Elevator Pitch: Buttons 'n' Threads

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with co-founder Sanchit Baweja (pictured right) from Buttons 'n Threads.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

Buttons 'n' Threads is an online retailer specialising in custom tailored clothing for men. Most men who have had to buy suits will understand the inconvenience and the time-consuming process that one has to go through to get the best fitting suit made using fine fabrics without giving up on half a month's pay. Buttons 'n' Threads is here to change that!

By combining fine fabrics and experienced hand tailoring we deliver the finest quality custom tailored suits at an affordable price point. Operating through the online channel, we cut out the middlemen and other retail costs to pass on the savings to our customers.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

The made-to-measure model when approached through an online channel allows us to be profitable on a per-order basis. Our biggest expense and the best way to maintain standards is stocking inventory of fabric and trims. We as co-founders personally source materials to ensure that the best product is delivered to our customers. Be it the fabric, the lining, the buttons or the interlining, everything is handpicked to the best of the standards.

Marketing our brand has been another major expense that we incur which we cover through the profits that we make. At this stage we are bootstrapping our venture, but, there will be a stage of expansion when we will look for external funding in order to grow and reach a larger demographic.

What's the biggest challenge facing your business?

Our first challenge arises with selling a high-ticket product through the online channel. This requires building trust and confidence amongst our potential customers. With the help of customer reviews, an active social media presence and our live chat feature we've made sure our customers can find us anywhere at any time.

The second challenge that we face is the fact that custom tailored clothing online is a relatively new concept that not many have heard of. It's a model that requires building a community with the consumers to develop a personal relationship so they feel comfortable to take the leap and give it a go. There's an assumption that measurements can only be taken by professional tailors, which is not the case. Given this we've created simple video guides so anyone can take their measurements with the help of a friend. We are in the process of developing new technologies to make the measuring process simpler and effective. We guarantee every customer the best fit. Anything short of that and they can either have it altered, remade or returned; their choice!

How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?

When we decided to introduce our label with our core offering as custom tailoring, we knew that we were entering an existing space. But what we noticed was that there were key changes that were needed to provide the highest price to value ration product in the market. We started Buttons 'n' Threads having altered a few key aspects in the model which allows us to stand by our quality compared to any other online tailor.

We strictly offer 100 per cent Australian merino wool as no other fabric does a custom tailored suit justice. Our fabrics are sourced from top mills in Biella, Italy and Yorkshire, England. These are the same mills that high-end retailers such as Hugo Boss source their fabrics from. With Buttons 'n' Threads you are paying for pure quality not the label on your suit.

Most online retailers outsource production to mass production factories in China. Buttons 'n' Threads prides itself on the quality of each and every suit in production and hence manufacturing takes place in a custom tailoring unit specially designed for Buttons 'n' Threads by master tailors who have been in the business of custom-tailored suiting for over 25 years. This allows us to provide each and every suit the attention to detail it deserves where over 90 per cent of the suit is hand constructed to provide a truly custom tailored suit.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

Evernote is the one application that our team cannot do without. We synchronise all our files and discussions and store it in the cloud so we have access to it at any point in time on any device. Few weeks down the line we're not caught wondering about the idea that we had last week.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

"Make one thing great. Get one thing right." — Andy Dunn

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Comments

    Looks ok, but their prices are pretty high end for online. There are great tailors everywhere in the world who will make extremely decent quality suits out of quality materials for half the price.

    That said, their prices aren't exactly unreasonable - but it does definitely have that 'markup factor' just because it's Australian and has a relatively nice LOOKING website - and yet, their customization doesn't at all let you see the customization as many sites do, it's just illustrated... Which is less than ideal.

    6/10 "for what it's worth"'s

      Hi Michael,
      I am one of the co-founders of Buttons 'n' Threads. I am sorry that you feel that way, but there are three things we stand by at Buttons 'n' Threads: Quality, Fit and Service. We can assure you that our product offers the best price to quality ratio. All our suits are of Super 120's and Super 130's Australian Merino Wool. Other retailers online offer lower grades or wool blends which is why they are priced lower.
      I could provide you with more details if you are interested.
      Just shoot us an email at [email protected]

      Cheers

        The mere fact that you replied bumps you up to an 7.5/10. All the best!

