The bomber, the biker, the racer — buying a leather jacket is like making a style choice within a style choice. No matter which one you wear, though, it’s usually intended to convey a more sophisticated casualness, and often a spirit of rebellion.
Unless you’re one of Syed Obaid’s customers, in which case almost anything goes.
Just a quick glance through the gallery page of his firm, The Jacket Maker, and you’ll all kinds of variations on some of the most classic leather jacket themes. There’s Andrew Tollefsen, who wanted his jacket in “Krypton” green. There’s the sleeveless jacket from Henry Garcia with a “Warriors” logo of multi-colored wings and skull. Even the more standard-issue models, like the Blix Bono Maroon Leather Biker Jacket, are probably a little different than most of the streetwear you’ve spotted so far this fall. According to Obaid, that’s the point.
“When we started out, we were more of a traditional e-commerce firm, and we had a very small section for custom orders,” he says. “The more often we connected with them to do special requests, the more we could see we were offering a lot of value. We would not get that level of customer satisfaction selling regular leather jackets.”
To be clear, this is not a case of selecting from a couple of custom options (like a tag with your name on the inside). The Jacket Maker promises to connect customers with a design consultant within 24 hours of making a request through its web site. Then it’s a matter of discussing everything from fabric, color, pigment, embroidery and other details. The team offers creative illustrations to customers to see how well they’ve captured an idea before anyone has to order anything.
So far, Obaid says The Jacket Maker has fielded more than 20,000 custom project requests and served over 10,000 customers in more than 50 different countries. That said, the company is not dreaming of growing to a massive scale. While the technology behind e-commerce makes bespoke tailoring of leather jackets more accessible, Obaid doesn’t believe the company will be a massive brand. “Instead, we want to be your favorite brand,” he says.
Marketing bespoke leather jackets is challenging, of course, but the startup got a publicity boost earlier this summer when its products were featured on the cast of “The Challenge,” a reality show produced by MTV.
A lot of requests are for very simplistic, minimalist designs but with a more unusual purpose, like a leather blazer that will work in an office setting.
“The first thing they want to make sure if the leather is real,”
he says, confirming that The Jacket Maker sources from a supplier in Pakistan that has been in the business for 50 years.
Even if the options are endless, Obaid doesn’t necessarily see everything his company makes as too over-the-top. What guys want, however, is the ability to make them their own.
“Outerwear gives them the most room to have their creativity be shown compared to other fashion categories,” he says. “We want to make our business model in a way that designs are not based on us but on the people we’re serving.”