INTERVIEW: British Trouser with Portuguese Flare: Meet Tom Cridland

Tom Cridland is eponymous founder of mens' trouser brand Tom Cridland. The young 24 year old, has designed trousers with a slimmer fit, that are made in high quality fabrics - cotton, wool, or cashmere. The bright and vivid colours - Chili Red, Electric Blue, Pink Panther - reflect the vibrancy of Portugal where they are made by hand. There are also the more orthodox colours - Blue and Stone. 

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Odd Pears: Our interview with Brock Sykes

Socks are one of the rare places men can be a bit more avant garde than elsewear. And Odd Pears, is a company that makes incredibly interesting and quirky socks. The company sells pairs of socks in three, with one sock being slightly different than the typical matching pair. Moreover, the company donates $1 from every purchase to charity. It's exactly the type of company and story we like sharing at Lyf Consul. We recently had the chance to speak with Brock Sykes, the founder of Odd Pears. We are very excited about what other products they are working on and wish them great success. 

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INTERVIEW: Laszlo Vass, Founder of Vass Shoes

László Vass is the name when it comes to excellent quality handmade shoes from Hungary. He wrote the book on hand made shoes...literally - it can be purchased on Amazon. The master of the Hungarian shoe is well known amongst shoe aficionados for their exceptional shoes made entirely by hand in Budapest. Over the years, the company has been gaining greater traction online in Europe and the US. 

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REVIEW: European MTM Shirts: TailorStore Shirts

TailorStore, is a Sweden based MTM shirt retailer which also produces MTM over coats, chinos, and suits. TailorStore is run by an affable Jan Hojman. We recently had the chance to review a shirt from TailorStore and speak with Jan. 

LC: When was TailorStore founded?

TS: Tailor Store Sweden was founded in 2003 and we took our first order in February 2004.

LC: How did you enter this business and industry?  

TS: The two founders Magnus Loodberg and Mats Ola Ström, both still owners and active in the company, saw the market possibility of letting customers designing their own shirt online.  They had the skills and contacts to develop the website and setting up the initial production facility in Sri Lanka and after approx 6 motnhs of development the site was live in Feb 2004.  

LC: How do you see the company growing in the next 3-5 years?  

TS: The concept has proven to be successful and we believe in a bright future for this company with cnontinued growth, more new customers worldwide and happy returning old customers.  We will focus on further developing our core products - shirt, chinos, suits - and carefully add to the collection products that go well with or core concept.  We have recently entered new markets like Poland, The Netherlands, Finland, USA and India and we will continue to localise the site and invest in new markets over the coming years.  

LC: How are you growing in Europe? Where do you want to go next?  

TS: See previous question.  In Europe we will in the short to mid term focus on further penetrating the markets we are in currently including the markets we recently entered like The Netherlands, Polen and Finland.

LC: How do you see the mens MTM shirt industry change over that time?

TS: Personalization of producs and services seem to be a macro trend globally these days and we are in the midst of this.  MTM and personal design will be more sought after in the future as consumers get used to this and they realize the great advantages and sense of feelgood when you are wearing clothes that are designed by yourself and made for you.

LC: We were surprised our box came from Sri Lanka - are your shirts manufactured there?

TS: Yes indeed.  

LC: How long have you had operations in Sri Lanka and why there?  

Sri Lanka has a long tradition of apparel manufacturing and consequenlty availablitiy of skilled workforce as well as high standards when it comes to university level education. We built our own and operated factory in Alawwa, Sri Lanka, back in 2007.  Today we employ 450 workers and staff there.  It is our company and we have employed and trained everyone ourselves.  We have off course very good insight and control of working conditions, salaries, pensions, insurances etc and we strive to be an employer of choice in the local society in Sri Lanka.  And I am proud to say that we are.  

LC: What would you like customers to know about your brand?  

TS: With clothes from Tailor Store you will enjoy the great feeling of being well dressed in clothes that fit you perfectly.  Clothes of high quality that you have designed yourself.  And that Tailor Store strives to contribute to a sustainable society through e. g. plantation of rain forest in Sri Lanka and comprehensive CSR programs.

LC: What brands or products inspire you?

TS: In apparel I am inspired by many competitive shirt brands like Stenströms, Eton, Pink and others.  I am also inspired by the big international brands like Polo, Brooks Brothers and Levi's.  Patagonia has always impressed me with their way of executing their strategy with sustaiability constantly in focus. And off course Apple is a source of inspiration with their way of changing the entire way we consume media and communicate with each other.

Website: The TS website is robust and easy to navigate. Of all the websites we used TS' website was the easiest to use and enter measurements. That said, the fabrics are rendered in a computer generated 3D image that does not make it very easy to determine the true look of the fabric.

Fabrics: While TS carries a wide range of fabrics in a variety of colours and weaves, they do not tend to carry the higher end European fabrics such as Thomas Mason, or Tessitura Monti. The shirt fabric that we chose was from the higher end of TS' range, but is not of similar quality to that of a Thomas Mason shirt.

Customer Service: Jan initially suggested we try two shirts. Both tended to have some bunching around the arms and we asked for the shirts to be re-made. Jan was thoroughly apologetic and quickly remedied the situation.

Fit and Construction: Off the two shirts we ordered, the one you don't see here, initially had the same problem  in terms of bunching around the arms, but it was livable. Unfortunately, after a few washes the shirt has now shrunk to the point that it can longer be comfortably worn. The shirt we reviewed here, however, has done well in the wash cycle. It's only drawback is that of the bunching around the arms. Stylistically, the collar was a bit smaller than we would prefer for a cut away collar. 

Conclusion: TailorStore offers a very decent MTM shirt at a very reasonable price. For those seeking their first MTM shirt online, TailorStore is a great place to start. 

REVIEW: MTM Shirts: Lewis & Taylor Shirt

Lewis & Taylor, is a well known online MTM shirt maker, and has a loyal following. The company follows in the tradition of Hong Kong tailoring, known for making high quality shirts with quick turn around. We had the chance to work with LT's Ed who offered us a shirt to review. We choose a dark blue end-on-end Thomas Mason fabric and decided to test out the company's ability to customize a shirt with a two button collar and three button cuffs, similar to Turnbull & Asser.

Website: The LT website does not offer a fancy 3D render of a shirt and is fairly bare bones, but in a good way. You pick your fabric and select whatever customizations you want. However, one short coming of the website is that it does not give you a chance to see the true feel of a fabric.

Customer Service: LT's shirt came with a few drawbacks. Our shirt had some writing on the back of the collar and a stain on the back of the shirt. We emailed Ed about this and he suggested mailing the shirt back to Hong Kong - unrealistic to us, or accept a $40 voucher. Frankly, other retailers would have sent a new shirt over immediately. 

Fabrics: Of all the shirt retailers we have tested thus far, LT has the widest selection of higher end fabrics. They carry Tessitura Monti, Thomas Mason, and Liberty of London fabrics. In particular, Liberty fabrics are hard to come by online. 

Fit and Construction: Following Ed's instructions, we washed the shirt and the stain disappeared although the writing did not. Overlooking that, the shirt fit very well. We were somewhat disappointed by the width of the cutaway collar and felt it should have been a bit wider. That said, the two button collar fit well and the three button cuffs were great. 

Conclusion: LT offers a high quality shirt with a reasonable price range. For shirt afficianodos seeking very customized shirts in terms of collors and cuffs, LT is the place to look. Ed, assured us that we had a unique experience with our shirt being stained and did offer to replace it. If you are seeking a highly customized shirt with high end fabrics, LT is the place to go.