Thursday, December 27, 2007

The next generation of tailors: Mutually assured succession

Pop quiz: How many tailors or cutters do you know under the age of 40? Not very many I imagine. In New York City, the Big Four - Raphael, Corvato, Nicolosi and Fioravanti - are in their 60s or 70s. The situation is similar in Los Angeles.

I was prompted to ponder this question by the winter issue of Menswear magazine which featured an article on Italian bespoke tailors in Rome, Turin, Palermo and Naples. One of the younger tailors featured in the article - Alessandro Martorana - is apparently thinking of opening an atelier in Los Angeles.

Planning for a market entry/expansion is usually a sign of a healthy and growing business but also fraught with risks. My advice for foreign, independent tailors seeking to establish a foothold in the American market is the following: think merger and acquisition (M&A) not initial public offering (IPO). What do I mean by this? The difference is simple: acquiring existing operations v. building from scratch. The M&A strategy is to partner and then acquire an existing US tailor's operations and customer list.

The key is focusing on US tailors who are close to retirement, which would appear to be the majority. More specifically, the strategy for the foreign independent is to find a US tailor whose cut and silhouette is similar or one that he can master and execute fairly easily.

Let's be clear here. The primary benefit for the foreign tailor is to acquire an existing clientele. This removes a huge barrier to success in new market entry, namely, where do I get my customers? The retiring US tailor also benefits from this arrangement. He can ensure that his legacy customers are not left stranded. Perhaps equally as important, he can also rest assured that his tailoring name and reputation will live on for at least another generation.

Take Martorana's planned foray into LA as an example. There are at least three top-notch tailors in LA: Giacomo Trabalza, Jack Taylor and Novex. Both Trabalza and Taylor are in their 80s and close to retirement. If I were Martorana, I would seriously consider approaching one of the three (most likely Trabalza) to entertain options.

3 comments:

Ay329 said...

Your Odyssey of Los Angeles area tailors would not be complete until you have sampled the offerings of Nick the Greek in Huntington Park, California (not the illegitimate Nick the Greek which was bought out by an alterations tailor of Persian or Armenian origin years ago)

He makes bespoke and has made five beautiful suits for me (with others on the way)

He is a one man show and in his early 70s, with no desire to retire

Now if only my toddler sons can grow up fast enough to learn the trade before Nick expires into the tailoring paradise far away (and I don't mean Savile Row or Naples)

His work is bespoke and reasonably priced... compared to the other tailors mentioned

sleevehead said...

Thanks for the tip and congratulations on finding a great tailor to work with. Good news for LA tailoring.

Anonymous said...

Is the link to the article you've mentioned still active or do you remember the names of the tailors mentioned in the article, in Turin & Rome, especially?
My thanks, in advance, for any and all help you can provide.