I have a theory in life that purchasing investments should only be made if one can fall in love with the story behind them. A house for instance, if I walk in and don’t fall in love with the lines and the character of the house that house won’t be purchased. It’s the same with clothing. If I don’t see something desirable in the piece or learn something about the maker that I can fall in love with then I won’t purchase it. When I came across Beckett & Robb, I assumed this was just another custom tailor company but something told me to reach out to them. Derek Bleazard responded to my email and after asking a few questions I remembered what it means to fall in love with the story.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you grew up?
I’m from Boise, Idaho. My parents and most of my family still live there. It’s a beautiful city and a great place to grow up. I have four brothers and one sister, so our house was always busy. Most of my time was spent playing sports—baseball, basketball, golf, and tennis mostly. One of the most influential things I experienced growing up in a large family was my dad deciding to change careers when we were all still pretty little. He wasn’t happy at his job and wanted to be in education. With six kids, he quit his job and went back to school to become a teacher. He worked multiple jobs at night while attending school full time to make it all work. He and my mom started a business that they could work at in the evenings and on weekends. He is now an administrator and holds several degrees. My dad’s always been my hero, and to see him pursue his goals in spite of the many challenges it posed and the incredible amount of work it took was a powerful example to me. While he was in school and working, he also coached my baseball teams for several years and was out throwing us batting practice every day in spite of his crazy schedule. I’m not sure how he and my mom managed it. Among other things, it taught me work ethic and to go after my dreams. My wife Tara and I have 3 kids—Eva, Baron, and Henry. Being an entrepreneur with 3 little ones at home has been a wild ride at times, and I’ve discovered for myself how important it is to find balance with my family, the business, and other pursuits to make it all work.
Did you know that you would go into fashion?
Clothes have always been important to me. I remember being particular about it when I was in elementary school. I drove my parents crazy with my desire to have Nike shoes and clothes from my favorite brands. When I went to college, I still cared a lot about it, but I didn’t have a plan to go into fashion. I lived abroad for several years during college, which turned out to be very formative for me. I became enamored with travel, foreign languages, and culture, and when I returned to school I changed my major to International Relations with the intent to do something in the foreign service. After getting married and finishing school, my wife and I moved overseas for several more years for work. It was just the two of us and we had a blast living abroad and traveling whenever we could. That job led me to a position back in the States in product development and sourcing at a clothing company and getting custom wholesale tags, where my love of product came even more to the forefront and sort of blended with international business and travel. It was at that company that I met my business partner, Jason Yeats. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel all over the world to source materials and manufacturing. It wasn’t menswear, where my passion truly lies, but I developed a skill set that’s been the backbone for building my business.
Has dressing well always been a part of your life?
My dad always wore a suit well. I don’t know that he had a large wardrobe when I was young, but what he did have for suits and shoes were quality. When I was a kid I typically wore khakis and oxford shirts from the Gap. When my older brothers came of age they’d graduate from the khakis to a suit, and I looked forward to getting one of my own. Around that time, my dad had a few custom suits made for him, and I was incredibly fascinated with them. I’d go to his closet for no other reason than to look at them. The cloth, the cut, the working cuffs. Finally, when I was 18, I got a suit that I was really excited about. It was a gray flannel by Yves Saint Laurent, and I wore it out over the next couple of years. I had a pair of wingtips that are still in a storage box somewhere that I polished each week to perfection.
During college, I had a specific cut of trousers I liked, and I started a business with a buddy to make trousers in the Dominican Republic. We went down there and found a tailor to create our pattern for us, then we went about finding cloth while also looking for a factory that could make us a few hundred pieces to start with. We sold them wholesale to a few stores. This was my first experience with designing and sourcing products, as well as finding distribution and sales channels. It was also my first experience with having a suit made for myself, as I was able to find a tailor to make me a custom suit. I remember searching through bolts of cloth and settling on a wide navy pinstripe. The construction of the suit and the fit weren’t great, but the thrill of commissioning a custom suit stayed with me.
How did Beckett & Robb come to be?
I’ve always wanted to work in a career I’m passionate about. Over time and after working for a few companies, I realized that for me that would mean starting something of my own. Jason and I were fast friends because of our mutual love of product (and golf). We spent a fair amount of time traveling for work and on the golf course, and we would chat about ideas and goals. Once while on a golf course in Salt Lake City, we were having a “what would you do for a living if you could do anything” type of conversation, like I’d had countless times with my wife. The idea to start a menswear brand that made custom suits started that day. We began working on it in earnest over the following months, sampling suits and shirts with different manufacturers while building a structure for the company.
For us, it’s always been about the product. We certainly had a lot to learn about where to find the best cloth, the best trimmings, and the best tailoring. Like we’d done previously, we wanted to go direct to the source for each of these things. Over the past few years, as the company and the brand have evolved, we’ve made many tweaks and adjustments and even major overhauls to our plan. The driving force behind everything continues to be the product. We’ve continually improved our supply chain, our design, our materials, and our capacity. Today we offer Italian and British cloth, which we purchase very directly, and we do all our manufacturing in Spain and Portugal. We’ve literally been all over the world sourcing cloth and manufacturing. We decided to make our products in Europe, and we’ve partnered with tailoring facilities that, like us, have a commitment to craftsmanship, quality, and design.
