You might have heard some people say a suit makes the man, but what about the man who makes the suit?
It takes serious tenacity to still be making bespoke suits after 45 years, and Robert Loh, founder of Lord's Tailor, shows no sign of waning.
The brand recently won the World's Best Brand Award at the World Branding Awards. Robert, 74, said he was proud to be recognised internationally for his achievements.
"My wife and I have been through hard times together, and this award means a lot to me. Others at my age would have been retired by now, but I'm encouraged to work even harder!" said the modest tailor who still works seven days a week and personally oversees the jacket-cutting.
His son Kenny, the company's creative director, received the award on his behalf in London last month.
"The award is testimony to the brand’s quality, workmanship and management. If there’s one thing I've learnt about doing business from my father, it is the importance of honesty and integrity. Never shortchange your customer; it is this same philosophy that keeps customers coming back to us. Some have been with us for three generations!" said Kenny, 43, who joined Lord's Tailor when he was 21, starting from scratch as his father insisted that he learnt every aspect of the business, including sewing.
Among some of Lord’s Tailor’s oldest clients are Malaysia's Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Malaysian economist Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz, who was former vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya.
In fact, Dr Mahathir had a new suit made for the Parliament sitting when he became Prime Minister the second time around last year, and more recently, commissioned a new winter overcoat and double-breasted jacket.
At the top of the list of loyal brand ambassadors is renowned shoe designer Datuk Jimmy Choo, who coincidentally happened to be in the shop in Bangsar Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur, for a fitting session during this interview.
Choo spoke passionately about the brand: “I always get asked who makes my suits! Much like (making) a shoe, when you pass the design and handling to the next department, it must be perfect – our shoulder are one high, one low - you need someone who understands (the body shape).
“Suits can be designed anywhere, but it is different when you want the whole suit put together. Certainly none quite like Lord’s Tailor, who understand the value of bespoke and couture.
I have utmost respect for the family’s close-knit relationship, and we have become good friends through the years. It’s also about a Malaysian supporting another Malaysian brand. Lord’s Tailor uses quality materials at reasonable rates and doesn’t compromise on true craftsmanship, ” he said.
Keeping up with change
Lord's Tailor began as Groovy Apparel in a small shop along Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur in 1974. The family business grew in size and stature, and took off when legendary boxer Mohammad Ali gave his stamp of approval and had his whole entourage suited up by the tailoring shop.
The name change in 1980 was one more reflective of its focus on prestige and bespoke, with a nod to Saville Row. Expansion was inevitable and today, Lord’s Tailor can be found in Bangsar Shopping Centre, The Ampwalk in Ampang and Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
Grounded in old fashioned values of quality and excellent service, the brand has also kept up with changing trends and market demands. Its contemporary label, Lord’s 1974, offers Ready to Wear and Made to Measure luxury menswear with a rich heritage, available at The Gardens Mall and Robinsons Kuala Lumpur.
"With our Ready to Wear range, we have managed to capture a more youthful audience by making the brand more accessible to the next generation. Some of our clients even wear our suits to their prom!” said Kenny, who acknowledged that digital space has changed the way people shop.
“However, we fulfil a specific niche market that is bespoke suits. Online shops may take your measurements and then send the suit to you. But you don’t get the personal experience or the perfect fit."
His sister Olivia, 39, also Lord’s 1974 marketing director, feels digitisation has been good for the company.
“Lord’s Tailor was probably one of the first brands to work with influencers for brand awareness, and we have a presence on Facebook and Instagram as well as our own website.
Looking to the future
Moving forward, the next big challenge would be setting up the company's new 1,858sq m factory in Cheras. Olivia revealed that Lord's Tailor's new headquarters, including land purchase, upgrading works and new machinery, will cost about RM5mil.
“We are looking to invest in a German 3D modelling software to further enhance our Made to Measure service by allowing accurate customisation based on our exacting bespoke fit and cut model, ” she added.
“The company is also finalising details for an app that would enable clients to make orders, look up new fabrics and set an appointment date before coming in to see us.”
Olivia lets on that Lord’s Tailor will finally lend its expertise to the fairer sex and have a Made to Measure line for women, and there could be a window for an internship programme as well.
Kenny will also have his hands full as the brand prepares for trunk shows overseas next year. So what’s next for Lord’s Tailor?
“It has been years since we have had a family holiday. We have all agreed to go away at least once a year. Our parents are not getting any younger and spending time as a family matters, ” Kenny concluded.