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Shirtdetective
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Shirtdetective - find a shirt that fits
Shirtdetective - find a shirt that fits

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Interview with Sung Jo of Standard Shirts


I spoke recently with Sung Jo, one of the co-founders of Standard Shirt, about their shirts and business plans. https://www.standardshirt.com/

A summary of our discussion is below.

Shirtdetective [SD]: Can you give a history of Standard Shirt?

Sung Jo [SJ]:  Standard Shirt has three co-founder. I have  background in marketing, particularly digital marketing. My brother works in finance and a friend worked in consultancy, working with start ups. In addition, my father has been working in the textile industry for 30 years, supplying textiles to large US chain stores. He has the logistics knowledge.

SD: How did you go about designing the shirts?
 
SJ: We were all unsatisified with what we could find off-the-rack, and bespoke options were over-priced. We decided to offer something better and all had a role in designing the shirts. We started by buying different brands of shirts that we liked, or shirts where we liked a particular aspect. For example, if we liked the collar, or the cut of the shirt. We bought many of the common brands, including Brooks Brothers, Charles Tyrwhitt and Thomas Pink.  We learnt a lot from that.  
 
For sizing, we wanted a slimmer fit as that’s what we wanted to wear and that’s the way the market is going. We also did some testing with friends.

SD:  You offer quarter inch neck sizes.  That’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere.

SJ: We are aiming for a consumer who is considering buying a made to measure shirt. Offering the quarter inch collar sizes makes our offer attractive to those kinds of consumers. Our typical customer is someone who educated about shirts and knows what they like and don’t like.

SD:  You also have a successful sizing guide. I find it strange that on forums individuals will give a height and weight and then ask for a shirt that fits. For me you have to give at least a collar and arm size.  However, that said, your sizing engine worked well for me.  It’s based on t-shirt size, a question about slim fit shirts, and a height question. How does it work?

SJ:  The T-shirt size question gives the starting point and helps with collar size.  The slim cut question also helps with the sizing and the collar size. The height question helps with the arm length, as people above 5’10 tend to have a certain arm length proportions and those below 5’10 a different proportion.  Some customers complain that it doesn’t work them. For most, including you, it works well.

SD: And the material?

SJ: The types of cotton and the weave was one of the things we looked at in other shirts.  For us, the 80 thread count is the best trade-off. The 100 thread count was too expensive and the 80 looked a felt better than the 100 thread count.

SD: What about the construction, specifically the collars?

SJ:  We went for a fused collar, but the placquets aren’t fused.

SD: And Non-Iron?

SJ: We decided not to go non-iron as they are all chemically treated. The consumers buying our shirts appreciate the benefits of a good shirt, rather than just pulling something out of the dryer and putting it straight on.

SD: The range is restricted at the moment, with just one colour and cut, with two different collars.  Are you looking to expand the range?

SJ:  At the moment we’re focussing on continually improving the shirts.  We’re still learning and get feedback from customers. Our aim is to become the standard white shirt which men purchase for both work and play.  After we have nailed that then we’ll start to think about expanding the range.  We get feedback from customers and bloggers who say they like the shirt, but we don’t have their size.

SD: In which areas would you think to expand?

SJ: The first step would be to add to the colours, probably expanding the range to blue and pink.  Then we’d look at expanding the range of cuts.

SD:  Sounds like you have things well thought out. Which others shirt makers do you think are taking the right approach?

SJ:  I like the way Kamakura operate.  They are offering a good quality shirt, with slim sizing, and doing a good range of colours and patterns. Other firms doing it right are Hugh and Crye and Combatant Gentlemen.

SD:  Thanks, I was aware of those Kamakura, but not Hugh and Crye or Combatant Gentlemen. I’ll take a look.  Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

SJ: No problem. Good luck with the website.


More detail on Standard Shirts can be found here http://www.shirtdetective.com/standard-shirts/
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Interview with Neil Grant of Dalvey

I spoke with Neil Grant, a director at Dalvey  recently, about their shirts.  It provided an interesting insight into design and manufacturing in the shirt business and I’ve written it up below.
 
Shirtdetective [SD]: can you give me a short history of the company?
 
Neil Grant [NG]: Dalvey was originally a musical instrument manufactory, specialising in the crafting of Highland bagpipes.  We exported to many countries, including North America, the Middle East and Asia.  My father, the current MD of the company, was a competing piper himself.  It was the high-craft skills of musical instrument manufacture (a very precise art) that provided the basis for our initial move into high quality men’s accessories – the original product to take us in this direction was the iconic Dalvey Flask.  Today, our largest single market is Italy, where the Dalvey range is carried by around 300 (mostly independent) retailers.  Other significant markets are the US, Germany and Russia.
 
SD: And the shirt side of the business?
 
