Craig wearing Tom Ford in the James Bond movie Skyfall, or the German men's football team decked out in Hugo Boss in an advertisement for the brand.

While these ensembles cost thousands of dollars, men on a budget need not fork out that much for suits which still look good.

There are now more stores here offering suits which cost $1,000. Some of the suits on offer even have features which are typically found in luxury labels, such as the use of Italian fabrics and slimmer cuts.

One of the newest entrants here is Dutch label Suitsupply, which opened its first store in Singapore at Ion Orchard last month. Its suits, which come in 13 different fits, range from $565 to $1,409.

Since its founding in 2000, the brand has earned a reputation for producing affordable and stylish suits. Suitsupply's chief executive and founder Fokke de Jong says that he started the brand to bring a "touch of luxury at a more attainable price point".

"Before I started the brand, I felt that if you wanted something nice, that usually meant expensive and the cheap ones were often boring."

The brand's Sienna Suit ($905) was reviewed in The Wall Street Journal in 2011. Both the reviewers saw very little difference in quality between that suit and the Giorgio Armani Trader Model suit, which cost more than $4,000.

Also from Suitsupply, one can get a half-canvassed suit made out of wool from the Vitale Barberis Canonico mill in Italy (photo 1) for $565. It has a slim silhouette, lightly padded shoulders, notched lapels and flat front pants.

A MATTER OF CONSTRUCTION

What makes these suits a lot more affordable than designer brands is the way they are constructed. While the higher-end options offer suits which are fully canvassed and have more detailing, those costing $1,000 or less are very likely to be half-canvassed or fused.

A fully canvassed suit is one where a canvas layer is stitched between the fabric and lining to provide a softer silhouette.

In a half-canvassed suit, the canvas layer is placed in the more visible top portion of the jacket. It is a more affordable option that still gives the wearer a natural shape. This construction method is used for most mid-range suit brands.

Fused suits are the cheapest as the lining is glued to the fabric, and the result is a stiffer jacket.

There is definitely a market here for cheaper suit options.

Brisk online sales from Singapore prompted Mr de Jong to open an outlet here. When the brand started shipping to Singapore 11/2 years ago, orders doubled every six months. The brand ships to more than 50 countries and Singapore is one of its top 10 performing markets.

Its unconstructed linen jackets, which are lightweight and breathable, are among the top-selling products on the Singapore e-commerce store.

Even with the new 5,500 sq ft store in Singapore, customers can still buy Suitsupply suits online if what they want is not available in store.

Other stores carrying affordable suits are also reporting increased demand.

Mr Nelson Yap, managing director of menswear label Benjamin Barker, says sales for suits have increased by about 5 per cent year-on-year since it opened in 2009.

Its ready-to-wear suits come in two cuts - classic and slim - and range from $235 to $299.

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