A good outfit is one to start a great day. In this episode, we take on fashion that makes us look good and feel good with CEO of LGFG Fashion House, Dimitry Toukhcher. Dimitry’s company is one of the world’s fastest-growing suit + shirt brands and is a forefront player in the international fashion and tailoring scene. As he shares great insights about what makes a good suit, fabric, fit, and construction, he reveals his secret weapon to success in this competitive world which is being responsive to your clients.
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LGFG – Look Good Feel Good Fashion House with Dimitry Toukhcher
Dimitry’s mission is to grow the value of his company, both externally to his clients, but also continuously improving his value proposition by creating an ideal culture and becoming the biggest luxury clothier. His passion is also mentoring young people to help them reach their potential. The LGFG Fashion House is the fastest growing bespoke suit and shirt brand in the world. Bespoke is when you have a custom suit made just for you. Believe me, when you wear something bespoke, you will never want to go back. He caters tailoring services to clients all over the world. He’s dressed tens of thousands of high-profile clients and also been in some movies.
The movie, Skyscraper, had twelve of his suits that costarred Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He also supports a lot of different charities. They’ve given over $500,000 worth of clothing to nonprofits. It’s impressive to see that luxury market and then the connection to giving back on top of mentoring. He has also a TV show. He’s the star with his clients where he travels the world to meet them talking about fashion and business. It’s called The Suit Maker. It’s fascinating to look at the inside life that we rarely get to see the kinds of people that are changing the world and how their appearance impacts all of that. Dimitry, welcome to the show. I wanted to ask you to take us back if you would to your own story of origin. We can go back as far as you want, whether it’s before high school or college or something in those days. Were you always the child that wanted to dress a certain way? How did you become you?
It wasn’t like a clothing thing, to begin with. I was born in Ukraine. I immigrated to Canada when the Soviet Union fell apart in ‘92. I grew up mostly in Canada and then moved to Estonia in Northern Europe. I married an Estonian lady. I live in Estonia with my family, but our company was global. We have offices in Hong Kong, Canada and all over Europe. My background is not so much fashion. My background is more entrepreneurship and sales. I got into the fashion thing accidentally. When I started in sales, I progressed up into luxury goods. I loved selling luxury. I couldn’t afford it, but I loved it. Most of all, I loved the people I got to meet. I was selling to very interesting high-profile people that have all these cool careers like attorneys and surgeons. They’re so fascinating to me. I’m loving those people. Suits gave me access to the kind of people I wanted to associate with because I wanted to be like them and I wanted to have them in my network. That’s how it came to that. The fashion was secondary. It’s the most important thing for us, how our clients look and how they present themselves. The reason I got into it wasn’t the fashion, it was the people.
I want to ask you about the similarities. You create your own company and culture is a very big part of LGFG, is that correct?You need to be hyper responsive to your clients to stay competitive. Click To Tweet
Yes, any company.
Some people go, “It’s not that important. We talk about it. We rarely look at our mission statement. We don’t really know. If someone asks us what our culture is, we couldn’t define it.” If people like you start a company and say, “This is a big part of our brand. It determines who we hire. This determines who our ideal clients are.” There is something there that’s an interesting look. You’re the perfect person to explore this topic with. In my experience, what makes a good suit are two things. There are probably many more, but fabric and fit are certainly two of them. I would say that also as a company growing globally like yours, you have to see if the people that you’re bringing on are also a fit and the fabric of their character comes into play. I thought that might be an interesting place to see what you think about using fashion as an analogy for building a company?
That’s a perfect metaphor. There are three things that would impact the quality of a suit and likewise with people. It’s the fabric, it’s what you see. The fit, it’s how it fits in and then what it’s made out of, the construction. The culture goes in with that as well, but the thing about that is we can control fabric, we can control construction, but you can’t control culture, you can influence it. You can’t control people, you can influence them. How much you influenced a person has a lot to do with what they’re made out of. It has a lot to do with their construction if you will. I wish that building a person or putting a person in the right place and watching them succeed was as easy as constructing a $10,000 suit. When you look at the complexity of it, the construction of a $10,000 suit while requiring multitudes of equipment and expertise and eons of knowledge, it still does not compare anywhere in magnitude to the challenges, the experience, the expertise and the nuances required to influence and build a person.
