Review: Black Lapel Custom Made-To-Measure 3-Piece Suit
Disclaimer: Black Lapel was kind enough to offer us 50% off on this suit for the purposes of this review.
We’ve covered quite a few different custom clothing companies in the past few months here on the site. The competition in this space is fierce, no doubt. One company that has always seemed to stand out from the rest of the pack, though, has been Black Lapel. They have always offered some interesting options when it comes to things like outerwear that many other companies do not offer at all. And they have always differentiated themselves on quality at affordable, but not cheap prices. Lots of readers of the site have requested our review of their custom suit experience, and so that is what we bring you here.
Style & Design
Black Lapel offers a sizable collection of great fabrics to choose from. Is their sea of fabrics as vast as Indochino’s? No. But this is both a good and bad thing. It’s bad since you have less choice. It’s good also because you have less choice. Black Lapel is much more discerning about the fabrics they carry. They won’t carry lower end fabrics, which Indochino will. Not to mention the fact that I find Black Lapel’s fabric selection to be much more curated and carefully styled than Indochino’s, which is just a bit of everything. Black Lapel also releases new fabrics seasonally, and some of their selections really do stand out as being super nice, unique, and interesting. Then, of course, they also have many variations on the classic, with different shades of grey, navy, blue, charcoal, and so on, spanning the full gamut of price as well, ranging from $500ish to over $1,000.
For this review, we went with the Rivington Dusk Blue suit ($599) (to which we added a vest) which is a gorgeous and fresh take on a navy suit. There are small flecks of white throughout, giving the suit a unique and intriguing look and texture. It’s a navy suit for people that don’t want a navy suit. It’s the perfect second blue colored suit to have in your wardrobe. It can do everything from more casual wear to anything but the most formal of events. And all the while, from afar, it will look like any ol’ navy suit, until you get up close and see how unique and special it truly is. While it is a bit lighter in person than the pictures on the Black Lapel website, we still found it to be pretty versatile as far as color matching, and while not at all a true, deep navy, it will still pair well with just about anything a true navy suit would.
As far as styling details, we love the 5 buttons on the sleeves, as well as the metal side adjusters. Unlike Indochino’s, Black Lapel’s side tabs actually sit on the waist of the pants (as opposed to slightly below), making them even more functional. We also love the peak lapels (obviously), and find that even though this is as wide as they offer them (despite most “wide” peak lapels being even wider), we actually like this house style peak lapel, and find it well proportioned with the rest of the jacket. The button color as well is a great compliment to the suit, and the pockets are well proportioned as well. Only thing we would love to see one day is the option for a 3-2 roll. Overall, the suit looks killer and we love it. A
Ordering Process & First Fitting
As we always recommend if possible, I visited Black Lapel’s storefront in NYC to get professionally fitted by their tailors. The process was quick and enjoyable, and the staff their is super friendly and accommodating. Not to mention the fact that they really know their stuff, and were pointing things out about my body, and potential tweaks for my fit that I had never before noticed (nor were picked up by Indochino’s tailors when I visited their shop for a fitting a few months ago).
Once I had my measurements in their system, I went home to order my suit online. You certainly could pick out a fabric in the store (and they sent me home with a bunch of swatches), but I had wanted some more time to think about what color choice I wanted to go with. The website is clean, and simple to use, though it certainly could use a bit of updating and modernizing. The biggest missing piece to me is still a live preview of the garment you are designing. You can customize just about anything you would want to, but you do not see the selections reflected in any sort of live rendering. You’re just essentially ticking boxes. All the standard customization options are there, though, and you can even email them to request more unique and specific features (like more buttons on the sleeve, or metal side adjusters instead of button ones). In all, they do a great job of treating you like a premium customer, and making sure to deliver on what it is that you want.
About a month later (which is neither slow nor fast in the world of custom clothing online) my suit arrived. As I always say, the first fitting with a MTM garment I always consider to be a “basting” garment, even though it obviously is not actually. (Unless you’re ordering from Articles of Style.) Meaning, the first fit is always going to be a bit off, and you should expect at least a second, likely a third fitting until you’re at a point that you can order from this company blind, knowing your suit garment will fit perfectly. For a first fitting, though, Black Lapel did an excellent job. Most of the tweaks that were needed came down to personal preference, and not something intrinsically wrong with the garment (which, while eventually corrected, was indeed a problem at Indochino). I wanted the sleeves to be trimmed up a bit, as well as the pants to be a bit more tapered, and shortened a little bit. This was no problem, and their tailors did it for free at their store in just about a week or so. (Black Lapel would also offer $75 reimbursement if you wanted to take care of any such alterations at your own local tailor.)