At the same time we’ve focused on giving the client the kind of experience that we would want to have if we were on the other side of the table by providing them great options for cloth and making a ton of customizations available. From the outset, the goal has been to make a world class product. But we also wanted it to be affordable. There are a number of great makers out there that make custom suits for $5,000 or more. We wanted to make that kind of product available to normal guys, not just high net worth individuals. We’ve built everything about Beckett & Robb from the ground up, from the supply chain to our backend systems to our stores, and it’s allowed us to be priced aggressively yet uncompromising on quality. It’s disruptive to a very old industry. I get a lot of incredulous looks when I tell people our opening price point after they’ve learned about the quality of our make and the customizations we offer. We have no middle men in our supply chain and we take a lower margin than normal. I think our value proposition to our customers is extremely compelling.
We had been making suits for over 2 years when we decided to open a store. We took appointments with clients in their office or home, and also used our office as a showroom. Soon we needed a larger office, then opened another office next door to the first. We were steadily growing and felt like a store would give us more of a presence and provide a better experience for clients. It was a leap of faith for sure, but we were pretty confident that it’d be worth it over time. We didn’t have much of a budget, which meant we did a lot of the work ourselves–we designed the space and did most of the construction ourselves with some help from family. It turned out quite well, and the store has been phenomenal for us. We’ve since opened a store in San Francisco, and have plans for a few more in 2013.
Who are Beckett & Robb’s customers?
We have clients from all kinds of professions and from all over the country. While we’re happy to help anyone look their best, I think there are customers that our brand resonates with because of our commitment to excellence not only in our products, but also in things we don’t make. We use our blog and our social media to show things that are inspirational to us in addition to our products. It goes back to our own personal philosophies and what we want our brand to represent, and guys like that. Our clients don’t have to be wealthy; we have fantastic quality custom suits starting at very affordable prices. Someone with a limited budget can still be in the pursuit of living well. We also have options for the most discerning clients. Regardless of budget, our clients share a commonality in that they’ve made the decision to do better than buying something mediocre off-the-rack. They come to us for a custom suit because they’re conscious of how they want to look and present themselves. It transcends vanity. It’s about caring about all aspects of their lives; it just manifests itself in how they dress.
What is a suit to you?
The suit is the most important piece in a man’s wardrobe. A well-fitting suit complements a man’s physique like no other garment can. A man in an elegant suit exudes confidence, purpose, style, and good taste. As it has been for the past few centuries, the tailored suit and its components remain the best way for a man to look and feel his best. I believe casual dress leads to casual speech and behavior. I don’t think the results are good for anyone. It’s refreshing to see a man dress well when it’s easier to be sloppy. To me it shows he has respect for himself and for others he works and associates with. Wearing a suit, however, isn’t always enough. There are a lot of sloppy looking guys in suits out there. For the suit to help a man be at his best, it requires forethought. There are a number of elements that combine to make a great suit, like the fit, the design, and the cloth. Some of it is on the exterior, but most has to do with the tailoring and the craftsmanship involved in making the suit. The sewing that creates clean lines and silhouette, the canvas in the chest that forms and molds to the body over time, the tiny stitches on the lapel that help it lay flat against the chest while elegantly rolling away from it, the hand stitching of buttonholes, the setting of the sleeves. A great suit is a combination of craftsmanship, design, fit, and cloth. While that is available off the rack by some makers, for most of us with idiosyncratic body types, at least one, or more likely several, of those elements will be off in a ready to wear suit. The epitome of the elegant suit is a suit that was made for the individual man. It takes into account all of the factors: your style, the shape and peculiarities of your body, and your occasions for wearing it. It’s then made just for you by skilled craftsmen using traditional techniques and the finest materials. When you put on that type of suit, you don’t want to take it off. To me, there’s nothing quite like commissioning a suit and the way it feels when you put it on. You’ve chosen the cloth, the buttons, the lapels, the pockets, the lining, the trim, and more. And it’s been made from scratch for you and tailored around your body. Your name is embroidered in it, but your signature is all over it because it was made for you and to your requirements. That’s what a Beckett & Robb custom suit is all about.
Do you have a manifesto you live your everyday life by?
I like the philosophy of “living deliberately.’ To always be learning, improving skills, and seeking out the finer things. Before I started B&R, I wrote a little blog that included tips on dress, style, grooming, exercises, travel, golf, recipes for food, etc. It was an outlet for me to share ideas and it was a fun way to learn more about things I was interested in. Over the past several years, I’ve developed and refined my idea of how I want to live my life. Travel has influenced me a lot, and it’s taken shape especially as I’ve had kids and started a business, which happened almost simultaneously. I love the quote by Henry David Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Luckily, Jason and I share this philosophy, so we’re very aligned when it comes to how we want to run our business and what we want our brand to represent.
How do you challenge yourself from day to day?
With a growing business and a relatively small staff and limited time, the challenges come all by themselves! Most are self-imposed, actually. We have a lot of goals for the brand and the company. We’ve found the challenge for us is to focus on just a few of our initiatives at a time. We’ve decided that to be effective, we need to be okay with only working on up to 3 of these at once, and accepting that the rest will have to wait their turn.
What’s next for B&R?
We’re very excited about what we have in the works right now. We have plans for what we want to accomplish over the next 5 to 10 years. For now, we’re ready for growth after a few years of building our backend systems and refining our supply chain and product. We continue to work on scaling the business by building an even more robust backend, making key hires, and training employees. We’re also planning to open another store around the middle of the year, and then a fourth by end of the year.
Over to You
Derek is living his passion. Tell us what you are passionate about? Will you make it into a career? We’d like to know about your experience in the comments section below or tweet us your answer.