Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Part one: Interview with Eric Powell of Ratio Clothing

Editor's note — This is part of a continuing Pinstripes and Tweed series on custom clothing

The internet has revolutionized many things, including menswear, which is no longer limited to the off-the-rack offerings of stores or the expensive Savile Row-inspired tailors.

Today a growing number of entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the internet to offer the quality and customization of custom to gentlemen everywhere.

PHOTO courtesy of Ratio Clothing.

One of these savvy entrepreneurs-cum-21st century haberdashers is Eric Powell of Ratio Clothing, which sells high-quality, American-made custom shirts.

PinstripesandTweed.com recently sat down with Powell for an exclusive interview. The following are excerpts of that interview. Part two of the interview will be published later this week.

PinstripesandTweed.com: Who is Eric Powell? What do we need to know about you?

Eric Powell: Oh, where to start. Well, I’m a dad now. I have a 2-year-old girl and my wife is seven months pregnant with a boy on the way. So that has been a fun challenge starting a business and a family around the same time. I have a technology and entrepreneurship background. I’ve been programming since I was literally in kindergarten and was starting businesses in high school. Coincidentally, those businesses in high school helped fund my early menswear habit and I’ve just loved dressing well ever since.

I didn’t plan it this way, but Ratio is a really nice marriage of things that I’m interested in — technology and great clothes.

PinstripesandTweed.com: What made you get into shirtmaking?

Eric Powell:
I was just really frustrated with the options available at the time. I felt like the custom options available at the time were really split into two camps: very, very high-end and prohibitively expensive or the garden variety Asian tailor outfit, which in my experience resulted in some questionable quality, though I know there are plenty of exceptions.

The fit of custom was obviously crucial, but I wanted classically stylish clothes as well. A broken-in Oxford collar button-down shirt isn’t something people typically think of as a bespoke or made-to-measure item, but I wanted a custom version of that more than anything. 

PinstripesandTweed.com: What’s your typical day? I know you tele-commute from Denver, right?

Eric Powell: We have an office in Denver now, but we’re still a pretty lightweight company. I still handle all customer service, so I start my day by answering e-mail messages and talking to customers and reviewing orders that came in overnight. I love talking to customers because it gives me a good sense of what people are looking for and how we can be better as a company.

After that, it tends to vary, but I am usually either working with some of our team members on the next batch of product releases, talking to folks at the factory or making some sort of improvement to our website.

We have a company to-do list a mile long, so there is no shortage of work.

PinstripesandTweed.com: It’s interesting that your company is called Ratio Clothing; not Ratio Shirtmakers. Now that you’ve perfected the craft of shirtmaking, can we expect other made-to-measure clothing — perhaps chinos?

Eric Powell: Well, I still think we are in the pursuit of perfecting shirtmaking and we’ll always find ways to be better, but that is an astute observation. Since we’re a small bootstrapped company, it might be a little while, but our ultimate vision is that we’ll be able to outfit your entire closet with custom-made clothing. Head-to-toe, workdays and weekends. Chinos would definitely be part of that, though I can honestly say we have no specific plans at the moment.

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