At SoHo Design Bar, Acustom Apparel Delivers Inspiration, Bespoke Men's Wear

Jamal Motlagh is a snazzy dresser and a tall man, and back in his Harvard Business School days he wanted clothes — all types of apparel, not just suits — customized to both his style and fit. But, as we all know, custom-designed apparel doesn't come cheap.

"I began to wonder why we weren't able to affordably customize our clothing in both fit and style," says Motlagh. He began to look for a better way. He was, after all, in business school.

Thus was born the idea of Acustom Apparel, founded in 2011. Motlagh teamed up with COO and co-founder Charles Tse, the brains behind Acustom's "digital bespoke" patternmaking technology. Tse, like Motlagh, was frustrated with his inability to find well-fitting ready-to-wear clothing, and equally frustrated with the cost of buying custom-made clothing.

Motlagh and Tse looked around the market to find a solution that would allow for large-scale customization, but nothing seemed to match what they were looking for. So they developed it themselves, figuring out a method of creating patterns that are unique to every customer, and then writing software to automate the process.

The result is a system that uses 3D body scanners and the company's own "digital bespoke" software to make purchasing custom clothing easier — and less expensive — for guys. The solution gathers 2 million data points to create a unique 3D body model for each customer, and then lets its digital bespoke algorithms go to work on those measurements. Everything is thus customfitted to the customer, who also helps in the design process, making choices about features such as fabric for shirt collars and cuffs, or whether or not to have peak lapels vs. notch.

Acustom not only offers traditional custom suits and shirts, but also makes bespoke-fit products such as jeans, chinos, cords, overcoats, trench coats, shorts and polos. "This is a significant portion of the modern man's wardrobe, all custom made at retail prices equivalent to [those of] Hugo Boss," says Motlagh.

Because Acustom's technology allows it to create bespoke patterned garments without the traditional time and cost required by a master patternmaker, the company is able to offer its products at a fraction of the cost of traditional custom-tailored goods. "A few blocks away from our store, another retailer in New York City is offering bespoke jeans for $1200," says Motlagh. Acustom is able to sell bespoke denim for only $235. "That's the same price as a premiere pair of jeans in SOHO," he quips.

And let's face it: Not too many people are willing to shell out $1,200 for a pair of jeans, which is why there is not the same type of market for custom denim as there is for custom suits. Acustom is working to change that.

Beyond offering a custom fit, Acustom also has created a unique and innovative retail experience in SoHo — what it calls a "design bar" — that looks like a men's boutique but only features design samples "to help clients imagine what their clothing will look like," says Motlagh.

"After finding something they like, clients can — in 20 minutes — custom design their products based on pre-designed samples, get  scanned and be on their way to getting custom-made products. And once we have a clients' measurements, it's easy to reorder online or in store," he says. Fit is guaranteed in everything. The small footprint of Acustom's store allows it to provide a face-to-face customer service experience without the risks and costs associated with stocking inventory. "In our first year open, we are already well exceeding sales-per-square-foot averages of established stores in SoHo," says Motlagh.

Up next? The company is striving to provide more types of garments to its customers. Knits will launch soon with 100 percent cashmere sweaters in six base styles. Custom fit, of course. Are there any particular advantages to running a custom-fit apparel business? Let's just put it this way: when Motlagh got married in March, you can rest assured that he and all of the guys at his wedding were looking pretty sharp.

Editor's Note: If you liked this article, you'll want to read up on all of our 2015 Top Innovators
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