Craftsman Clothing Successfully Pursues a Strategy of Affordable Luxury

The fashion industry is in a constant state of flux, which is much of its appeal. I have watched with interest the backlash against fast fashion (I am looking at you, Forever 21). One of the steady success stories is at the top of the market, the bespoke fashion segment.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Tobe Fong, the co-founder of Craftsman Clothing. His business specializes in fine leathers, essentially made to order.

The company was founded in 2015, started selling on Instagram in 2016 and and was registered for business last year. “I was inspired by the buyer influence of Threadless,” Tobe explained. “But instead of T-shirts, I pursued my love of leather jackets.” He went on to describe his backstory. While studying textiles at University of California Davis, he learned the industry’s dirty little secrets, such as ‘Made in Italy’ may only mean the last small step was done there. He loved the California weather, which would allow him to wear leather jackets year round. But his student budget kept fine leather jackets out of reach, and the fast fashion options were of less interest to Tobe.

Tobe soon found leather jacket artisans in Hong Kong, where he was born. He started with his partner Tsz, they each had a jacket made. “That was our first investment. We started advertising online in social media, and began selling.”

Craftsman Clothing is a branding initiative. Tobe astutely keeps a keen eye on overhead; they have only a handful of employees, mostly handling social media. His company’s location allows him to leverage the garment industry that boomed in Hong Kong in the 1980s and current favorable labor costs. Tobe nonetheless asserts that quality of a garment these days is less about where it’s made and more about the team materials creating the garment.

The company has successfully created a brand that offers affordable and well-made outerwear drawing inspiration from the classics influences of aviation, naval and safari jackets.

The jackets are bespoke and made to measure in Hong Kong, to maintain quality control. The jacket I have from Craftsman Clothing is a classic McQueen A-2 Suede Blouson. It fits like a glove. The supple suede is soft and luxurious. The Riri zippers from Sweden are sturdy. Available in 15 colors, I chose charcoal. Like other clothing I had made to order in Asia, Tobe asked about custom embroidering. Some folks like a catchphrase, I went with the classic choice and had my name embroidered on the inside pocket. It is a wonderful addition to my wardrobe, and represents the growing trend of buying fewer, better things. Indeed, the majority of buyers are aged 25-34, based on Google Analytics.

Craftsman Clothing is pursuing a worthy strategy of affordable luxury, a trend I first discovered via Archibald London.

“Ready to wear is a bit further away,” stated Tobe. Looking to the future, Tobe is handling wholesale orders and partnering with tailors in major global cities.

When asked about his biggest challenge, Tobe describes the 4-6 week delivery schedule.

Sourcing leathers from abroad (Italy or Japan) and ensuring top quality made to order product takes time.

Judging by the compliments I have had around town, the wait is certainly worth it.

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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