Up and coming menswear store, Alton Lane, is working to be the future of the bespoke suit. Their process is laid back and customer oriented. Rather than selling suits, they see themselves building relationships with their customers while helping them create a customized look.
Richmond is home to one of just eight Alton Lane showrooms in the United States and today we talk with Richmond’s Senior Showroom Director, Richard Newcomb, about setting the stage for a better suit buying experience.
Interview: Richard Newcomb
Tell us a little about your background in retail and menswear.
I grew up in a small town in Virginia where style and fashion weren’t really things. When I moved to Charleston, SC for college, I turned into a khaki and blue blazer kind of guy. No more socks. When I started grad school at VCU, I landed a job at Nordstrom and realized I really liked the dapper look they sell. Two days after I got my Masters in Public Administration, I got a call from the guys at Alton Lane asking me to come hang out. By January of 2014 I was working there as a manager, and I’ve had a lot of fun growing with the company. I’m now a Senior Showroom Director and support our Richmond and D.C. showrooms.
What is one word that best describes Alton Lane?
Experience. At Alton Lane, we strive to give an experience that is second to none. Fun, relaxing, engaging. At the one-on-one appointments we walk through your style, your look, your preferences, and create a unique experience for men.
Walk us through the Alton Lane fitting process.
The fitting process is a three-part modern-bespoke process. First we do a body scan to create a 3-D rendering of each client’s measurements and body. Then we do traditional hand-measurements. Finally, we do a sample-fitting to give you a feel for the clothes and how they are going to fit you. This creates the perfect garment for every body-type, because every fit, body and preference is different. Not all “slim fit” or “regular fit” garments are created equal.
If you had to choose one AL staple, what would it be?
The classic navy blazer - it’s the most popular item we sell. In Richmond, it’s also been interesting to see gentlemen reaching for brighter colors and patters. Richmond is evolving from the traditional navy/khaki look and men are starting to branch out into newer styles and bolder looks.
Besides a fabulously fitted ensemble, what is it about the Alton Lane experience that draws your customers in?
We can cater the experience to each individual. We have a bar in each showroom, and folks can come in grab a drink and relax. This gives our customers a sense of comfort; we treat each customer like we are welcoming them into our home. We serve bourbons, scotches, and local beers. And of course, our bar stocks Belle Isle, so there’s a little something for everyone. It’s all about the customer.
Describe the vibe in Alton Lane’s Richmond showroom.
We are in Westhampton and that’s a strong community where many of our customers actually know each other well. It’s also not uncommon for me to see our customers out and about in Richmond. Our goal is to give the customer the best experience. More often than not, we develop such great relationships that these customers become life-long friends. We care more about the relationship with them than the sale.
How many other showrooms have you visited? How are they different and how are they similar.
I have been to New York, D.C. and of course Richmond. They are all unique, but also similar. They each work to capture the style and essence of the city and Alton Lane as a brand. We want to feel like the haberdashery that’s been on that street corner for 100 years. Our values stay the same no matter what location you visit; our clients, their preferences and comfort always come first. But as we grow, it’s important we determine where we fit into each city’s culture as a brand. But you’ll always see the same big leather couches with the Alton Lane flair at all of our locations.
Favorite Richmond (and maybe DC) happy hour?
I’d say The Boathouse. Nothing beats watching the sunset over the city with an Old Fashioned in hand. In DC, The Quill Room at The Jefferson. Both founders have sent me there – it’s reminiscent of the Alton Lane style.
High-end menswear has experienced a resurgence in recent years, where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?
You’re right, high-end menswear has changed drastically in the past five years. Gentlemen are venturing out to create a style for themselves, so we are looking at trends from around the globe and incorporating them quickly, while staying true to our commitment to quality and the customer.
The kind of experience that boutique stores can offer customers is turning them away from big-box store where no one knows you or really cares that much about how you feel after the garment is purchased. At Alton Lane, we welcome you on your first visit, and then we welcome you back in as a friend. We take the time to develop that relationship.
E-commerce has also seen huge jumps, so Alton Lane allows people to shop when it’s convenient for them through our online showroom. And we are also offering a mobile showroom that travels to different cities to give people the same Alton Lane experience we offer in-showroom. We can bring the showroom to you.
I also get calls and texts from clients now asking for “the same navy or grey suit” they always want, versus the client who wants to come in and feel the fabrics and be there in person. Both ways are fine, and it’s great that we can offer an experience that works for each individual customer. We want everyone to have a way to shop that is convenient and personalized for them.
Photography by Alexander Kreher.