Sleevehead: The next generation of tailors: Mutually assured succession                                                          

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.

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