Joe Button is an Australian-based online retailer that specialises in affordable fitted suits for men and women. What sets it apart from other online tailors like Institchu and Buttons 'n' Threads is its physical Sydney showroom. This allows customers to get a professional fitting while checking out the suits in person -- without flying to Asia for the privilege.
When it comes to online shopping, tailored suits are a risky proposition: supplying your own "DIY" measurements is a recipe for disaster and you can never be sure about the fabric or cut until it arrives on your doorstep. On the other hand, it removes the hassle of visiting a swanky fashion boutique and the prices are usually a lot cheaper.
Joe Button is a hybrid business model that attempts to combine the best of both worlds: it provides the assurances of a brick-and-mortar retailer while still offering the low prices and convenience of online shopping. The suits are made from French and Italian wool and come in a range of styles and colours; all of which can be viewed prior to purchase.
Customers can either order online by inputting their own measurements or go in store for a professional fitting. (There is currently one showroom in George Street, Sydney with plans to open a second storefront in Melbourne next year.) Once fitted in-store, a customer's measurements are kept on file which makes the next online purchase much easier.
Last week, we checked out some of Joe Button's wares (wears?) during the official launch of its Sydney showroom. Despite its masculine moniker, the company was actually founded by Modi Song and Melissa Lee; two female entrepreneurs who started the business fresh out of university. In hindsight, the personified branding was probably a mistake -- both women frequently receive business calls asking for the non-existent "Joe".
As with most budget online tailors, Joe Button sources its clothing from factories in China. This required Song and Lee to move to Asia for six months to liaise with potential partners while simultaneously learning Mandarin. The tricky part was finding suppliers that would agree to take minimum orders that were suitable for a lean Aussie startup.
"Building our manufacturing contacts wasn't easy: these factories are used to dealing with minimal quantities in the tens of thousands, whereas we wanted a minimum quantity of one," Song explained.
The upshot of all this wheeling and dealing is cheaper suits for Australian customers: its suit range starts from $550 for tailored offerings that would ususally cost twice that. Tailored shirts, meanwhile, start at around $100.
The whole process from ordering to delivery takes around three weeks. If something goes awry with the fitting, Joe Button will also provide alterations locally free of charge.