You start with what you start with. You try to find great people like you find great fabric. You try to find great people that will be a fit. Like with a suit, retailers know how to make something cheap look good. You never find out about it until later, you know that. People have a tendency to be the same way. They tend to put their best foot forward early. Building a suit, at least with enough experience, you know what you get. With people, there is a lot more to it and it’s a bigger challenge. That’s the challenge all companies face. It comes back to the people.
I love how you took that metaphor and ran with it. First I want to ask you, what does LGFG stand for?
It was a quote by Neon Deion Sanders. He famously once said that, “When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you play good. When you play good, they pay you good.”
You knew even though you were starting on humbly that you wanted to be a world leader and the way you have done that has been something that everyone can implement no matter what their business is, which is responsiveness and client care. Let’s talk about each of those. Let’s start with what’s the value of responsiveness? Why do you think that’s important and then how you implement it?
I’ll tell you a story. We had a situation where one of our executive assistants, what they do is they’ll check in on clients from time to time after delivery of the product to see that they like it. One of our executive assistants called the client at about 7:30 in the morning. The fellow is an investment banker. We know he got up very early and he’s like, “I got my product, there’s an issue. I tore my pants very early wearing them. I was very frustrated. I’m never buying from you guys again.” He hung up the phone and that was the call. The executive assistant forwards me the message immediately. She’s like, “Here’s what happened.” I picked up the phone and I called him, “It’s Dimitry. I’m the CEO of the company.” He goes, “I just talked to your girl ten minutes ago.” I go, “That’s what she’s there for. She’s there to find out if there are issues. We’ll replace your pants. If they tore, they tore. These things happen. It’s clothing, it’s not armor.”
What we ended up doing is we ended up saving a very high-value client for us probably for a very long time. This environment is way too competitive to be unreliable. I take a lot of people who say, “I don’t check my emails. I only respond 72 hours later.” I have a policy with me. I have an assistant that manages my LinkedIn and my assistant connects with every single client in our company when they first become a client. Whether they accept the invite or not, I don’t know. It even says in my LinkedIn profile, “I connect with LGFG clients who have direct access to me.” From time to time, not very often, I get a message from a client and I respond right away because like they say “A fish rots from the head, but so does it grow from the head.” If I expect people in our company to respond to clients, which I do. I have to be there with them in the trenches and respond to clients quickly. Who is more important to me and who’s more important to our people than our clients? They’re the ones that give us the privilege of living the life that we live.
That’s a great line there that it’s too competitive out there to be unreliable and expect you’re going to be successful. I know myself when I got a request from my speaking agent saying, “This client is interested in having a conversation to book you as a speaker for their upcoming sales summit. Are you available these dates?” You can be sure that I’m getting back to them within minutes as you did. “Yes, I’m available for the call.” Being easy to work with and being responsive in a time when people get put on hold and, “Press one for this and two for that,” helps separate you. People want to continue to do work. Dimitry, I’m guessing this is the case, but I’d love to get confirmation. From my experience of dealing with you and your team, because of this responsiveness, not only does it give you a competitive edge, but it also creates brand ambassadors.Fabric, fit, and construction are key to looking your best. Click To Tweet
Celebrities or noncelebrities or people that are world leaders wearing your clothes because of not a topic that comes up a lot. People might say to me, “I like your suit.” I can explain where I got it, but if you’re a leader of a big company and you’re telling your own team or you’re being interviewed on television about keys to success and you said, “Let me give you a story.” They tell a story of you showing that to them and how now they have a client for life. Is that part of the outcome? Have you seen these brand ambassadors, not only are they loyal, but they then start telling other people? Did you get leads that way?
Yes, massively. We had a competition at our company. We call it the CEO Cup. What we do quite a lot of is we’ll call our clients referrals to get me business. The contest was me against every other person in the company, about 80 of us to see who can book the most meetings. I have some of our company’s clients on my LinkedIn that I’ve never met, but we’ve communicated over LinkedIn from time to time. They send me a happy birthday note. They got promoted to partner in their firm and I sent them a note like, “Congratulations. I’d love to get you acknowledged. You’ve done well.” I messaged a few clients. I’m like, “We’re having this thing. It’s called the CEO Cup.” I’m going to be on the phone calling these people. I want to show my team this old dog still has some tricks up his sleeve. What is cool is they replied and they gave me a list of referrals to call. They never met me and some of them even messaged their friends right there on LinkedIn like, “This is Dimitry. He runs LGFG,” and have people taken awesome care of me. It’s not only something we can talk about like an essence that it happens. There are measurable KPIs that reflect that.
