Published: January 3, 2018
You just opened Icon Suit in March 2017, and while you have stores in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Denver doesn’t seem like the next logical choice to expand to. Can you tell us how you ended up here?
There’s an MBA program between the London School of Economics and Stern School of Business called TRIUM, and Icon Suit was part of a capstone project there. They did the research and picked Denver as the next location for Icon Suit, because the students found that the lease rates and the salaries were all favorable to starting a business. I wanted to be in Cherry Creek North because it is the most fashionable place in Denver. Incidentally, my Cherry Creek North landlord had not heard of me or my brand, but a well-placed piece on Icon Suit in Inc. magazine Russia served as proof that my business was legit and helped me get my foot in the door.
You were an international business lawyer and made an abrupt shift into fashion? Why?
I was studying business at the Vlerick Business School in Brussels and one of my instructors there, Professor Lombard, who also happened to have taught Barack Obama at one time, helped me figure it out. I asked him to lunch and he said, “Tell me about your life.” He said, “you don't talk like a lawyer.” He asked me if I was happy, and I said I was doing something I truly did not enjoy. I really liked fashion, I enjoyed touching the fabrics. I like the feeling of a good product. He said, "go for the fashion business. When you start doing something, something will turn up, trust me.”
After that I was flying from Brussels to Moscow. I stumbled upon a nice store with suits called Suit Supply. I met with the owner and told him I wanted to get in to the business. He didn’t take me seriously at first, but I persisted. He told me, “look, go and sell 50 suits and then we’ll talk.” I had only a few thousand dollars at this point, but I put together a list of people from an energy company I’d been working with and my business school friends. I did a trunk show and told them no suit was more than $1,000, and I sold 38 suits. That was convincing enough for the owner. Eventually, I decided I could make a better, handmade product, so I started my own business and now we are the best suit company in Russia.
So when a customer walks into your store to buy a suit, you have a special tailoring process, correct? What is it like and how long does it take from start to finish?
The first thing you do is choose your fabric and the cut. Then, we have master suits that are general sizes. When you try it on, we measure for 70 points across the body and put that into the computer software. How is that better than just measuring you with a tape? When a customer is just measured with a tape, he has no kind of clue what kind of fit he gets. Once he puts the master pattern on, he understands where we are going. They can ask to have the trousers a little bit wider, or slimmer. Or, maybe they would like to have the jacket and the button positioned differently. All our suits are made-to-measure handmade in Italy. Once you’ve been measured it takes about four to six weeks for a suit to be ready.
Are suits the only thing you sell here?
I am so glad you asked! We also do tuxedos and shirts. Tuxes are very popular in Denver. And, while I can say we can compete with any maker in the quality of suit, no one can beat us when it comes to shirts. That shirt on the rack looks like any other shirt, but its fabric is supplied by Thomas Mason who supplies His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
Speaking of the Prince, I became friends with the British Consul in St. Petersburg. One time he had invited me to a party when Prince Andrew came for a visit. I wore a beautiful double-breasted gray tux with mother-of-pearl buttons and a black tie. The British Protocol Officer reminded me that this was black tux/black tie only, so I was actually turned away. Fortunately, the next time Prince Andrew was in town, I was again invited and this time, appropriately attired, made it in to the party!
220 Steele Street
Denver, CO 80206