Shirt-Buying Without a Wrinkle

Posted: June 29, 2010 in Tech Talk, XY

Kyle | Customer Champion: believe it or not, i’m actually here to help, ping me if you need anything

I recently stumbled upon blank-label.com, a website that allows you to customize men’s dress shirts. This may sound, well, not-for-bros, but think about it: No longer do you have to wait in long lines at department stores. No longer do you have to “settle.” Special size specifications? No problem. Don’t like the button-down collar? No problem. Want a monogram on the pocket? If you didn’t get it the first and second time, no problem. Suddenly, buying the shirt you want involves nothing more than a few clicks until, in the words of the website, “Damn.. 😉 You’ll be surprised how many compliments you get on your new shirt!”

I hate the actual “shopping” (read: searching) part of shopping. More than once I’ve wished for a “Control-F” feature for spatial searches. With this site, I can completely bypass the search aspect of shopping. The details of my experience follow, but overall the site thoroughly impressed me, and I think I may add this store to my list of acceptable stores to visit (currently arrested at the Apple Store and Fry’s Electronics). Just as soon as I receive my paycheck, that is.  

Undoubtedly, you have had the experience of walking into a store and seeing a shirt you like—give or take a few stitches. At best, it doesn’t have a pocket, and you can make do carrying your pens in your pants pocket for a day. At worst, the store doesn’t even have your size, and you’ve wasted your time. But at this site, your shirt is made on-demand, based on whatever preferences you have, and at a much better price than if you were to go to a tailor. (True, it takes two weeks to arrive, but if you’re looking to buy a shirt for wear later in the day, you’re already in trouble).

IM with a customer service rep

The site itself is generally simple to use. If you stay on the homepage for more than sixty seconds (or if you click the “Help” tab that appears to the left of the screen on all pages), a sales representative will be online immediately to help you. I myself was a little startled when Kyle greeted me, not sure if I was talking to a real person or not.

Me: Is this a real person or an automated system?
Kyle | Customer Champion: Just a college student at a coffee shop
Me: This is a cool concept. Do you usually have a lot of people who chat with you?
Kyle | Customer Champion: You know, it really varies. Some days yes, some no. But we find it’s really helpful for those people who need it.
Me: I’m intrigued by the concept, and somewhat surprised that I haven’t heard more about it or about other companies that have tried similar ventures.
Kyle | Customer Champion: Ha, we wish more people would hear about it too

Kyle was probably not expecting to have a discussion about the business, but was rather helpful in answering my questions about the type of volume they encounter and what kinds of people he typically chats with.  As it turns out, the site sells about ten shirts a day, a fair number for a relatively small company, and the three founders themselves are only between 19 and 22 years old. I decided to try it out. Kyle was also pretty helpful in answering questions I had when actually going through the design process.

The very first step is to choose the Fabric, which is really more of choosing the color and pattern. These range in type from “Bond, James Bond, Black” to “Non-sexy pink,” for a total of 35 options. Alongside all options is a single mock-up of the shirt based on your selected options, so you can see how your shirt is turning out. I went with the Bond, and continued (noting that this would cost me an additional 10 dollars from the baseline of 45).

Choosing my style

In the Style section, I had the option of choosing my collar-type, including adding a lining on the inside or adding buttons. I tend to prefer buttons on my collar, so I chose that option and continued.

My next choice was regarding the cuff. There were 6 different types of cuffs from which I could choose, but I knew right away that I wanted a double-buttoned cuff, rather than cuff-links or a single button. I briefly considered a contrasting inner lining along the edge of the sleeve, but decided that might be a little too much. I would save that for the placket. Here, I chose the complete contrast option, and was allowed again to choose a pattern (I went with “Wine-Lover’s Red). The next options were for the shoulder accoutrements, but I have long thought that these are too reminiscent of a military uniform and opted for a Clean Shoulder.

Ah, the next option—a pocket! Though many if not most of my shirts do not have pocket, I generally prefer they do, as they are very handy for storing business cards (in my line of work, I am constantly exchanging business cards) and holding pens (I often find myself with a sudden burst of inspiration and the ready availability of a writing implement is welcome). I went with a single pocket (I believe two pockets are also too much like uniforms).

The Individualize! step is where you can really take your shirt to the next level. The options include coloring your buttons (which I did not), and adding a monogram (“KRV” right along the pocket). You can actually add the lettering in multiple places, but I am trying to keep this shirt in good taste.

Last was sizing (I generally prefer 15½, 34-35). Here, you have the option of either selecting from preset sizes or adding in your own measurements, a welcome and expected touch, to ensure you have the perfect fit. I should note that if you are not satisfied with your shirt for some reason, you can return it without any hassle.

And I reached the checkout. The total was $72, a little pricey for me, but definitely within reason for a custom-tailored shirt. FYI, here were my choices (my birthday is in less than two weeks):

Base of Bond, James Bond Black
In the Style of Normal collar
Single button cuffs
Normal placket, clean shoulders
Single Notched pocket(s) With a Fine Touch of Placket Contrast Wine Lover’s Red To Personalize Standard buttons Monogram on the Pocket in white of KRV Handsomely Fitting as a tucked Classic cut Even Steven (M)

-K

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Comments
  1. Naurwwn says:

    Ktik-
    Thought you might enjoy this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/technology/personaltech/10CLOTHES.html
    I’m enjoying the blogposts. Keep them coming!

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