          Thank you Michael, really appreciate the wishes. You should give us a try, I'm sure you'd bump us up even more ;)

          Last edited 22/01/14 6:13 am

    Seems a lot like Institchu (featured on Elevator Pitch last year: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/10/elevator-pitch-institchu/). Also seems to, as Michael said above, have less customisation and higher prices based off of my cursory look.

    EDIT: Even the website design is eerily similar to institchu, as in the comparison pic I made: http://i.imgur.com/ZncKTrJ.png

    Last edited 22/01/14 12:52 am

      @fryiee1 We are in the same industry as Institchu. We were also well aware of the competition when we started off. The sole reason we started in the same industry was due to the fact that we recognized the possibility to offer a high quality product at the right price. Our pricing is completely transparent and can be seen on our website. As the article says we worked upon two key aspects, fabric and construction to deliver a product that offers the best price to value ratio. We only use 100% Australian Merino Wool Super 120's and Super 130's sourced from Italian and English mills unlike our competitors who source from Chinese mills. Our competitors use lower grades and polyester/wool blends and hence their pricing is lower. No other fabric other than pure wool does true justice to a custom tailored suit.
      With regards to the customisations we do not offer as many in order to keep the process simple for new customers. However, we are always open to catering to any special requests that our customers may have. I must mention though that all our customisations are free and we do not charge extra unlike the competition.
      On the website front, we've had the same UI since we launched. But, our competitors revamped their website about a month ago. Not insinuating anything, just making a statement ;)

    Might trust them if the models (and even the owners photo in this article) were wearing clothes that actually fit. Look at the waviness in the shoulder and kink underneath the shoulder pad of the jacket (the guy on the right appears to be standing normally too). If you want people to trust you to fit clothes for them, show them clothes that actually fit.

      Hi Jono,
      I'm sorry you feel that way. We stand by our fit policy. We want all our customers to be satisfied with what they receive. If there is any issue with the fit, we do everything we can to make it right up until it fits perfectly according to the customer.

    From the article:
    "Most online retailers outsource production to mass production factories in China. Buttons ā€˜nā€™ Threads prides itself on the quality of each and every suit in production and hence manufacturing takes place in a custom tailoring unit specially designed for Buttons ā€˜nā€™ Threads by master tailors who have been in the business of custom-tailored suiting for over 25 years."

    Still doesn't tell us that they don't outsource to a cheap factory in China/India/ or Pakistan.
    But a good way to deflect that it's pretty much a front to an offshore suit-making business (like all the other offshore suit-making businesses). Nothing wrong with that as I've used a few of the offshore suit-making companies and they're fine. I think my gripe is that they try to convince us that they 'high-end'. I find the words 'custom tailoring unit' especially offensive, if they're been made in a sweatshop in China/India/Pakistan at least have the balls to say so. Don't try and pull the wool over our eyes.

      @james8123 Wow didn't expect that backlash. With regards to the production what we are trying to say is that unlike some of our competitors who use a drop shipping model and outsource to mass production factories that cater to multiple brands; we on the other hand personally source all the fabrics and trims that goes into making our suits. The final construction is not completed in a sweatshop but in a 'custom tailoring unit' that produces exclusively for Buttons 'n' Threads. When we ship our products, our customers know that they are being shipped from New Delhi, India. We are not trying hide any facet of our processes. If a customer requires any details we are more than happy to provide it to them.
      As far as being termed high-end this is something we take pride in as the fabrics are sourced from the same mills that supply cloth to high end retailers. The fabrics are entirely sourced from Huddersfield and Gladsons, they have their fabric listing on their website if our customers are interested in knowing more details.
      We are completely transparent with all the details (sourcing, production, pricing, fabric quality) so if a customer requires more information we are more than happy to oblige.
      Cheers

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