If anyone had told a teenaged Kyle Vucko that he’d one day head a fashion company, he probably would have laughed. The Victoria, British Columbia-native enrolled in the University of Victoria with the intention of getting a degree in business. "I assumed I'd be doing something entrepreneurial in tech, but I wasn't sure what that would look like. Solving big business problems always appealed to me," he says. But a bad shopping experience in 2006 changed his life.
"I tried to buy a suit for a conference, but the suits I liked, I couldn’t afford. The suits I could afford, I didn’t like—and they fit terribly. The shopping experience felt designed for women, with guys like me forced to the back corner to find a few less-than-satisfying options," says 28-year-old Vucko. "I knew there must be a better way of helping guys get dressed. For Indochino, that’s meant offering affordable, stylish and well-fitting clothes via a beautiful and intuitive experience."
After realizing their shared suiting struggle, he and cofounder and classmate Heikal Gani—who serves as the president and chief creative officer and oversees the company’s Shanghai, China, outpost—joined forces and took Indochino live nearly a year later. Committed to his big idea, Vucko dropped out during his final year of school. He counts being CEO of Indochino as his first real job, following a brief retail gig and a stint working at Wendy’s. "It’s been that lack of experience that’s helped me run the company. I haven’t been prejudiced by past experience or previous knowledge of the ‘right’ way to do certain things," he says. "By focusing on a new solution to a problem, rather than looking at what’s already been done, we’ve been able to be innovative and groundbreaking in most areas of the business, from customer experience to manufacturing."
It’s that drive to do something new—offering customization at scale—that drives the entire company. "That’s meant innovation at every step, from how we capture measurements and process orders, to how we perform quality assurance and ship garments. What we’re doing with custom suits and shirts represents a tiny fraction of what the technology we’re developing could mean to apparel as a whole. To me, this really is exciting," Vucko says.
For customers, it’s the process that excites. Use Indochino’s step-by-step video guide to take your own measurements at home, then choose your favorite basic suit style and make it your own, selecting things like lapel type, number of buttons, lining, even pocket placement. A month later, your bespoke garment arrives, ready to wear out the box, starting at $449. Unsatisfied with the fit? No worries—each order comes with a $75 credit to pay for local alteration. Users can also design shirts, pants, and ties. The company recently celebrated its 100,000th customer—no small feat when surveys show that only 25% of shoppers prefer to buy clothing online, and a full 70% of apparel returns are the result of poor fit.
But the latest development at Indochino is actually happening offline, where Vucko is offering the custom treatment IRL via pop-up stores—a move than may seem counterintuitive for a company that has found so much success online. But Vucko’s not interested in following a formula. "I didn’t set out to create an e-commerce company—I set out to solve a problem. Customers don’t think in channels, they think in experience and product. Some of our customers don’t want to shop online—they want to feel the fabrics, talk to us, and get style advice. We launched Traveling Tailor for those customers," he explains. Indochino will hold 24 Traveling Tailor pop-ups through North America in 2014.
These days, the Vancouver-based company has about 100 employees, and closed a $13 million Series B round of funding with Highland Capital Partners last year. "We’re continuing in our mission and creating new product collections and investigating partnerships," Vucko says of the company’s future. "Our goal is to become the go-to resource for guys looking to get dressed. Whenever a guy needs to show up and look good—at school, for work, on dates or for his wedding—we want to be there to help him."