Charles Brunold owns and operates Louis Purple New York, a made-to-measure suit boutique.
With over 18,000 fabric-style combinations tailored to the body type of each client, customers at Louis Purple enjoy a high caliber of luxury, quality, service, and selection. In this interview, Charles shares some secrets behind his success in the cut-throat fashion industry
How did you get started in the fashion industry?
It was not a conventional route. I was living in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia when a friend approached me with the idea of starting a made-to-measure suit business. We found a manufacturer in Thailand to produce the clothes for my store. My business in Malaysia was profitable but Kuala Lumpur was not a big enough market to make big waves in.
I went to a trade show and met the owner of Louis Purple in Paris. He showed me that the product I was getting from Thailand was not the quality that I should aspire to. We hit it off well and he offered to help me launch the brand in New York.
How does your company differentiate itself from the competition?
The idea immediately intrigued me because the business model provided the advantage of minimizing overhead costs. Compared to my competitors, I have very little stock because every suit is made to order. This means I don’t not need a big storefront or clearance sales for my business to succeed.
Beyond having lower overhead expenses, we offer our customers better shopping experiences than what is possible in a department store. Customers have the chance to select all the design elements of their suits and shirts. We give them the chance to select the fabric, fit, pockets, lapel, cuffs, buttons and monograms of their purchases.
Our ability to customize clothes to match an individual’s taste makes it possible do business with a diverse client base. Many retailers cater to a specific segment of the marketplace. For instance, Hugo Boss sells clothes for young people, while Brooks Brothers targets older clients looking for a classic preppy look. My store can go after both groups because we offer solutions that help a diverse demographic group. If you are a 23 year old flamboyant Italian or a 50 year old business executive, we have something that works for you.
We offer a similar experience as a bespoke tailor for a fraction of the price. Our suits start at $800. Bespoke suits start at $3000. Our suits are made from the same fabrics that major high-end department stores sell. The only noticeable difference between our suits and those of our competitors is that our suits fit better.
What was the hardest part of setting up the company?
The beginning was tough. When I started we were not doing much business and I was still adjusting to life in New York. When I first arrived I lived in a subleased living room far away from my storefront. I was working alone in the store, so I was responsible for all opening and closing procedures each day. It is a big responsibility to be in the store all of the time. Now that the company is growing successfully, I’ve been able to employ a good team to help with the store. To make things easier, I set up an alteration operation within the store so that changes required by the customers could be done in-house.
What is your strategy for attracting new customers?
I do not have a large advertising budget in a very competitive marketplace. Instead, I rely heavily on an attractive Manhattan location, social media marketing and most importantly referrals by “word of mouth” from satisfied clients
Based on your experience running this company, what advice would you give an entrepreneur looking to start a business?
I would tell new business owners to be fluid in their understanding of the marketplace. It is important to work hard, remain confident and maintain a positive attitude.
Also I would like to thank Inc. Plan (USA) for having incorporated my company in New York State.