Have you every waltzed into a clothing store (high-end, low-end, whatever) and picked out an item (shirt, jacket, pair of pants, whatever), but something about it just wasn’t right? The cut was off, the fabric was too stiff, the colour too bright, the cuffs too thick, the buttons too garish, the yoke too wide, the sleeves too long, the crotch too tight? Whatever it was, something made you not buy it. Or if you did, you did so because you were tired of shopping and you made do. Now, though, men will never have to search for that (affordable) perfect suit again. Nor will they have to settle.
Toronto now has its own bespoke men’s customizable design boutique. Surmesur — opened first in Quebec City, then in hip Montreal — does for men’s suit tailoring what Harvey’s did for the burger. Have it your way. It’s all about customization, building and creating what you want instead of buying what others give you.
At the launch party, everyone is all big smiles and small talk as they roam the new store on Queen Street East, just west of Jarvis. It’s an area in transition. The sidewalk is roped off with stanchions and a red carpet beckons. A rubby across the street takes a swig of his paper-bag martini as we go inside for cocktails in glasses and morsels of goodness on napkins. The lighting is lowered and glows an intimate red. DJ daVinci provides the soundtrack for our shopping and learning adventure. On either side of this high-ceilinged interior, white walls are adorned with fabric swatches, like paint chips at Canadian Tire. Dotting the room, large flat screens on high counters allow you to choose the look, style and colour of your own shirt, pants or suit, down to the colour of button, style of cuff and type of collar.
An almost life-size interactive flat screen (which allows you to create an entire suit down to the colour of bow tie) adds another layer to your design process, while their wall of collars and cuffs screams fetish. Who knew there they were so many to choose from? And all are attached by magnets allowing you to remove and put them on to get a better idea of what the finished garment will look like. Or just wear them shirtless for that Chippendale’s dancer look. This process can be replicated online, in the comfort of your home. It is recommended, though, that you visit the store at least once in order to be properly fitted.
This fitting is also customizable. Go the traditional route and have someone in store kneel before you and measure your mighty inseam, or travel into the future, now, by stepping into their body scanner disguised as a dressing room. In less than a minute, a full-size scan is processed and your exact measurements are automatically created and stored: 16-inch neck, 44-inch shoulders, 32-inch waist, 33-inch legs — done. Or as my frisky friends find out, two people can create rather risqué photos by posing in some compromising positions.
Upstairs is crowded with young professionals busy comparing fabrics and swapping stories of their day. Downstairs is where all the cool kids are, hanging out by the second pop-up bar. Front TV founder Jeff Rustia is holding court in a room full of models, fashion retailers and gay scene-makers, including Jeffery Nichols, dancer Paul Charbonneau, knitwear designer Dylan Uscher, Xtra columnist Ryan G Hinds, Dr Leslie Ee and the legendary Rommel. It is here, in the company of colourful spools of thread, that we find the man behind the vision, Francois Theriault.
Welcome to Toronto.
“We are planning on opening 15 new stores. Toronto was the next logical step for us,” Theriault says, with a juicy Québécois accent.
We’ve seen tailor-made suits, but this new twist has taken it to another level.
Your limit is your imagination. We have over 5,000 different fabrics. We make tailor-made, affordable. Shirts sell from $95 to $175. Suits from $325 t0 $1,250.
Who is the consumer?
Young professionals that don’t have the big salary yet but want a really nice suit to take them to that next level. A suit that’s gonna fit them perfectly.
Are the suits made locally?
We have factories in China, Vietnam and other places. We get fabrics from all over the world, including Italy and Britain. But it is our unique customizable software that we have built over the past two years that sets us apart.
After I create my perfect suit, how long do I have wait to actually wear it?
From start to finish is about two and a half to three weeks, with a one-and-a-half-week express option. We have the capacity for large production, so we also do a lot of work with hotels and restaurants who want to differentiate their uniforms with a little flair.
Their competitive edge?
It’s the way we structure our creation system. Our concept is unique, and we are always improving the technology behind that concept. Visualizing what your garment is going to look like [in store and online] to our 3D scanners, we always try and stay ahead of the game.
So much ahead of the game that a new hush-hush addition to the concept will soon be rolled out. Is it underwear? Could we be designing our own underwear soon?
I never thought about that. That would be so cool. Most of our ideas come from people like you. You know what? We could do it. Blue back side, yellow crotch…
Have it your way. I’m hungry already.