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The suiting thread

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You know how drug dealers are not supposed to have a full blown addiction to the stuff? If they do, they become ineffective because they're dealing with the stuff the whole day. Similarly, tailors should not be addicted to clothes. Not the way Rosmah is addicted to handbags.

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 You must have a certain coolness, a certain indifference to the stuff. Because sometimes, the stuff is very nice.

Look, I'm marinating in cloths. There are lots of cloths around me. So it is a little unusual that I'd go out of my way to buy a length for myself, as I'm doing now.

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I've never seen a grey like that. Subtle stripes and all. I thought I'd regret not getting a length before it sells out. So I submitted an order.

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A suit. Actually I should task a part timer to organise a suit for me. Because if left to myself, I might never get around to it.

I want to talk about something that has been a theme here since the beginning. I keep calling the cloth distributors "rice wholesalers". They know of only two variables: Quantity and price. It was apparent to me even at the beginning that this isn't going to work.

The local VBC distributor has had his distributorship yanked from him. Now that I look back, I can see that the business was in inexorable decline. They used to have so much stock of everything: top quality shirtings, lots of brand-name wools. Their warehouse occupied two storeys. Today, they look so eviscerated. A single floor of stock, and even most of the shelves are empty. Two years ago, the owners decided not to operate the business anymore, and left the management to two senior employees one of whom had earlier left to co-found his own cloth distributorship.

I'm not sure if this reflects a decline in the tailoring industry in general. But one thing I know:

No luxury without marketing

The cloth distributors here are like the handphone shops in Low Yat Plaza. They occupy their shops, and they will sell to you. But they do no marketing whatsoever.

I asked myself why, and came to realise it's because marketing can only be done by a certain kind of people. Myth-making, legend-building, storytelling---these are not what traders do. It's impossible for Rolex to sell at the prices and the quantities that they do without the accompanying Rolex marketing. The watches do not sell themselves.

I did an interview with the guy responsible for distributing Carlo Barbera worldwide, and I saw the same thing. This guy can't market to save his life. He's a trader, not a content-producer.

Marketing is done by content producers

These are people like movie directors. They produce media: an amalgam of story and visuals and sound. Content producers are constantly doing just that. They are best friends with videographers, video editors, content stylists, photographers, copywriters. These are the people who create revenues for brands. You cannot sell luxury without marketing.

 

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Marketing is emotional

It's about creating value in the emotional sphere. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, must be the greatest marketeer in that industry. He freely gave free watches to moutaineering teams so that, when they came back down, he could claim a Rolex went up to Everest. He persuaded deep sea explorers to strap a Rolex to the hull of the submarine so he could claim no watch went deeper and continued functioning. Then, Hans made sure EVERYBODY hears about it.

It's not selling. In reality, if you market well, you needn't sell. Neither Rolex nor Patek nor LV sells. But marketing is their biggest expense.

Selling is incompatible with luxury

In fact, if you sell a luxury product, you cannot sell. It destroys the brand. When I was younger, there were these people called life insurance salesmen. They did REAL selling. But even most industrial companies do selling today in the form of salespeople who call you up again and again to see if you're buying this time. Luxury brands do nothing of the sort.

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It's interesting a nanobrand like JT has marketing like the above, but a globally distributed brand with significant market share in the woolens market has none of the sort in Malaysia. VBC appears nowhere, anywhere in Malaysia. Unless it markets itself, the brand will continue its ride into irrelevance.

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JT acquires some serious hardware for video editing. Being able to edit videos should be an in-house capability. Nothing serious, mind you---it's impossible to be as good as a great professional video editor. But for casual stuff like interviews and instructional videos, it makes sense to have a smart student part timer edit them. The serious stuff will be sent to the professionals.

Without this sort of hardware, you cannot produce a good video. I hated the idea of buying a desktop PC, but it is necessary.

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An asset allocation decision like the above (having a PC built specifically to run Adobe Premiere Pro in order to produce media) is what makes JT NOT a rice wholesaler.

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Jean-Frederic-Dufour-2.jpg

Jean-Frederique Dufour, currently CEO of Rolex. I'm so surprised his official publicity photo shows him wearing a Neapolitan style suit. His predecessor, a northern Italian, wore northern Italian suits which are not that different from British ones.

In the 90's, Dufour was behind the collaboration between Ulysse Nardin and Ludwig Oechslin in developing the Ludwig Perpetual Calendar.

At Zenith, he had the gimbal movement developed.

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