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Comment: Disruption beyond technology

When I regularly attended horse racing meetings around the country I was once turned away from Ascot racecourse because my new dark trousers (upon close inspection)… View Article


Comment: Disruption beyond technology

When I regularly attended horse racing meetings around the country I was once turned away from Ascot racecourse because my new dark trousers (upon close inspection) were identified as black denim. My various letters to the Racing Post, along with some supportive Ascot committee members, led to a rule change in the antiquated dress code.

Changing the rules at Ascot is the one thing I have in common with Daisy Knatchbull, founder of women’s bespoke tailoring business The Deck, who garnered serious publicity from a PR stunt she pulled in the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot in 2017 involving her wearing a tailored morning suit with the requisite trousers.

As well as prompting a rule change at the racecourse to allow women to wear trousers it also highlighted the pent-up demand for made-to-measure women’s tailoring, which at that time was simply not accessible in the marketplace. Knatchbull says there was tailored riding gear being made on the famous Savile Row for women but it was very much hidden away and not particularly welcoming.

She has since sought to address this gap in the market and has done it in the most high-profile disruptive way possible – by opening a store in 2020 on Savile Row itself, which has been globally renowned for bespoke men’s tailoring since the early 1800s. And it is not any old store she has opened but it has the largest store-front on the road encompassing six windows.

It seems that much of the talk around disruption today is focused on technology but this is a mistake because Knatchbull is making impressive waves in a very traditional sector without the use of any new-fangled technology. The Deck model involves simply creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for women to feel comfortable in as they discuss their clothing options with the all-female team of tailors.

They take measurements, make recommendations based on body types and cut patterns for each woman’s shape. Fabrics, buttons and other elements are chosen before two separate fittings are undertaken. When I visited the store Knatchbull stated: “We empathise with the people in there. We can talk about periods and the menopause with our customers, it’s unintimidating and there is this unique relationship with the clothing.”

This approach has proven to be popular and the company has enjoyed a doubling in sales each year since inception in a basement unit after Knatchbull’s Royal Ascot experience and 30-40% comes from repeat business with word-of-mouth proving the most effective form of customer acquisition.

The detailed measurements taken by the team at The Deck are proving to be particularly informative for The Deck’s new ready-to-wear range that the company launched after many of its customers kept asking for recommendations for other clothing items beyond suits. The database of sizes it has built up can be analysed to better determine the characteristics of say a size 14 and identify what exactly this size looks like today.

Much disruptive experimentation is currently taking place in the clothing industry with tech-led sizing solutions but The Deck has found a rather old school solution to better fitting clothing for women – through sizing insights gleaned as a by-product of its tailoring process that involves detailed measurements taken with tape measures and other similarly low-tech kit.

Technology is clearly an incredibly disruptive force but it is not the only route through which to bring about change in the retail sector. There are many examples, such as The Deck, of companies that have identified flaws in old models and are simply bringing a traditional, customer-led, tech-lite approach to bringing about change. But even Knatchbull recognises the value of technology and is investigating an AI solution to take measurements remotely. What would the old guard at Ascot make of that?

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