There we are back to that analogy between a suit and business, measurable. Let’s dive into the other thing that you’re known for, which is client care. Responsiveness is one thing. Client care, replacing the pants is also a good example of that. Do you have another story of exceptional client care that people can think about, “Maybe I could do something like that?”
There have been a lot of examples of our teams stepping up and taking good care of clients. We had a situation where a client was going to meet the Queen of England and he needed a tuxedo. It was a last-minute thing where he found out he was meeting her through one of his clients. This fellow connects to some very high-up people. I was in Toronto when that happened. We had his measurements and had the tuxedo made, but we needed to get it fitted. We didn’t have anybody in London, UK. We got on the phone and this fellow from my office called a bunch of local tailors, explained the situations and said, “You don’t work with us. We don’t work with you. We’re not competitors because we’re not in the same markets. Even if we were, we need you to deliver this suit for a client and do a professional look over so that he looks presentable when he meets the Queen.”
That’s going out of our way and that’s what people in our company do. At least, when the situation presents itself to do that, that’s what they do because they do care about the clients. We take a lot of pride in representing our firm. A lot of us were here from the beginning. We’re a nine-year-old company. A lot of us grew up here. People that started with me at LGFG started when they were twenty-years-old. That’s who you hire when you’re starting up. You hire twenty-year-olds. They’re getting into their 30s and starting to have families. They grew up here. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s part of what we do and in a lot of ways, it’s a part of who we are.
You bring up another interesting point because a lot of people, when I am speaking to them or doing workshops with C-level executives. One of the challenges for big companies and small is how do I attract top talent but more importantly, how do I keep it? Especially “Millennials,” they tend to not be loyal, job-hopping and have to retrain. Clearly, you have figured out something and I think there’s something else you haven’t shared yet. My observation with what you did with the CEO Cup, you are in the trenches with your people. You’re responsive. You’re not asking them to be responsive and you’re not. I think that’s part of what creates employee loyalty, but I’m guessing you might have some other insights you could share.
To be frank, we’re not perfect. We don’t keep 100% of the people.
Still, if you could be above the norm, that says it.
It is what you said. A lot of them I found overtime and my perception changed and evolved as I’ve gotten a little bit older too. A lot of it is not so much my influence on making people good. It’s finding people who are already good and share those values to bring on board. I’ve learned that you can do a lot of things to try and build people and you can do a lot of things to lead by example, but you can never out culture lazy recruiting.
It’s like trying to outrun your diet. You can’t exercise enough to compensate for eating too badly all the time.You can't control people, but you can influence them. Click To Tweet
I try exercising my terrible carb intake and I’ve also tried to out-culture our recruiting and that doesn’t work either way. You do need both. I don’t want to take the credit for having good people that stuck around for a long time. A lot of that has been at times lucky to find good people and at times more intentionally knowing specifically who to look for, but there’s the back end of it too. As much as people like to get paid, and that’s important for us especially in our firm because we’re salespeople, but at the end of the day, people don’t stay for the money and they don’t usually leave for the money either. There’s a deeper thing.
That’s one of the myths that you’re busting. Most people go, “They got a better offer.” No, they didn’t like the people they were working with or for is the reason people leave.
I heard and I’ve observed that there has to be both a push and a pull. It can’t just be a pull. There has to be a push as well.
For those who may not know all of the things that go into making up a bespoke suit, and I know that you source your things from multiple countries. What’s interesting here that could apply to a lot of businesses is the quality control standards you have in place. I imagine if that was being used for building airplanes or cars. How did you develop such a thorough and complete quality control funnel to make sure that when that suit is delivered, it is perfect as can be?
To be fair, I didn’t. I found people, suppliers and iterated through manufacturers that were incredibly passionate about their products. This is something that’s maybe unique to tailoring, but probably in every business. You have guys like me that are out there shouting from the rooftops, “Try us out.” On the back end, we want to provide a high level of service and quality. The reality is that guys like me, I’m not an artisan. To design and to create a suit that is not just the science, but an art, you have to have the heart of an artisan. I come from a family of software developers. I see that when they’re passionate about software, it’s not just the fact that it works. It has to work smoothly, it runs well and it’s technically at a high aptitude, but also easy for other people to redesign.
