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A mobile clothing store where customers can order a tailor-made suit, shirt, pair of jeans or shoes. A tailor coming to your home or office to take measures, using a state-of-the-art full-body scanner. Sounds futuristic? Travelling tailor Rutger Vlaming makes it happen with his Suit Truck, causing a bit of a stir in the traditional world of made-to-measure clothes.
His Suit Truck, painted in dark grey metallic, attracts attention wherever he goes. In the back of his truck, Rutger Vlaming uses the espresso machine to make a nice cup of coffee and sits down on a brown leather bench. The broad-shouldered fashion entrepreneur is a keen sportsman who used to play football at a high level.
Seven years ago, he set up fashion brand Frederik George, the predecessor of Suit Truck. His mission? Making the process of buying clothes easier, faster and more efficient. He started out selling shirts but extended his range to suits, jackets, jeans and shoes – all made to measure. “Men don’t like trying on lots of clothes; they want something that fits straightaway.”
Vlaming used to sell Frederik George and a few other brands in his pop-up shop in Amsterdam, but he soon came to the conclusion that waiting for people to walk into his store was not for him. “The modern businessman has hardly any time to find a good tailor. I’d rather visit my customers, but driving to their doorstep in my Smart Car didn’t seem a good idea to me.”
When walking around at a food truck festival he saw a sushi truck and the penny dropped. However, an old-fashioned food truck, as romantic as it sounds, has a lot of disadvantages. For example, because of the emissions it is not allowed to enter most Dutch cities. So he approached a van and truck manufacturer. “This edition was especially designed for Suit Truck and made in Poland. By the way, the word ‘suit’ in the brand name doesn’t refer to a ‘man’s suit’ but rather to the ‘fit’, as the truck is in fact a luxurious fitting room.”
Thousands of fabrics
With his Suit Truck he drives to companies during office hours to sell their employees perfect-fitting tailor-made clothes, but he also pays home visits to his customers. “Recently I received a special request: a groom-to-be was organizing a dinner party for his best friends. He asked me to drop by and measure a suit for every dinner guest.”
At the moment there are two Suit Trucks on the road. One truck is fitted with a rack of garments. “The customer puts on a shirt or jacket and I use pins to get the perfect fit. The customer can choose from more than a thousand fabrics.” He opens a sample book: “Everything is possible: plain colours, chequered, pinstripes or a bold pattern. The type of buttons and the lining can be personalized as well. It’s my job to guide the customer through this process. Usually, fitting and choosing a design, fabric and all the details is done within one hour.”
The other truck, which he uses half of the time, is equipped with a full-body scanner in order to make measuring easier and more accurate. Vlaming explains how it works: “Wearing only his boxer short, the customer steps into a sort of fitting room, closes the door and presses a button. Several cameras take pictures while a grid pattern is projected onto his body. Within two seconds we receive all the measurements we need. The customer can check his avatar online and see how a piece of clothing looks on him. This way it’s very easy to change the colour or the type of fabric.”
This advanced technology is still in development and Vlaming is busy experimenting. “I use the truck with the full-body scanner for two weeks in a row and then I’m fine-tuning it to adjust it to the demands from the market. And I’m working on setting up a link with our web shop.”
Less textile waste
Suit Truck is not the only company experimenting with a full-body scanner. “But I dare to say that we’re the only ones who are making it work, thanks to a couple of secret applications”, Vlaming says with a wink. Most companies use a body scan to help customers find the size they need for a particular brand, in order to reduce the number of returns.
“We primarily scan for production but in the future we will also use it to produce a size chart. A nice way to battle textile waste as returned articles won’t need to go back into the store. Tailor-made clothing is sustainable by definition. We only sell what people are really going to wear and that means we produce a lot less.”
Former pro footballer Levchenko as brand ambassador
Vlaming believes that reusing textiles has the future. He recently launched an exclusive bespoke suit made of hundred percent recycled fabrics: unique in the textile world. For this project he worked together with the Dutch-Indonesian weavers collective Khaloom.
The first suit was made for former professional footballer Evegeniy Levchenko, a brand ambassador for two fashion start-ups. During a photoshoot at the stadium of AFC football club in Amsterdam last summer, Levchenko wore a self-designed recycled suit made by Suit Truck,. Vlaming: “These days, sustainability is still being used as a marketing tool, but it should really become the standard.”
The fashion entrepreneur makes no secret of his ambitions: he wants to scale up as quickly as possible and roll out more of these trucks in order to achieve nationwide coverage. Then he is going to set up a franchise system to cover other European countries and in the near future he would like to enter the US market.
“I feel the concept could work well over there because of the vast distances. Moreover, there are a lot of clustered areas with a high concentration of people. We could drive to a business district or to a college campus. Suit Truck is aimed at progressive, fashion-conscious men with little time and it is my mission to provide an efficient service to them.”
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