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Reinventing High Touch Amid High Tech

What a USA made custom suit company can teach you about business, failure, and essential human interaction.

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BY Tracy Leigh Hazzard - 04 Jul 2017
High tech Amazon sales or custom fashion which will thrive?

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Imagine you are looking for the perfect fitting garment to wear to a wedding. So you head to your local department store and find the perfect pair of dress pants, without the help of anyone really, because the staff are all under 20, sales clerks, and could care less about your pants. In fact, the only way you might get their attention is if you weren't wearing any at all. Now you need to get your pants hemmed... but where? Are you going to stick around and let the sales clerk inaccurately measure you? They don't even know where your pants should fall, nor do they care. And machines don't really care either. Do they?

Custom Fashion Is Here To Stay

The new Alexa/Echo camera has recently been announced by Amazon and instead of making high touch custom suiting obsolete, it's making the case for custom fashion stronger. The idea is that the device will scan you and help get your measurements right to match the size of clothes. The ultimate goal, it has been speculated, is to cut down on returns and save sellers money.

But what Alan Horowitz of Alan David Custom - knows from 4 generations of designing and selling suits (Made in the USA) is that a great fit is a lot more complicated than a scan and an algorithm. There's an art to learning and understanding the variables and nuances of fit, fabric, and function but what it really underscores is how important (and viable as a business) it is to have a high touch option in a high tech world. It becomes about a person and what they want to do, how they want to look and feel - not about selling a suit. It's about putting the focus on the customer experience.... Who would have guessed?

Experience Is Worth More Than....

Technological advances? When it comes to clothing, and custom business offerings, the answer seems to be yes. Alan has spent countless hours perfecting his skill, expanding his knowledge, and focusing on understanding exactly what his customer needs/expects from him. This is why, in a world where Alexa/Echo want to take over, Alan's custom business is thriving.

Failure With A Different Meaning

I want you to think about the importance of failure and mistakes in the learning process. Alexa will only be able to say 'this won't fit you' based on programmed knowledge of sizes. She won't be able to advise why, or how to correct it, or what to look for in materials - Alan can. In a business like Alan's, a failure isn't a stop point, it's a pivot point, and that's an important distinction.

Generational Learning vs Machine Learning

That is generational learning, apprentice-style, and somewhat of a lost art. While we think today that machine-learning must be better because it removes human bias, what we are also removing is human connection and what that connection entails... and it's more than you might think.

The Human Connection

Alexa can only evaluate what's for sale, she cannot make those products better and teach suppliers to make them the right way. Our stores today are glorified distribution centers and gateways to the consumer - not merchants with narrow but deep knowledge of their product category. This is why custom businesses, just like Alan's, are thriving. And I hope this is always true for consumers - that we are always able to recognize the importance of the human element in our transactions and how that role creates a better market for all of us.