Nathon Kong’s business model combines tech and bespoke tailoring like no mobile fashion truck before.
Two years into business – and a number of awards later – his solar-powered truck has hit the Montreal streets. His client list is growing, ranging from first-time suit owners to suit pros, aka CEOs.
Using integrated scanners to map the body of his customers, Tailor2Go creates an avatar of customers wearing the suit that will soon be theirs. The result is a suit that fits like a glove.
Still, Kong realized that if he wanted to be successful, he had to do more than make a great suit.
“It’s a premium product,” Kong told MTLinTech. “But a year ago I realized that the customer won’t come back just for a product. They come back because they like the experience and the relationship we build with them.”
He compared it with the relationship people have with their barbers or hairdressers: a person goes back to the same barber all the time when they find the one that they like.
Suits start at $750, making them more of an investment than a haircut, but Kong says it’s about quality.
“There are two types of suits. The first is custom-made, the second is bespoke. We do bespoke. We make the pattern, we cut the fabric, we build it 100 per cent for you. The customer tells me what brand of fabric they want, what composition and I’ll make it for them,” he said.
His most expensive suit to date cost about $2,000, he said, because the customer wanted a Zenya collection fabric.
While $2,000 might seem astronomical to a Moore’s customer, Kong’s price point is actually lower than many other high-end tailors, menswear boutiques and department stores. It’s because of his sourcing, which the Thai-born scientist-turned-entrepreneur is very transparent.
“We’re building an ERP system, a supply chain logistics system connected with the supplier so they know exactly what’s happening with our product,” he said. “The suit is designed here in Montreal and made in Thailand. Thailand is a good place to start because I speak the language and tailoring is in our culture. Then the suit is sent here and we adjust it in our truck or at our office.”
Kong won the CBC First Media Award at the 2015 Startupfest, the Dobson Cup and being first runner-up in the Quebec Entrepreneurship Contest.
His website is almost done, he says, but it took a lot longer than he thought. Kong says he was outsourcing his IT work at first, but is much better off working now with local company Microcom. “I know the CEO directly,” he said. “He’s my customer.”
Kong has also learned that hiring the right employees is crucial and takes time.
“My two team members, Matt [Conti] and Owen [Barette-Duckworth], I couldn’t be here today without them,” he said. “I should be hiring faster, but that’s a mistake I’ve done in the past. You can hire people who don’t have the skillset but they have to be willing to learn about us, about the team and about the customer.”
Conti only officially joined the team in June. He was onsite for C2 Montreal and he took a two-day trip to Toronto with Kong for an accelerator program hosted by Futurpreneur. He likes how he gets to learn about so many aspects of the business.
“It gives me the chance to learn the operational side, which I wanted to explore even before starting with Tailor2Go, and I’m given the support to make changes where I see room for improvement.”
The next challenge Kong foresees is getting the word out with an official launch. So far, his advertising has been mostly word of mouth.
In terms of technology, Kong is already working on improving his service.
“We’re creating a 3D design tool that allows customers to design their product, so they can feel and touch the fabric like a traditional tailor and then design what they need with the combination of technology.”
He’s doing pretty well for mentors at the moment, including Frédéric Mamarbachi of M0851 and Jeff Mallett, the COO of Yahoo who’s also on the Board of Indochino, an e-commerce company selling made-to-measure suits.
If things go well, he’d like to eventually expand to Toronto and the US.
And while he does make tailored shirts for women, he doesn’t plan on expanding more into women’s apparel. “Shirts are all we do for now, because if we do everything, we end up doing nothing,” he said.
Then why do women’s shirts at all?
“Because I can make a little room for women: if they love me, then the boyfriend or the husband will love me even more.”
Kong’s Fashion2GO truck will be at the Montreal Fashion and Design festival Aug. 15-20, 2016.