Interview with Proper Cloth
Last month, I came across shirt maker Proper Cloth after noticing they had linked to one of my posts. Based in New York, the company makes all their shirts by hand in the U.S., using both domestic fabric and European and Japanese fabric. Like similar online companies, they offer measuring guides or suggest getting your measurements from your tailor, though they do have a database of sizes from a variety of RTW brands, so you can match the cut of your favorite Thomas Pink size 16.
The website is nice and they practically overkill it with the closeup photos of the fabric, but hey, you have to know what you’re getting. I got in contact with owner Seph Skerritt to find out a little more about the company.
United Syle: What is the history of Proper Cloth and what made you start the company?
Proper Cloth: I started Proper Cloth in May 2008 and we launched the website in October. From that point on we’ve just been steadily iterating and improving on everything–website design, fabrics, shirt styles, fit algorithms, manufacturing, packaging, photography, customer service, branding…we’re still learning and trying to improve.
I always had trouble finding clothes that fit which is what got me interested in custom clothing in the first place. And looking into it there seemed to be a disconnect between the tailors and the style of brands I liked. It seemed really compelling to try and create a clothing company that offered the convenience of custom fit as well as a cool brand and sense of style.
US: What is your/Proper Cloth’s philosophy of style? Style icons?
PC: Quality and proper fit aren’t negotiable but pretty much everything else is. Different folks with different backgrounds in different environments and situations should wear whatever colors or patterns suit them. Just make sure it fits right. Sometimes the “ugliest” fabrics end up working really well when tailored to the right person.
That being said, we’re increasingly curating and promoting specific shirt designs on propercloth.com . We don’t have any style icons per-say. We get a lot of inspiration just being in NYC–going out in the West Village, SOHO, LES and Brooklyn. We tend to gravitate towards preppy styles but have been experimenting with traditional and hipster inspired designs. I personally favor minimalist looks–plain shoes, white button-ups, gray slacks, raw denim.
US: Are all the fabrics in the ready-to-wear line available in the custom order section?
PC: All the fabrics are available in both sections. Our “ready-to-wear” shirts have the same lead time as the custom shirts. The truth is, we custom make all shirts to order. It doesn’t matter if a customer designs the shirt themselves or picks from one of the designs on the website.
US: How has the marketplace changed since you started?
PC: The economy has gone up and down a bit and we’ve seen a few new competitors emerge, but generally speaking things are the same as they were.
US: Where would you like Proper Cloth to be in a few years?
PC: In a few years I hope that Proper Cloth is known as the place to buy dress shirts. We’re making some of the highest quality dress shirts and we’re guaranteeing that they fit correctly. I’m not particularly interested in expanding into new products. I just want Proper Cloth to be known as the best place for dress shirts.
US: Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting now?
PC: We’ve definitely learned a lot since we started so I’d probably change a million little things, but nothing too major. Overall, I’m very happy with how things have gone.
US: Any plans to expand beyond online?
PC: We don’t currently have any offline plans. As an online only business, we’re able to keep our prices lower and ultimately give customers a better value. Whatever we do offline needs to be structured in a way that we can continue to deliver this same value. Of course, for guys in NYC, you’re welcome to stop by our office. We actually see quite a few people ever week by appointment here.
36 East 12th Street 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003