This is a review of CottonBrew, an online custom suit manufacturer for men.
Being able to buy a custom suit online is a blessing and a curse, which is why many guys have a love/hate relationship with online made-to-measure clothiers.
On one hand, you can get a suit that looks almost near bespoke for a fraction of true bespoke prices.
On the other hand, the whole process is riddled with problems. From taking your measurements to waiting for your suit to arrive to getting it tailored, there’s just so much room for error.
SEE ALSO: When Custom Goes Wrong
Many guys give up on MTM after their first attempt because they have such a bad experience (i.e., their suit fits terribly).
All things considered, I think buying made-to-measure suits online is still one of the best ways for guys with non-average body types to get suits that actually fit well.
But I always try to set people’s expectations because, the truth is, it’s not a hassle-free, magical solution that just works.
Every custom suit maker knows this, and they all have different strategies to try to mitigate problems and ensure proper fit (or at least a good enough fit that can be tweaked by a local tailor).
After all, they don’t want customers returning their suits and requesting remakes. This would kill their profit margins.
So they try different things to really hone in on the perfect fit.
Some brands just ask for a ton of detailed measurements. Others try to use body scanning technology to get your measurements for you.
And some even claim that they can guess your measurements just by looking at one selfie – which is ridiculous.
An underlying theme is the use of technology. Most MTM companies have some sort of sizing algorithm that helps predict your exact dimensions based on a set of inputs.
CottonBrew is no exception.
In fact, they rely more on their data collection process and their algorithm than they do on traditional body measurements.
This isn’t surprising, considering the fact that founder George Li used to work at Google, a company who knows a thing or two about algorithms.
But still, I never have high expectations for a new MTM brand, especially one that relies heavily on tech.
In fact, I sent George (founder and CEO) a bunch of screenshots of my measurements from various MTM profiles, pics of me wearing other suits, and bunch of other data he didn’t ask for.
He basically told me to trust their process, and I reluctantly agreed.
Rather than trying to measurement yourself or having a friend help with your measurements, CottonBrew asks for a handful or more reliable data points, including:
- Your typical off-the-rack suit jacket and trouser sizes
- 2 photos of you wearing a dress shirt from a popular brand (like J. Crew or Hugo Boss)
- Comments about how that shirt fits your build
They claim that, using this information, they can make the perfect fitting suit and shirt, and that their system is more accurate than self-measuring.
This isn’t too far fetched, as taking one’s own measurements is difficult, and there’s a lot of variance between how each person measures – especially if you’re not trained on proper technique.
Still, thought, I was a bit skeptical about this claim…
As a first time customer at a relatively new MTM shop, I’m surprised to say that my suit fits pretty well.
It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely ready to wear out of the box (which is not often the case, even with MTM):
Not bad, huh? The fabric is beautiful. It’s a dark navy with light subtle light blue stripes, and I love the way it catches natural light.
Plus, check out this killer tie / pocket square combo:
So nice! You really can’t go wrong with a subtly patterned navy suit and a light blue shirt.
Whoa, got a little carried away with the pictures there. Sorry about that! Let’s get back to the review.
What I Like About the Fit
Here’s how this suit fits right out of the box – no alterations or ironing:
The pants are slim, tapered and have a relatively high rise, which is flattering on most shorter men.
RELATED: Why Low Rise Isn’t Always Your Best Choice
The jacket has just enough suppression through the torso, and the sleeve length is spot on.
There’s no collar gap, which is a pet peeve of mine, since this jacket’s collar sits snugly against my shirt collar.
What I Don’t Like About the Fit
There’s definitely some room for improvement. Let’s look at each piece:
The Jacket: On the jacket, there’s some mild horizontal bunching under the collar, behind my neck:
This could probably be fixed by shortening the back of the jacket from the top, right under the collar seam. But it might have to do with something more complex like sleeve pitch.
With an issue like this, you want to go to the best tailor you can find.
The Shirt: The shirt is just a bit tight across the chest. Maybe it’s my fault for skipping leg day and being totally swoll?
Also, the collar point length is too long. This is a small but important detail on any button up shirts, especially dress shirts.
When I buy a custom button up, I make sure to request a shorter collar point length. Unfortunately, CottonBrew wasn’t able to accommodate this request when I placed my order.
According to George, however, they are able to make shirts with shorter collar points. You just have to make this request in the “Notes to Tailor” section when you place your order.
The Tie: CottonBrew has a nice lineup of accessories, including neckties. While I like fabric choices, I really wish they would make some shorter length ties.
I don’t know why more companies don’t do this. A standard length tie (say 58-60″) is way too long for a shorter man. So I have to tuck the excess length of my CottonBrew ties into my shirt.
My Thoughts About CottonBrew
Fit and quality are paramount, but there’s something to be said for branding and customer experience. When you spend several hundred dollars on something, you should enjoy the unboxing experience.
Branding & Packaging
For too many MTM brands, packaging is an afterthought. Your suit arrives in an unmarked, cheap and often damaged box from China.
CottonBrew is different. I can honestly say that they have the best branding and packaging I’ve seen in the online MTM suit industry.
It was a real pleasure unboxing the suit and accessories. The whole experience felt very premium and thoughtful, which is refreshing.
Free Worldwide Shipping
It’s also worth mentioning that CottonBrew offers free shipping worldwide, which is very rare among small, young menswear brands.
This whole getup – the suit, shirt, tie and pocket square – costs $585. That’s a very affordable price compared to the competition.
While the fit wasn’t perfect, CottonBrew deserves a spot on my list of approved MTM brands.
Assuming my experience wasn’t unique, I think their process and algorithm is pretty accurate.
Plus, their customer service, branding and packaging are all top notch, and they ship everywhere for free.
What do you think about this suit? Leave a comment below!
Hi I’m trying to get acces to CottonBrew and I can’t find the website, do you have any idea what happened?
BTW Love your website
It appears they have gone out of business. I was also about to check them out. Too bad.
Greetings Brock! Sorry if I seem nit-picky, but, do the shoulders seem to be suffering from some bunching? Maybe they’re a little narrow for you? Just saying what I see, hope I didn’t offend you or anything. Keep up the great work!
Good catch. Could be too narrow, I’d have to check. I have a hard time with shoulders. Minimal padding or no padding usually works much better for my build.
Sunny D says
Superb post Brock! I love their measurement technique. It’s so difficult to shop suits with so much choice and so little time!
Khoi N. (@lifeaskhoi) says
I’m impressed. Especially with their method of measurement based on the fit of your best fitting items. Makes sense though. The fit is pretty darn good for a first pass. Some quick alterations like you mentioned and you’ve got the perfect fit.
You’re right about the damaged, unsightly boxes from some of the other MTM’s out there. Great packaging adds so much to the overall “unboxing experience.”
Looking good, Brock!
great review, have heard some great things about CottonBrew through our employee perks program at McKinsey!
Peak lapels! Very nice!
Richard Leonard says
Always looking for a decent suit for under a grand especially for my size. Basically 36 short. Can I get a price from them in Canadian dollars,all in?
Richard Leonard says
Clearly this is U.S. pricing. If I fill out all the info can I get a price in Can . dollars?
Great article. I really enjoy these reviews of custom clothiers, as I’m starting to get really interested in MTM suits and shirts. Hope to see more reviews soon!
Glad it’s helpful! Custom is great once you find a brand that works for you and hone in on your measurements. Really changes the way you look at dress shirts and suits.