Situated in an unassuming spot off Libbie Avenue in Richmond’s Near West End sits Alton Lane, a relative newcomer, albeit one that has garnered pages of great press, to the world of menswear. There really isn’t much that I can write that you can’t easily Google or that isn’t already known, so a brief recap.
Back-story: Two friends from college, each in their own post-university jobs, recognized a hole in the market for reasonably priced suits for men. In 2009, after due diligence and research, they founded Alton Lane as a way to bring completely customized suits at an affordable price point in a personalized shopping experience to their customer. Current story: In just five years, Alton Lane has achieved a national foot print with seven show rooms located in New York, Boston, Dallas, DC, Chicago, Richmond and, as of last month, their first West Coast location in San Francisco. Cool things to know: Alton Lane uses a 3-D body scanner, in addition to traditional methods, to obtain personalized measurements for each customer; their thousands of fabrics are sourced from only the best mills in Europe; you can get a completely customized suit in 4-6 weeks; and, perhaps what draws most gentlemen, is their fully stocked bar that provides libations on which to sip while deciding on fabrics, button loop colors and lapel details.
Where Alton Lane picks up the thread beyond these surface details is their insistence on the personal story and touch. Interest in menswear has steadily grown over the years as men have expressed an interest in fashion, style and fit. A visit to an Alton Lane showroom is like visiting a friend’s living room (or man cave in this instance) replete with comfy chairs, leather sofas, fireplaces and, of course, the bar and television. Décor is tailed to the area and in the Richmond showroom men are greeted with the Virginia State Seal emblazoned above the bar and a special homage to co-founder Peyton Jenkin’s Richmond roots – Peyton’s great-great grandfather built the L. H. Jenkins Book Bindery located on Broad Street in 1922 (now known as the Richmond Book Bindery). Showroom manager Richard Newcomb took me on a tour of the building and the details behind every customizable option; and believe me, there are plenty. While the myriad of options may seem counterintuitive to creating an easy shopping experience for men, the knowledge that Alton Lane brings to the table can help men narrow down what they want, even if they aren’t completely sure what that is. Once your details are in the system, ordering your next suit can be as easy as sending in a text, thanks to the relationship you will have built. In addition to suits, Alton Lane offers a range of khakis and have been known to cater to clients who only purchase business casual attire and forgo suits altogether. They also outfit wedding parties and have a room with photos of client’s weddings, including one of the co-founders’ own wedding.
Scenes from the Richmond Showroom. Top row left to right: Photos of the Richmond Book Bindery, the “wedding” room. Bottom row left to right: Wall of press, the showroom. All photos taken with my iphone.
Just like any other retailer, Alton Lane provides fabrics and colors that are suitable for incoming seasons. When I visited last week, Alton Lane was stocking flannels but NOT your farmer flannels; think sophisticated flannel fabric that comes in beautiful patterns and different weights (fashion speak for thickness) that look just as good on their own as they do under a suit. In addition, Alton Lane stocks overcoats to help ward off the chill of upcoming winter. I had the chance to converse with both owners of Alton Lane (Peyton in store and Colin via phone to answer some follow up questions) and it is clear that both founders care about the people they interact with: whether that is their factory owners, factory workers, a client ready to purchase a suit or a blogger who wants to write a story. It is this aspect of the personal touch that they have infused into their company from the top down that makes Alton Lane a place worth shopping; well, that and the free drinks and a smashingly well-made, custom suit.
You can read about their 12 Days of Christmas Promotion over on Whitney’s blog. I was not compensated for this article. All opinions are my own.