CottonBrew is a custom tailor that can provides guys with bespoke fitted suits and shirts. In short, CottonBrew can help you look like a stud.
In this interview, founder George Li shares the story behind the business, the biggest mistakes guys make when they're buying suits and dress shirts, and a bunch of solid suit-buying advice.
What's CottonBrew, and what is your mission? What motivated you to launch CottonBrew?
George: A few years ago, as I was starting to grow tired of the corporate rat race, the idea to start CottonBrew struck me while on a business trip to Asia.
Walking the streets of Hong Kong, I became immersed in the culture of custom suiting after experiencing firsthand the strong sense of pride the local tailors had for their craft. Generations of families, working side-by-side to strive for perfection in a trade that they've dedicated their lives to.
I've always been a skinny guy, and growing up in New Jersey, I never valued the importance of a proper fit. However, after I worked with my first tailor to create my first custom suit, I immediately realized that the fit is truly responsible in giving the suit wearer a sense of gravitas and confidence.
After returning home to California, I searched high and low but couldn't find a satisfying replacement to my tailoring experience abroad. Thus began CottonBrew.
Our mission, and my life's passion, is to help all people find their personal fit and experience the lost art of tailoring so they too can look and feel great, effortlessly.
What are the biggest mistakes guys make when they're buying dress shirts and suits?
George: The biggest mistakes guys make when buying suits is when they only look for the brand, and not the fit. The most important thing in men’s shirts and suits is the fit.
Since the fabrics aren’t elastic, the suits have a low tolerance of fit, which is why it’s hard for so many folks to find their perfect fit at a department store. Suits either fit or they don’t.
A well-fitted suit will help you feel comfortable and confident so that your natural personality shines through. On the other hand, a poor fitting suit feels awkward and can be distracting especially at those critical moments when you want to make a good impression.
Another mistake people tend to make is regarding the suit fabric and construction. I view a suit as a long term investment, and therefore, the fabric and how it is constructed play a huge difference in the quality and comfort.
At CottonBrew, we only carry wool suiting fabrics at the moment because they are easier to maintain and are more versatile across different climates. Polyester can be suitable for the very budget conscious, but it does not breathe well, is more difficult to maintain, and can leave you overheated in warmer weather.
Regarding construction, be careful not to purchase a fused jacket. What is a fused jacket? Put simply, the internal components of the suit jacket are glued together.
Insist on a half-canvas or full-canvas suit which means that the suit is constructed with finer materials so that it drapes naturally across your chest and ages well with time and use.
Ask for help when you buy your next suit, and make sure you invest in a suit that ages well and can withstand the test of time.
What's the biggest difference between a tailored suit and a non-tailored suit?
George: The biggest difference between tailored and a non-tailored mass produced suit is the fit.
There are a limited number of combinations of body types that can be covered by off-the-rack suits. You can do the math. This is why so many of us can’t find something that fits decently, let alone find a suit that flatters our own body type.
We believe fit is the most important aspect of a shirt or suit, and it can mean the difference between looking professional vs disorganized. No one should have to settle for a mediocre fitting product.
What is your biggest tip for guys who are looking to buy a new dress shirt or suit?
George: If you’re buying a new suit for an event coming up, make sure to plan ahead so you can decide whether to buy from a department store, or purchase a tailored suit.
Even for the budget conscious, you should strongly consider a custom fit suit because you can now get a tailored suit for prices that are competitive with a mass-produced mediocre fitting suit.
For CottonBrew and other reputable online tailors (such as Blank Label, Indochino, Black Lapel), tailoring means a custom construction and quality workmanship, which takes time - usually 4 weeks to make a suit. But it’s well worth the wait!
If you’re trying to figure out which color suit to get, I personally recommend to start with a Gray suit like this one, which is versatile for interviews, weddings, and dates.
Your second suit should be a Navy Blue suit, which is also versatile for both formal business and social events.
Both Gray and Navy suit jackets can be worn with jeans or chinos, and check out our CottonBrew Instagram account for inspiration on how to use accessories and get multiple looks.
A few suits and accessories is all you need to create a ton of GQ outfits.
How can our readers find out more about you & CottonBrew?
George: CottonBrew recently launched a free fitting service where we provide advice on how you can improve your current wardrobe in regards to fit. We’re also launching a blog covering styling tips, so sign-up on our website to get the latest content.
Lastly, follow us on Instagram to see how latest styles and trends in menswear.
Step Up Your Game
Thanks to George for the interview! As he mentioned, CottonBrew recently launched a free fitting service, which you should take advantage of if you're in the market for a suit - so make sure to check that out.
Also... CottonBrew and Dapper & Done have teamed up and will be launching a joint giveaway soon, so stay tuned!