Tucked into a fitting room at Surmesur’s custom menswear shop, you’ll find a technology that strips you down to a data set.
Haseeb Khan slides back a curtain and shows me an optical body scanner. What I see is a smaller version of the scanners in airports that pat you down with a quick little hum. On a monitor outside the fitting room, Khan retrieves a 3D scan. Every kink and bulge is visible and that’s a good thing because it reduces tailoring errors.
“It gives us a detailed look at all the measurements, including posture,” Khan says. After the scan, he’ll use a measuring tape to make sure your made-to-order clothing fits right. I ask Khan if the machine sees through clothes. He says no. You have to strip to your briefs, step inside the machine and let the cameras whir.
Style consultants handle the rest. They are people like Khan, whose look—from suit to smile—is well tailored. Walk into Surmesur Toronto (or its other locations) and you won’t find salespeople. Instead, there are “consultants who explain what would fit you perfectly.” And that “all depends on your skin colour, hair colour and body shape. What is a good collar for them? What is a good cuff for the event they are going to?”
“Our sincere belief is that a man looks his best in a suit,” Khan says. And while that may be true, Surmesur sells a lot more. “We do everything custom, except jeans and streetwear,” Khan says. “We do shirts, pants, suits, sport jackets, tuxedos, and overcoats in different fabrics.”
You can buy a fitted shirt for $45 or splurge on high-end, Savile Row fabrics and pay more. Ditto for suits. The base model starts at $350 but you can climb all the way to $3,000 or more if your budget can handle it.
“We’re not the kind of store where most guys are not able to shop because of price points because it’s custom,” Khan says. “We cater to everybody. We have guys who come in for graduation suits for high school and we cater to big CEOs.”
Like Frank and Oak, Everlane, and other new-school fashion lines, Surmesur achieves its savings by squeezing out the middle man. That allows them to offer a wide variety of clothing and to offer variety.
“We do a lot of standard suits but we also do a lot of funky stuff,” Khan tells me. “We have a stylist who’ll come in and design the craziest things with us but it’s all with the help of a consultant. It’s all about understanding what is good for you, what would work for you and what would not work for you.”
And that’s the experience Khan promises. “When you come here, you’ll realize on the application that we work on to design anything that there’s so much detail involved. When those detailed questions come up, you get educated. And we believe in educating you, our customer, as much as helping.”
“It’s all about them seeing the details and then appreciating and learning about the details during the experience that they have here.”
And maybe, if all goes well, you’ll be one of those customers who’ll return to the store after getting felt up by a body scanner and a style consultant and say “I’ve never had pants that fit so well.”
Pierre Hamilton is a freelance writer from Toronto, where some of his best friends describe him as an acquired taste. He enjoys bourbon and scotch, but craves craft beer, overproof Jamaican rum and great non-fiction. He has a very limited style knowledge but knows what he likes. He also produces a monthly music podcast called Sound Considerations. Follow him, but not too closely, on Twitter.