Photo of headline from MR Magazine published June 2007 titled "Liles Clothing Studio, It's all in the details

Bruce Liles has been thinking about the clothing business for a long time. In grade school he used to tell people he would one day open his own men's store. In high school he went to work at Belk, where his father was manager, and he opened Liles Clothing Studio in Raleigh, N.C., 13 years ago.

"We had a very small MTM (Made To Measure )business when we first opened but over the years we've made a niche for ourselves. MTM has steadily grown to become a huge part of our business," says Liles.

One of his best clients, who's been collecting Esquire magazines from the 30's came to Liles with a picture in hand of a three-piece suit with an
an unusual, rounded-bottom vest.

"I sent the measurements to Adrian Jules, one of most flexible vendors, and they made it up for for him. He's been a dedicated client every since", says Liles who adds that his client doesn't even live in the same state - he travels three hours to have his clothing made.

"I have another client who used to live in Raleigh, but moved to San Jose, California. When he went to a store in his new town and they couldn't make the suit for him the way he wanted, he gave me a call. Now I send him swatches in the mail, he picks them out and I send him the finished suits. I already have his measurements on file."

Liles reports an increase of younger guys coming in and wanting MTM
with two buttons, a higher button stance, peak lapel, almost always with hacking and ticket pockets and a flantfront trouser.

"For these customers, and for the older customers looking for something a little out of the ordinary, we trick up the under collars with a bright colored felt, pick stitch details, working surgeon cuffs and working button holes, as well as great interior iridecent or patterned linings," says Liles. He separately buys fancy silk linings out of California, and sends the fabric to whichever vender is making the suit. It costs the customer an additional $150 or $200 but according to Liles, customers go crazy for this additional option.

"Made-To-Measure has accelerated accessories business as well", says Liles. "I put more of my upfront dollaras into great accessosries and sportswear and I hang less clothing." He admits that he tries to hang clothing from vendors that do a Made-To-Measure component. "If a customer sees something on the rack that dosen't fit him, or if he wants it with two-buttons, not three, then I can say, no problem, I can make it up for you.

"We never let a customer leave without selling him a Made-To-Measure shirt to go with his suit. Quite often the'll pick out the whole outfit right there and then...the

neckwear, the shirt, the pocket
square, the cufflinks. We also carry Nagrani socks and have a wonderful sell-thru because people in this area have never seen hosiery so bold and colorful. We try to help with all the color coordinationand put together a complete outfit.

"We push the envelope and encourage our clients to do so too. Even with our very traditional customers I might say, let's try a brighter lining, or let's do a purple under collar. He balks at first, but we persuade him and I tell him it's a conservative detail, it's something that only he knows about. We put it in and all of a sudden it gives them a little lift, and they love it.

"I know a salesman from another store who says he likes to keep things as simple as possible because he doesn't want to encounter any problems. He doesn't offer different linings or working buttonholes and I told him, 'You are basically offering an off-the-rack suit.' That's what separates us. We want our customers to feel like they are wearing something so unique and created to fit only their personal style. We have fabrics from vendors who only have enough fabric for 20 or 30 garments world-wide and the customer can walk away; knowing he will probably never see another man in that fabric ever. That's a great selling feature."   -- NHR

Photo: Bruce Liles standing in store
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