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Jean-Sebastien Siow of SUITABLEE: “Educating our customers on the choices throughout the online purchase is also key”

Educating our customers on the choices throughout the online purchase is also key. Our website not only has a journal to help answer styling questions — but all custom choices have a description and explain why certain design choices should be made. Not everyone has customized a suit before — so we felt it important for small popup windows to […]

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Educating our customers on the choices throughout the online purchase is also key.

Our website not only has a journal to help answer styling questions — but all custom choices have a description and explain why certain design choices should be made. Not everyone has customized a suit before — so we felt it important for small popup windows to explain why our customers should or should not choose specific options.


As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jean-Sebastien Siow.

It all started from an idea: To combine old-school tailoring with technology while making suits accessible and affordable.

In October 2015, Jean-Sebastien along with his brother Jeremie, launched SUITABLEE. No one in the fashion industry knew about them. Here we were, two engineers launching into the large world of custom suits.

Today, Jean-Sebastien and his team have taken deep dives into artificial intelligence, body scans and efficiencies to produce perfect-fitting garments at a fraction of the price that other competitors can offer. Technology is what differentiates SUITABLEE from the pack — Jean-Sebastien’s tech background helped push efficiency and reduced errors to produce incredible suits.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I’ve always had a thirst for entrepreneurship. Growing up in a more traditional Asian upbringing, I was always pushed in the direction of the safe 9-to-5 corporate or healthcare jobs with stability. The custom suit industry was sort of a fluke — getting my first custom suit made in North America was so drastically different from the tailoring experience in Asia. I couldn’t imagine and understand how the process of tailoring suits locally could be so expensive and inefficient. There had to be a way to make tailored suits affordable, efficient and online! SUITABLEE was launched shortly after when we realized that approaching this industry from a tech point of view would help shift an important paradigm held on by suiting traditionalists.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I still laugh when I think of the suit I made for an older gentleman in our first year. I made him so uncomfortably hip! We had studied the “tricks of the trade” and applied the same stroke for all our customers despite age. When our customer, who was in his 60s, tried on his suit, it looked really weird because his pants were too tight and too tapered. It was so odd-looking! We realized that a “perfect suit” varies drastically from one generation to another. That’s when we really dove into our algorithms and started developing AI so that we would not fall into the “one glove fits all” approach when it comes to the definition of fit.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Nobody ever makes it on their own. When we launched SUITABLEE, my wife was pregnant and gave birth a few months into the business launch. Having a strong family support system was very important. With my wife being a business owner herself, she understood the sacrifices needed — never once did she doubt or complain about what we were doing. I was an engineer with an MBA and could easily get a six-figure salary at a company. Peace in the household allowed for me to focus on SUITABLEE.

My parents also pitched in and spent a lot of time babysitting my first son. That was also so important.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

That’s easy for me. I’ve always looked up to Kobe Bryant — but there was this one interview he gave to Patrick Bet-David on Valuetainment that had an immense impact. Businesses usually fail within the first years and that interview came at a perfect time when we were at a crossroads on how to expand. We were growing and were seriously entertaining the idea of financing to help fuel our growth.

Kobe went in depth about his “Mamba Mentality” and after understanding the grind and hustle involved in his success, we made the decision to not finance and continue to bootstrap our business and remain the sole owners of our equity.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our online customer experience is the closest thing you will ever have to an actual in-person experience. The ease with which you can customize options and generate your measurements is unmatched in the industry. We have many customers who’ve transitioned to us from other tailors or online competitors and rave about how easy it is to get a custom suit with very limited risk due to our fit promise. Spending hundreds of dollars for a suit online can be intimidating.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I have this philosophy to do a few things extremely well as opposed to doing many things with mediocrity. The menswear industry is complex and it’s easy to get drowned into trying to do too many things at once. We sold suits and only suits in our first years until we got really good at doing it. Now you can find that we’ve branched into dress shirts, shoes, and accessories — and we’re more than comfortable doing it.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

The pandemic has accelerated the move towards online shopping. In the case of the larger retailers, those who strive have adopted online shopping as integral to their business have done well. The transition to online is not something that you can magically achieve overnight. There are barriers to lower with respect to customers who are used to being served a certain way. Having your items online also does not guarantee sales. There are so many retailers that are much larger than we are but seem clueless when it comes to the customer experience online. Our lesson would be to invest in the online experience. From the website to social media facilitating purchases online, every aspect needs to be examined.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

If you’re in a business that offers a commodity, your product or service needs to have an added value or competitive advantage to what’s on Amazon. Unfortunately, if your product can easily be copied and made under differing brands, you will be squeezed. Consumers will naturally flock towards the cheapest price for commodity goods. Luckily, SUITABLEE is a custom product and we sell direct-to-consumer — so this is not an issue we’ve had to face.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Retail is competitive and brands take time to establish. I’ve seen many CEOs and founders jump too quickly at becoming professional PowerPoint presenters to pitch for financing too early. My recommendation would be to spend the time doing the dirty work for a few years and validating your product and brand with concrete sales before jumping into the trend of financing. Not only will you own less of your company — but you’re also borrowing at less-than-favourable conditions. My advice, if you’re looking for financing, is to take your company as far as you can with your own sweat and blood to improve your negotiating power when it comes time to finance.

