Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Fashion startup helps customers create custom-made clothes without breaking the bank.

Nathan Scripps has had an eye for fashion since he was young.

“I dressed myself and it drove my mom nuts to see plaids and stripes, polka dots with patterns, or whatever else I thought was fun that day,” he recalled.

Flash forward to today, and Scripps is still particular about what he wears, although he mostly sticks to sport coats and suits. His love of quality clothing has turned into Tailored Forward, which aims to help customers find high-quality, American-made shirts, outerwear and even design their own custom suits at reasonable prices.

“American craftsmen and women are keeping traditions and skills alive that are generations old and will be culture-defining for generations to come,” Scripps said. “That should be a cause that is accessible to everyone. That sounds cheesy… but we’re still good at making a lot of stuff and it’s being priced out of the market by well-marketed, lower quality stuff. I want quality, American stuff to be affordable.”

Tailored Forward began around the time that Scripps was getting married. He was working hard to build the wardrobe he wanted for himself, which often involved scouring eBay in search of classic, well-made items that he could afford. He had custom suits made in Thailand. He even tried mail order shirt companies.

It was mostly hit-or-miss. “It was fun, like a game. But they weren’t all wins, many were misses due to fit, mismatched styles, materials I didn’t enjoy, lots of lessons learned,” he said.

When it came time to pick out the attire for his wedding, Scripps knew he didn’t want to go the retail route — but he also knew how difficult (and expensive) it could be to purchase high-quality items. So he worked with his friend Cesar Byström to design custom suits for himself and his groomsmen.

The guys had the custom suits made by Al’s Attire in San Francisco, along with bowties, belts, pocket squares and even shoes. “We had a blast getting suited up, everything looked great and fit the guys perfectly — well, except for a few dancing mishaps with the pants,” Scripps joked.

Now a married man, Scripps has “a closet full of clothes that are almost me.” He’d like to go full custom, but like most people, can’t afford it.

American craftsmen and women are keeping traditions and skills alive that are generations old and will be culture-defining for generations to come. That should be a cause that is accessible to everyone. Nathan Scripps, Tailored Forward

“None of the affordable options work for me and the few options I want are too damn expensive,” he said. “$2K on the south side. $3K easy. $5 grand isn’t even hard. So I figured I’d just need to buy them at cost in order to afford the quality and craft I wanted.”

And all of that experience led Scripps and Byström to launch Tailored Forward, which connects clothing buyers directly with manufacturers still making their clothing in America.

Tailored Forward customers can design a suit that will be made by Massachusetts-based Southwick, which has been around since 1929 and dressed presidents, ambassadors, corporate leaders and “other men of distinction.” Or, customers can design a down jacket or vest from Crescent Down Works, a family run business that makes everything in-house in Seattle.

The duo found that the key is keeping things simple. To create the suits, for example, there are variations on core suiting models, and customers can mix and match to find their exact style in a range of colors, price, pattern and material. It takes about six to eight weeks to make a suit.

Or, for those customers who don’t want to create their own suit, Tailored Forward will soon add a flagship suit that will be versatile and fit a range of needs, from pairing with jeans or serving as a stand-in for a tuxedo.

Southwick shirts and Crescent Down Works outerwear can be ordered directly from the Tailored Forward website, or custom made.

Tailored Forward is now working with additional manufacturers to offer items like “a sweatshirt that fits perfectly over an oxford, rugby shirt, or polo,” Scripps said. The company also wants to offer sewing kits — Scripps and Byström have found just one sewing needle that’s Made in America.

“They’re easier to use than normal needles. They’re rad,” Scripps said. “Only a couple thread makers left, too.”

Scripps noted that one of the things driving up the cost of imported suits is that companies must pay for expensive ads to promote their product, along with the built-in cost of paying for retail stores and lots of staff. American-made goods can be more expensive to produce at the outset, but Tailored Forward’s goal is to help get their product directly to customers, avoiding a lot of the added costs.

“If we can do better, and sell more, our goal is to drive our profit margin even lower,” he said.   

Visit Tailored Forward.