Nicholas Joseph owner Nicholas Hansen talks trends, adapting to the pandemic and how he’s celebrating the custom clothier’s 15th anniversary.
Finding success in the hypercompetitive world of men’s custom fashion is challenging enough; in 2020 it’s a massive undertaking. But 15 years in, Chicago bespoke clothing institution Nicholas Joseph is staying ahead of the pack with his eye-catching made-in-Chicago designs and innovative strategy to not only survive, but thrive in the wake of the pandemic. As the brand readies to kick off a monthlong anniversary celebration, we catch up with owner Nicholas Hansen to get his reflections on 15 years in the industry—and why Nicholas Joseph is unlike any other men’s custom experience in Chicago.
How are you celebrating the 15th anniversary?
We’ll be offering 15% off our heritage Made in Chicago Bespoke suit for the month of November while clients enjoy a Macallan 15-year-old scotch. For our 10th anniversary we launched our bespoke service, which requires 55 tailor bench hours and includes basted fittings; once the fabric arrives from Italy, it never leaves Chicago until it travels with our clients as a finished garment. For this and all custom clothing, we offer both in-showroom and in-home or office appointments while observing strict COVID-19 safety processes for the safety of our clients and team.
So many clothing outfitters claim to be bespoke or custom these days. What makes Nicholas Joseph stand out?
We’re the only clothier in Chicago offering True Bespoke shirts and Esquire-approved, Made in Chicago Bespoke suits as our top line. We launched the Chicago-made line in 2015 as our top line to celebrate our 10th anniversary and to position Nicholas Joseph as the superior, only Chicago-made bespoke option in the city, especially as overseas-made custom clothiers have become crowded in Chicago in recent years.
How has your customer base changed over the years?
Since opening in 2005, we’ve grown with our original clients as they’ve advanced into their most successful lives, and we have added the best fabric mills, like Loro Piana and Ermenegildo Zegna, as well as truly custom and unique offerings like our zip-up sport coat and Made in Chicago Bespoke line. These offerings and high level of service have attracted sophisticated clients who appreciate our attention to detail and high level of service.
How have you adapted your business during the pandemic?
The pandemic has hit the retail sector hard, but we began increasing our wedding and special event offerings a few years ago when Goldman Sachs first announced their change to business casual attire, which greatly affect the tailored clothing segment. This coincided with the huge growth in social media and guys becoming more bold in their style choices, which has directly translated to us designing great pieces for events, like shawl lapel dinner jackets and velvet jackets (even matching trousers!). I like to say that due to the pandemic, 25 people may attend your wedding, but 2,500 (or 25,000) will see your photos, and there is also more room in the budget due to attendance caps.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating Nicholas Joseph?
I can’t believe it’s been 15 years! There are two huge rewards that I’ve experienced. We do this work because we love to see the look of confidence on our client’s face when they try on their first custom garment and the sense of trust and convenience they have with us as we continue to create future garments while keeping track of their measurements and patterns. Closer to home, a hugely rewarding aspect of creating Nicholas Joseph is seeing how my team has grown and started their own families over the years, as well as reminiscing with our long-time clients when they come in to create custom clothing. We will survive this and come out with a renewed focus, so cheers to 15 more years!
What look or trend are you loving right now?
I am absolutely loving our zip-up jacket/sport coat—it’s the perfect fall/winter transition piece which has a zip-out lapel which, when zipped up replaces a scarf and can fully zip out, making the jacket a true sport coat since the zippers are hidden inside the lapels. No one else in Chicago is making these.
What can clients expect in 2021 from Nicholas Joseph?
We have been working hard on new custom offerings that adapt to the new normal attire—namely, more versatile jackets and clothing that can transition easily from work to play to a night out on the town—in addition to expanding our wedding and special event options. A good example of this is a new collection in a 100% natural fiber fabric that is water repellent and offers many shirt and clothing patterns.
Photography by: Courtesy of Nicholas Joseph Inc.