This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?

Businesses are so reliant nowadays on word-of-mouth and reviews that without a phenomenal service or experience, you don’t have much of a company. Products are becoming more and more commoditized with the Amazons of the world — so a lot of the differentiation has to happen at the experiential level. The moving pieces have to work together. Your social media has to work in conjunction with your website experience and in turn with your in-store experience. Finally, your after sales experience is often overlooked. The importance of the after-sales service is what will gain you repeat sales and referrals. Basically, all these pieces, which make part of the customer service and experience ensure that you continue to grow your business in a world where customer acquisition is so expensive and competitive.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

The disconnect occurs due to ambiguous customer service terms and conditions. We learned the hard way that anytime that something can be interpreted, customers will try to push and sway things to their advantage — it’s completely natural! So when customers misunderstand terms of a purchase or how an experience is meant to be, they get upset. So long as a retailer’s terms are clear, not only will customers understand but your employees are also clear on the designed experience.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

We’re blessed to be able to provide a custom product that usually has some sort of importance — whether for a wedding, an event, or for work — we help create experiences. The one experience that comes to mind was the happiness and surprise that we were able to create for the son of a disabled man. We were tasked with the delicate task of fitting a man who had gotten into a car accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. His son wanted to gift his father with a custom suit that fit. Off-the-rack suits were not an option due to the unique morphology of our customer. The “wow” of the moment was omnipresent for all parties involved when we created a product that was perfect materially and emotionally.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

We were very discreet about it — but the long term effects were undeniable. What Jeremie (my co-founder) and I experienced was etched in our souls forever. Being engineers, we tended to think in a very black and white cartesian way. Who would have thought that our product could play such an important role in our customers’ lives? This moment helped us to build a company that would go on to serve thousands of people who needed custom suits for very important and unique moments.

A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?

We’re blessed that the experience we provide lasts several weeks. Unlike off-the-rack experiences, our customers’ hands are held from the moment they book a virtual consultation, to the design and choice of fabrics and styles, to the tailoring and the delivery of our product. When you read the “About Us” section of our website, we state: “We perfected the way men buy custom suits. And made it affordable.” Those words encapsulate all of the ingredients of our retail experience. Namely, that through technology, we’ve been able to perfect our product along with perfecting the tools by which our customers can get a custom suit (online). We’ve been able to achieve this specialization while keeping things priced competitively. So price, technology, and accessibility are key ingredients to a fantastic retail experience.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

(1) Listening is the first step of the experience.

Whether through a consultation or through a very sophisticated filter to help find the right products, this is extremely important. People who get fitted either have very specific needs (wedding, look, etc.) or they’re upset at their experience with other suit companies. We make it a point to listen and make the sorting process quick and intuitive for our customers. Our product is custom — so we cannot perform our task without properly understanding the customer’s needs.

(2) Educating our customers on the choices throughout the online purchase is also key.

Our website not only has a journal to help answer styling questions — but all custom choices have a description and explain why certain design choices should be made. Not everyone has customized a suit before — so we felt it important for small popup windows to explain why our customers should or should not choose specific options.

(3) Facilitating checkout is also key in the fantastic online retail experience.

You’ll lose your customer if this becomes too complex. We’ve done this to the point that our AI spits out your measurements. Customers don’t want to have to pull out a measuring tape. By answering 12 questions, our AI algorithms generate hundreds of data points and all you have to do is add to cart.

(4) Keeping our customers informed throughout the tailoring process is also very important.

We’ve enabled our supply chain to feed information about a customer’s order so that they can log in and check the progress of the tailoring of their garment. Every order has a QR code that is scanned throughout the tailoring process. This automation allows for customers to know what’s being done and when. Customers love when they’re part of the process.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m a firm believer that all clothing should become more custom. The planet is so vulnerable with all the greenhouse gases produced in the garment and fashion industry. Products that don’t last or are not made to last for specific people. Wearing 10 jeans that kind of fit does not compare to wearing 5 jeans that fit perfectly. The planet would be so much more sustainable if we created garments that were much more custom to each person. They’d last longer and they’d be cared for better.

How can our readers further follow your work?

We’re always extremely active on our website (https://suitablee.com) and Instagram (@suitablee). I’m personally active on Instagram (@jssiow) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jssiow/)

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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