NG: We’ve worked on perfecting the apparel side of the business for several years, and that’s the area I’m primarily involved in.  Shirts are one of our most important areas in apparel: our objective has always been to develop shirts that are perfect for a proportion of the market, rather than mediocre for everyone.  Our shirts are too slim for some men, but we’re happy to focus on a group of customers who care about quality, and who want a block (or silhouette) that looks fantastic on them.  
 
Our blocks were originally created by our in-house design team over several months.  We’re lucky to have loyal customers whose feedback we’re always keen to listen to; over time we’ve made a few minor tweaks to the blocks in light of this feedback.  For example, the aprons and tails of our Slim Fit shirts were originally slightly shorter: they’re still shorter than on our Classic Fit shirts, both to allow customers to wear them untucked and to prevent an unnecessary accumulation of material below the waistline.
 
SD: Where do you see yourself in the market?
 
NG: In terms of quality, we’re at the top of the market.  In terms of price, we’re competitive and offer very good value.  All of our shirts use exceptional, long staple Giza or Pima cotton fabrics.  In crafting our shirts we use a technique known as ‘single-needing stitching’: it’s quite rare these days, as it’s more time-consuming and requires more skill than the ‘chain stitching’ you see on most shirts, but we think it’s worth it, as it creates exceptionally neat seams that avoid that train-track appearance after washing.  We ensure perfect alignment of stripes and checks, and employ a unique combination of German interlinings in our half-fused collars and double-cuffs.
 
SD: Collar fusing, that’s a technical area I don’t know a lot about. Could you explain a bit more about that?
 
NG:  For me half-fusing creates the perfect result in a collar.  Unfused collars very quickly look untidy, as the fabric is not bound to the interlining, and the inevitable result is a kind of flaccid, scruffy-looking collar, with folds and ripples that are difficult to iron out.  Fully-fused collars should theoretically be much smarter, but since the fabric is bound to the interlining on both sides, there is no ‘give’, and hence the fabric often sheers away from the interlining during laundry.  We fuse the face of the collar, but not the underside, allowing for flexibility (and comfort) while retaining an exceptionally smart, consistent outer appearance.
 
SD: Many people are interested in where the shirts are made? Where are Dalvey shirts made?
 
NG:  We manufacture our shirts in Hong Kong and Portugal.  I’ve looked at UK manufacturers, but couldn’t find the quality we were looking for.  The UK has lost a lot of its manufacturing skill-base, particularly in this area.  That’s not to say there aren’t niche players who can do a good job, but their proposition is not relevant to the majority of the market.  I’ve spent a lot of time travelling the world in search of excellent shirt manufacturing partners.  You’d be surprised – you can come across European factories which are terrible, and Asian ones that look like something out of Star Wars.  And the converse, of course, is true: in the end it’s less about where they’re made than the skills that you develop with a manufacturing partner, and their attention to quality throughout every stage of the process.
 
SD: You have a classic and slim fit range, but you don’t offer non-iron shirts.  What’s the reason for that?
 
NG: To get a non-iron shirt you have to apply chemicals to the fabric, which can be damaging in the long-run, and can affect the ‘handle’ or feel of the shirt.  The ‘non-iron’ attribute wears out after a few washes, and we’ve always wanted to provide customers with high quality shirts that will last.  Also, even ‘non-iron’ shirts ought to be ironed – they just might take a bit less time to iron.  Our customers care about their appearance and their clothes, and assume that ironing is something that needs to be done to shirts.
 
SD: I noticed you have recently opened a shop in Manchester? Given your Scottish background, why not Edinburgh or Glasgow?
 
NG:  We looked across the whole of the UK when deciding where to launch our first store, and we found a fantastic site in Manchester: it has a wonderful return frontage, it’s an attractive building, and it’s well-positioned to be convenient for our key demographic of professional men. 
 
SD: I would have thought that Edinburgh would have some good options?
 
NG:  Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and we’d love to open a store there at some point, but at the moment the city centre is very compromised by the tram works.  George Street is the only place that would work for us, and openings there are rare, largely because many international brands use it to site their Scottish flagships.  Glasgow is an incredible city for retailing in general, but to succeed on Buchanan Street you need to be much more mass market that we are, and every time we’ve looked at the Merchant City the footfall has just been too low.  Retail property is like residential property though – if you keep looking on a broad basis, sooner or later something that works for you is likely to turn up.
 
SD: Interesting, I hope you open in London soon.  Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
 
NG:  It’s been a pleasure – thanks Steven, and keep up the good work on the site!
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I’ve spent many hours in and out of shirt shops in London looking for shirts for work that fit me as I have an irregular body shape (I have disproportionately wide shoulders and a small waist). It was really annoying and I could find very little help on the Internet. Styleforum.net is the best source I have found, but it’s primarily focussed on the US and the forum format means it’s often difficult to find information. So, I’ve learned how to use WordPress and have set up a site at www.shirtdetective.com in the hope that it will help other people find a shirt that fits.
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