Now, while Black Lapel does account for whether you would like a slimmer or more full fit, I do think one area they can improve their already-pretty-great fitting process would be to get a bit more specific about what areas a customer would like to fit in a certain way. As in, I know what leg opening I would like on my pants approximately, and how slim I like the arms to be, but this is something that they really only nail down after the first fitting, and not before. Again, this is something that is pretty difficult to do (unless you are using true basting garments), but, Lanieri (review coming soon), for instance, does allow for a bit more precision when picking how slim you would like certain areas of the final garment to fit. This would take Black Lapel to the next level! A-
The Final Fitting
This is the fit you are seeing in all the pictures throughout this review. It’s pretty damn good, is it not?! They were able to account for a whole host of things, like my slightly uneven leg lengths (.25”), as well as adding a tiny bit of extra padding to one shoulder to account for a slightly uneven sloping shoulder that I never noticed before.
Overall, the fit is quite good! The waist suppression is perfect, as is the length of the jacket. The pants fit perfectly around the waist and seat (the latter of which gives some MTM companies difficulty). There is no obvious sign of pulling or creasing or rippling anywhere. The shoulders are spot on as well. In short, all the hardest areas are 100%. Now, if I was to quibble, I have some personal fit preferences that I would want to tweak. For instance, I would want to taper the pants a touch more below the knee (and actually let out the tiniest bit above the knee as the left leg pulls a bit around my thigh). I would also want the sleeves a bit trimmer as well, and, in an ideal world, I find that Black Lapel’s house style has a bit more shoulder padding overall than I prefer. But, again, these are very minor tweaks, and are personal preferences, and not anything inherently wrong with the fit. Black Lapel did a bang-up job, and I expect the fit of my suits from them, once they incorporate this latest feedback, to get better and better with each order (which is always the goal and point of MTM)! Oh, and I should take this time to point out also that the vest fit perfectly the first time around (though, again, my personal preference is not to love the split hem they use on the bottom of their vests). A
Quality & Construction
In one sentence: these suits are SuitSupply quality. It’s about the same price as SuitSupply, but you’re getting a garment that you designed from the ground up, and that is cut to fit you specifically. All the stitching is neat and clean, the fabric and construction feels substantial and rich. It’s a league above something from Indochino, which can feel flimsy in certain areas in the jacket, depending on the fabric. This is a 100% wool, super 110’s fabric, with a half canvas construction. While Indochino also claims half-canvas construction (which they do indeed have; you can feel it), this is a great example of how not all half canvas construction is equal. Black Lapel’s is clearly more substantial and just feels noticeably better and sturdier. Again, the best I can put it is that this is the same level of quality as SuitSupply. The craziest part? Black Lapel has an even higher end “Savoy” line, which is made at an even higher end factory — and I can’t imagine how nice those suits are. A+
Value & Conclusion
Black Lapel Rivington Dusk Blue suit ($599): If you’re looking for a truly inexpensive custom made suit that passes the snuff test, Indochino is your store. Their suits are fine, though nothing special, and can be had for less than Black Lapel’s. However, if you’re a more discerning customer, and know a well-made suit form an okay-made suit, anything from Black Lapel will instantly be noticeable better quality. For just a bit more money, you’re getting something a serious step up as far as quality. The fabrics are better as well as the construction. And it’s this latter point that is more key, as Indochino can (and now does) offer higher-end fabrics, but their construction is all still the same. If you want of SuitSupply quality, but want all the benefits of made-to-measure for the same price, Black Lapel is your answer. (Indeed, they raise a serious question of why one would ever purchase from SuitSupply now in the first place...) They occupy the otherwise vacant space of quality made-to-measure suits in the $500 (and up) price range. Indochino is cheaper and of lesser quality, while Lanieri is more expensive, and wholly made in Italy. If you have a bit more cash, or you’d rather save just a bit more for something that you will surely notice as being superior quality, I will always direct someone to Black Lapel first. For just a bit more money you’re getting a whole lot more bang for you buck. Final Grade: A