There are a lot of things that people who are passionate about what they do. They see the nuance in those things. For us, it wasn’t so much about me going out and doing it because I’m not an artisan bespoke tailor by trade myself. My great grandfather was, but we found people that were not maybe so business-oriented as we are because what they care about is the product and those people deliver incredible products. We recruited them to come to work for us because we said, “If you’d give us this level of product with your knowledge and passion about this product, we can sell it because we know it’s that good.” I don’t want to take their credit but that might also be internal to a lot of other companies. With the CEO of a software firm who wants to write all his own code, probably he’d want to find people that truly are passionate about coding, architecture and testing.
My takeaway here is not only do you have to have great criteria for the people you hire but great criteria for the suppliers you decided to work with.
Our chest pieces come from Italy. This is a four-layer horse-hair and canvas. When you hear our head of manufacturing talk about our chest piece, it’s like he’s describing his childhood love. He’s in a completely different universe talking about how the interlinings are the softest and how the micro pixels were the stabilizers applied are the most preposterously precise measurements and the stitch, how it goes not through the cloth, but horizontally splitting the cloth. Just tiny precise level and he gets so passionate about it.
Is that something you can feel or see or both? The outcome of having the stitching be that precise, is that something that the average person can see or is it something that a suit wearer feels?
The way that our head of manufacturing, Edward, would say, “It’s so good and the client may never even appreciate how good it is, but we know.” That’s next level because of course, the client knows it’s better because it lasts longer, it feels better, it performs better, it breathes better. He appreciates this at such a high level. He says, “They won’t ever know how good it is, but we know.” That’s pretty powerful.Try to find great people like you find great fabric. Click To Tweet
It reminds me when they were making the movie, Gone with the Wind. They wanted authentic underwear for the women wearing those hoop skirts from the civil war. They say, “No one’s ever going to know that those are silk.” It’s like, “Yes, but the actors will and we will. That will affect their performance to be more authentic.” I think that’s a big part of what you’re saying. Who is your ideal client? Does it have to be somebody that can afford a $10,000 suit?
We’re a brand that caters to partners in law firms, but we also do great made-to-measure products if you’re talking US dollars. We can offer a wonderful made-to-measure suit with Sherman shoulder pads and Italian chest pieces at $500. That’s unbelievable value, but as we step up into the more nuanced and handmade manufacturing processes where you’re getting our master tailors to do it by hand like when you’re buying a watch. When you buy a Jacob & Co. watch or a Hublot, when you get to that level, there’s this precision where you know the person is there behind the scenes making it. They get twenty years of experience to feel how that dial needs to fit into place.
There is a beauty to that. Our ideal client is not flying a private jet, even though we have clients like that too. Our ideal client is upper middle-level and higher executives. Somebody that enjoys a good suit, but also typically has to wear a suit because it is part of their identity and their day-to-day routine. Usually, it’s a lady or a fellow that’s married with one, two or three kids. They work hard and once in a while they can afford themselves the luxury of rewarding themselves for their hard work. Whether it’s driving their Lexus that they wanted for a long time or picking up a couple of bespoke suits a year that are made just for them.
Men are traditionally known for not enjoying the shopping process. What do you do to help them make that less painful?
That’s what we do. We come to their office, we measure them in their office, our tailor’s hand delivers all products to the office. That not only provides the service of keeping them out of stores on a Saturday, which I hate, but also it gives them a trusted advisor so their wife doesn’t have to be there because over time the wives learned to trust us because they realized what we do. This is important. In modern world, the economy is becoming more personal. Everything is becoming Alexa and shipped to your door. That’s great for commodities but a bespoke suit is not a commodity. A bespoke suit is special. We don’t ship stuff like that. We deliver it by hand. The person that measures you comes and delivers, it does the fitting. It’s a very personal experience for our clients because they’re dealing with a real human being that they trust every time.Clients are the ones who give us the privilege of living the life that we love. Click To Tweet
Are there any last thoughts you want to leave us with? Either a favorite book or a quote that you find has inspired or helped you.
QBQ! The Question Behind The Question is a great book.
What’s your takeaway from that book?
It’s by John G. Miller. I’d read the book too many times. It’s a book about personal responsibility. When you say things, you watch for the implication of who is responsible, when you are making a complaint. I try my best to communicate that, not always extremely well. I try my best to tell guys, “Don’t come to me with a problem. Come to me with a solution.”
Dimitry, thank you so much for sharing your expertise, your insights into a good suit and a good person working for you have in common from the lens of fabric, fit and construction. I found that particularly fascinating and the responsiveness that sets you apart and keeps you at the forefront. I can’t wait to watch your suits show up in more and more movies.
Thank you so much.
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- QBQ! The Question Behind The Question
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