A TMM reader named Justin shares his experience ordering a custom suit from NYC-based MTM clothier, Black Lapel.
ATTENTION: All MTM/custom suit brands are invited to participate in this challenge. If you’re game, get in touch for more details.
A reader named Justin emailed me with an interesting proposition…
He said he has a hard-to-fit build and wanted to challenge the most reputable custom suit brands to make him a suit that fits.
He also said that he wants to publish the results of this “fit challenge” right here on The Modest Man. Needless to say, I gave him the go ahead.
Several brands turned down the challenge outright, but a few expressed interest. The following is Justin’s second review of the challenge, featuring Black Lapel.
Note: If you like what you see, be sure to use the code MODESTMAN25 for an exclusive discount on your Black Lapel order (expires 5/31, valid for the first 150 people).
Hey Gents! Justin here again.
This is the second installment of The Fit Challenge, an idea I had where I reach out to custom / MTM suit companies in the New York area and challenge them to make a suit that fits me.
Fitting me is indeed quite a challenge – I’m 5”2 (on a good day) and around 145 pounds, with a 40 inch chest and a 24 inch inseam. You can find the first installment of this series here:
But I digress – on to the review!
Black Lapel (BL) is one of the premier names in the NYC Made-to-Measure (MTM) game, so it’s about time for a review about them on this blog. And review we shall. Review we shall.
I’m a bit partial to BL because one of the two co-founders – Derek Tian – is actually a fellow NYU grad. Derek was working a great job in commercial real estate before he left it all to start a suit company.
Much respect for the courage that took. Conveniently, Derek himself is also a man of modest height. So he gets it.
What differentiates Black Lapel from most other brands in the space for this price point (below) is their laser focus on e-commerce. Everything about the company is about the web – from the shopping experience to their fashion and lifestyle blog, The Compass.
Even when you go into the showroom to get measured (highly recommended), your stylist (Matthew in my case) inputs your measurements straight into the website. Derek stressed to me that this experience is intentional – BL wants clients to feel that this is an internet business with a physical branch, and not the other way around.
Contrast this strategy with similar brands Knot Standard and My.suit, who have focused on opening stores for in-person experiences. That places Black Lapel closer to shops like Oliver Wicks, but as you’ll see below, BL blows other internet exclusives away in the quality and style department.
Black Lapel offers suits across the price spectrum: their normal line ranges from $499 – $699, or a little more if you want a 3-piece.
They also offer a “Savoy Line” which is a cut above. These suits go for $949 – $1049, and are more comparable to a brand like Knot Standard in details and fabric. These suits have finer details like the Milanese boutonniere hole, a personal favorite of mine.
My first appointment was great – Matthew was knowledgeable and helpful, and he was able to spot some of the common issues I run into with MTM clothing, like my slightly-lower right shoulder.
I chose the Spanish Blue Herringbone fabric, which would normally go for $549 (Black Lapel was kind enough to provide the suit free of charge).
All measurements were double checked, we took a few pictures of how I stand, and my suit arrived about 4 weeks later.
Out of the box, as with most other brands, my suit was too tight just about everywhere – it must be something about my body type that confuses everyone. Either way, after a few rounds of alterations, the suit fits really, really well.
Again, through the whole process, Matthew was immensely helpful in quantifying where and what to alter, and how much. This is key for short guys. Here’s how the suit fits from all angles:
There are only a few tiny things I would change – there’s a ripple under the right chest which should be pretty easy to adjust for. There’s also a bit of extra fabric across the back, but after talking it over with Matthew we left it for comfort’s sake.
Finally, since we needed to lengthen the jacket sleeves, the wrist opening on the suit is a little too wide for me. Needless to say, these are insignificant problems and can easily be fixed.
The quality of the suit is excellent. The fabric is soft to the touch, and it has a great weight to it. This suit feels just at much at home in the winter as in the summer.
It also has the high-quality elements you want to see on a suit in this price range: extra fabric folded over under the lapel, real pant cuffs (fabric on the inside), and a loop under the lapel to hold a flower or two.
The buttons, which Matthew mentioned are hand picked, have a nice warm quality to them.
The jacket details: mid peak lapels (wish I had made them a bit wider), 5 kissing buttons, patch pockets, and the standard modern stuff (pick stitching, double vented).
If you’re a bit more conservative, I think this jacket would look great with slanted pockets and notch lapels too.
The pants are pretty standard: no pleats, and a normal length cuff. Some people say that short men shouldn’t wear cuffs on their pants, but what the heck do they know, right?
I was particularly impressed with Black Lapel’s tailoring on the pants – they fit well, but are also surprisingly comfortable. They found a nice balance between very slim and reasonably slim. Which is what we’re all looking for at the end of the day.
The pants have a slightly taller (thicker) waistband than most other brands, which is a detail that I really like.
Derek was nice enough to connect with me with BL’s photographer, Sasha. Her, Matthew, and I took a short walk to Bryant Park to show off how the suit wears outside of the confines of the showroom (or your room).
We…might have had a little too much fun.
Conclusion: Black Lapel is a great value for the money, and a fantastic experience overall. The quality of the fabric and details rivals that of more expensive suits that I’ve reviewed, and they showed a consistent commitment to making my suit fit.
This process will obviously be a bit more difficult if you aren’t near a showroom, but I highly recommend Black Lapel to both those in NYC and anywhere else.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below!