Kipper Clothiers is a custom suiting and shirting venture for the LGBTQ community based in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded by Kyle Moshrefi and Erin Berg. L Style G Style spoke with Kyle about their joint venture into one-of-a-kind pieces for LGBTQ style connoisseurs.
Will you tell me a little bit about Kipper and how the business came to fruition?
We have seen a growing need for custom suiting that reaches beyond the minimum acceptability of placing female-bodied people in masculine styled suits. We have seen too many of our friends waste time and money on suits that were poorly crafted or only alluded to a good fit. Erin and I met while working together at a former custom clothing company and decided that we wanted to be the innovative leaders in this industry.
We did our research and conducted our own fit studies before we launched to the public. We wanted to make sure our vendors understood what we were trying to achieve, and we wanted to make sure we were the best at taking full body measurements. Now we can confidently say that at Kipper Clothiers, we provide true fit along with expert styling. That is something we are proud to stand behind.
The inspiration for our name came from an old tailoring industry term. A “Kipper” was used to describe a tailoress and according to the centuries old tailoring terms of Saville Row, they were “so called because they sought work in pairs.”
What sets you apart from other clothing stores?
Well, we aren’t just a clothing store. We are part of a growing movement of androgynous and masculine-of-center stylists and designers across the nation. Kipper Clothiers sets itself apart by providing expert custom fit and high quality products that are delivered 100% on time. We build trust with our customers by providing one-on-one appointments where we guide them through the sometimes overwhelming process of customizing a suit or shirt. Most of our customers have never owned custom clothes before and do not fully realize what the whole process entails.
We call this the Put-Together Promise—a premium service that begins with educating customers on styling advice and proper fit for their body. As stylists, we act as guides. We make suggestions as to what neckwear patterns and colors would look best with their finished outfit, what shoes would look best, and even take into consideration small things like climate and purpose. Ultimately, we strive to ensure that our customers leave not only confident in their clothes, but confident in themselves as well.
How involved are you in the production of an item of clothing? Do you guys do the actual sewing?
Erin and I do not do any of the actual sewing, we leave that to our professional tailors. We are expert stylists who act as guides for our customers. Our main objective is to walk each customer through their own customization process. We help with fabric selection and styling options. We take more than 36 body measurements from head-to-toe, and then we send all of this information to our trusted vendors. We are happy that we are able to work closely with American-owned companies who fully understand our vision.
How has marketing to the LGBTQ community helped or hurt Kipper?
Well, it always helps to have a niche in the business world. Given our own personal experience within the LGBTQ community, we feel like we can talk directly to our audience with our own voice. Something like this has been needed for so long that people are embracing it with open arms. We are excited that we can support our community in this way. We also have lots of straight allies that are elated to support our business.
What sort of feedback have you gotten from your customers?
We have received a lot of positive feedback so far. Everyone loves the idea of what we are doing and they are very excited in supporting us and really want to see us succeed.
I’m not fashion-forward at all. What would convince me to buy a high-quality product like an item from your store? What’s the difference from a well crafted shirt and something from, say, Kohl’s?
The major difference between us and any company like Kohl’s is that we are a custom clothier. There is nothing off-the-rack about our clothes. All of our shirts are made with 100% premium cotton. All of our suits are 100% wool, or 100% wool/cashmere (we also carry 100% cotton and 100% linen) made to fit your body. Both shirts and suits are handcrafted by American-owned companies. We pride ourselves in having top-notch quality as well as expert fit. Our measurements ensure that our clothes will fit only the customer it was made for, as there isn’t a one-size-fits-most equation when it comes to custom clothing. It is impossible to create a special suit or shirt formula that can address all the intricacies of sizing and comfort within the LGBTQ community.
What is it like being queer businesspeople?
One thing for sure, Erin has definitely been encouraged to be more open about his gender identity. By selling gender confirming clothing to the trans and queer community, we eliminate the added stresses of shopping places where they may be discriminated against and/or receive poor customer service. We have many customers that are butch or FTM transitioning, and they have said that they are relieved to finally be able to shop somewhere they are guaranteed to feel comfortable and safe. Erin and I both aspire to be role models to all of the trans and queer folks out there, and we hope to show other LGBTQ community members that there are opportunities to become successful entrepreneurs.
What’s one thing our readers should know about you guys and your store?
In honor of the repeal of Prop 8, we are currently offering a promotion called the Kipper Commitment Package. We are selling a reserved number of custom shirts, suits, and tuxedos at wholesale cost to lesbian, gay, and/or transmasculine soonly-weds. Our ideal candidate of this promotion has a ceremony/wedding date before June, 2014. They must live within the greater San Francisco Bay Area (or are willing to travel to us for their fittings), and must be available for at least 2-3 fittings.