To answer this question, I researched online reviews and bought three items of clothing from the online clothing company Sumissura. Upshot: In materials and construction quality, Sumissura offers an equivalent to office clothes you could buy at The Gap, H&M, or Walmart. However, it’s much, much more expensive and troublesome than these stores, and it is not attuned to women’s styles or cuts. It’s an offshoot of Hockerty, and it looks like Sumissura uses sewing patterns based on men’s bodies. From men’s patterns, Sumissura adjusts the waist a bit on blazers for women, and it adjusts the hip-waist ratio a bit on pants; but the clothes are not tailored to the few proportions you submit to them.
Neither the copy hawking bespoke quality, nor the shapely visuals and video advertisements they model and market their products with online accurately represent the clothes they produce. Sumissura’s clothes require local tailoring; but they are not high enough quality to justify tailoring. If you don’t normally buy men’s jackets out of the bargain bin at The Gap and take them to your tailor to turn into your work wardrobe, then you won’t like paying Sumissura hundreds of dollars more for the same effect. I was hoping that its prices signaled that Sumissura could provide a middle road between excellent Scandinavian brands like Tiger of Sweden and cheap mall-store clothes. It most certainly does not.
In 2 separate orders, I ordered a shirt & a pair of pants, and a jacket from Sumissura. The basic shirt alone was fine, though, according to online reviews and my experience, the arms are never fitted. Sumissura only offers cotton and polyester shirts, and it does not have any elegant or stylish collar options, so I had to get a mandarin collar.
The itchy wool pants were made too large around the hips, baggy and shapeless, with no shaping through the “slim fit” legs. To tailor them to fit, however, costs only $30. I don’t recommend you buy Sumissura pants; but if you do, do not order the unflattering, bulky buttonless waist fastening.
The blazer is the real problem; and because I would have thought blazers were the fundamental products in the bespoke clothing business, I think this indicates that clothing is not Sumissura’s business. I’ll explain in a moment.
For now, for example, although Sumissura does not take information such as normal size in other brands, I am typically a size 2 woman; as I conveyed to Sumissura, I have a 25″ waist and 34″ chest. At 5’8″ I am not short, and I am athletic, so my shoulders are not narrow. I can tap Scandinavian brands for clothes that fit. Because of my size and standard Scando-female proportions, I can wear size 34, unaltered, in elegant, high-quality Scandinavian-brand, $650 blazers, and if I want to buy a $50 blazer, I can walk into H&M, and I would have a good chance of walking out with a fairly good, if a bit short, fit in size 0. Sumissura’s online illustrated model has a body type like my own; so I could be forgiven for assuming that this meant Sumissura has a capacity to tailor for such a body type. It does not.
For Canadian $400 (including taxes and customs fees), Sumissura sent me a cheap, size 38-ish men’s jacket, awkwardly constructed with the waist taken in a bit. I could gain 30 lbs and the waist would fit. The chest was baggy and sloppy. The voluminous, shapeless arms were sized for a gorilla (OK, a man). The inelegant standard-width shawl collar was dismayingly floppy and much wider than depicted on Sumissura’s website; the shoulder pads were awkward; and the cutaway hemline was uncouth, the gap yawning much wider than depicted on the website. The expensive (US$250) “all-season 100% wool” material is flimsy summer-weight and shiny, without sufficient underlying construction. It looks and wears like a thin polyester, as you might get at The Gap.
The high expense and low quality of the material is particularly vexing because, as minimally tailored as they are, you cannot return the clothes. So it cost $80 to tailor the blazer locally so that I can wear it out a little running errands in our very short Canadian summer. It is not high enough quality to wear to work, let alone to a night out. My tailor said a number of his customers have been taken in by such online “Chinese tailoring” scams. “Don’t buy Chinese,” he admonished me kindly. “The expense is way too high.” Buying from Sumissura feels exactly like the time I drove with the traffic into a $300 10-km-over-speed-limit speeding ticket in a speed trap on the long 40 KPH (25 MPH) divided 4-lane exit road from my workplace at the end of a long winter work week–I wasn’t as hyper-vigilant as we must always be, got gamed by the revenue-generation system, and lost a good chunk of my family’s monthly budget.
So if, as my Vietnamese-Canadian tailor insists, Chinese manufacturers are not really in the bespoke clothing business, what line of business is Sumissura in? It strikes me that Sumissura’s consistent lack of interest in translating measurements into clothing suggests that the clothing may just be bait. The Swiss-Chinese company may actually be a business that you would expect online, such as a big data acquisition or online reputation management business. You just paid a corporation to take your data, son.
Disconfirming or confirming that hypothesis would require a bit more research. What is obvious is that Sumissura’s for-profit innovation is to eliminate returns from a middle-class consumer market, while taking advantage of just-in-time manufacturing and cheap shipping. The jacket they sent me is so low quality that the $80 Sumissura will compensate me for getting it tailored into some kind of wearable shape still should leave the company plenty of profit. So if you’re buying Sumissura, 25% of the cost is always for potential alteration compensation. On the upside, this business model supports local economies of (often immigrant) tailors. It will also inspire pity from your tailor, and some good-humored lecturing about using better sense.
To correct the magical thinking that makes consumers vulnerable to online salesploitation: The reason why we like and trust online things is not because there’s information symmetry or any accountability, but because people are social, so the creative public provides much of online content for free. When you buy clothes and shoes “made to order” online, that free labor is provided by you, in the form of your naïve imagination. Your dream comes acropper the moment you behold the reality of expensive poor quality.
I’ve also learned that you can skip the hefty Sumissura mark-up and just ask your tailor to make you clothes out of clothes you buy at a store. In Canada, my tailor recommends buying clothes at RW and getting those altered to fit. I like and support my tailor, but my takeaway from Sumissura is that I’d much, much rather wait for one more month’s paycheck, save up another $100-300, and buy elegant, high-quality, fitted clothes imported from a Scandinavian clothing company—Scandinavia, where middle-class people are still not treated like marks. From the gutting of middle-class market institutions like Sears, to the trade war, to online consumer traps like Sumissura, it seems like the China-US mass production-consumption romance is on the rocks.