THIS SHREWSBURY CLOTHIER’S AIM IS TO RETURN TO AN ERA WHEN “THE PEOPLE WHO TAILORED AND SOLD CLOTHES KNEW YOUR WARDROBE BETTER THAN YOU DID”
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
When Michael Duru opened his eponymous boutique clothing store in New Jersey 16 years ago, his goal was to create an environment where customers would go to build a wardrobe, not simply buy a suit or a couple of shirts.
“I wanted to follow a sort of old school retail philosophy that I thought was diminishing in this industry,” Duru said. “Years ago, the people who tailored and sold you your clothes knew your wardrobe better than you did, and that’s what I felt was missing from the business. The idea here was to not simply place emphasis on the product but to highlight the shopping experience as a whole.”
So Duru, a third generation tailor who started working in his father’s shop when he was just 13, implemented made to measure services and emphasized the importance of fit. He based the entire concept on the expert techniques passed down by his father, and built a staff that believed in and carried out those same processes.
“My father came to this country from Turkey as an accomplished tailor and started working for the famed Hickey Freeman Clothing House in Rochester, New York,” Duru said.
After several years, he settled in the New Jersey area and opened a tailor shop in Shrewsbury, where his alterations earned a bit of a following.
”Duru worked with his father during high school and college (he earned a degree in public relations and marketing from Rutgers) and then moved on to work for several fashion houses in Manhattan. The creative aspect and the art of men’s fashion fascinated him. He became a point person for movie wardrobes, outfitted dozens of professional athletes, and specialized in hard to fit bodies. When clients started to recognize the significance of his efforts, Duru’s passion for custom clothing was born.
“I loved the expressions on my clients’ faces when the work exceeded their expectations,” Duru said. “That gratification was priceless.”
In June 2001, when Duru’s father was hurt in an automobile accident and could no longer tailor clothes, Duru left his position managing a respected New York city fashion shop and developed his father’s business into what’s known today as Michael Duru Clothiers.
“We started in a 500 square foot retail space and eventually evolved to our current space, which is 3,800 square feet,” Duru said. “We are very community driven; our second location is literally 12 blocks away from our first because we love the community so much and wanted to keep our business here. And even though our reach has expanded across the country we’ve been recognized nationally by Esquire magazine as one of the country’s top tailors our goal is to serve our loyal customers with all of their clothing wants and needs.”
The original store, which is a 40 minute drive from Staten Island, is not brand or price driven, and it uses personalized tactics to make each client’s shopping experience seamless.
“We take pictures and have a running profile on every customer, which includes a list of every item they’ve ever bought at the store,” Duru said. “This way it’s easy to add layers to a wardrobe, and wives and partners can select gifts with ease.”
Michael Duru Clothiers also performs wardrobe “audits” at no charge, in which a staffer will come to a client’s closet, take out the pieces that don’t work, and put together a wish list of items that are needed to make the closet complete.
“The element we’ve created here is exactly the way I would want to shop,” Duru said. “As a shopper, you need guidance on what works for you and your body type. The biggest part of what I do is educate. If you wear a size 12 or 13 shoe, you have no business wearing skinny jeans. It’s off balance, and that’s the kind of advice we give. We help our customers refine their style and find the proper comfort level. Before I fit a customer with one thread of clothing, I ask them what they enjoy about their wardrobe. They have clothing preferences for a reason we just build upon that.”
The store’s focus extends far beyond suits and work apparel. In fact, Duru says, lifestyle clothing and accessories account for more than 50 percent of his stock.
“We carry a range of products and styles because most men are not wearing suits as much anymore,” Duru said. “It’s easy to dress a guy up in a suit, but it’s a challenge to find the right jeans and shoes; those are all very important aspects of a man’s wardrobe that so very often get ignored. That’s why we sell a range of smart casual wear not just suits but also everything in between.”
Duru’s staff concentrates on finding the appropriate look at affordable price points. “I think I watch out for my clients’ bottom line far more than they do,” Duru said. “But my goal is to keep clients for life. We don’t just want to sell random wardrobe pieces to random clients. We want to be the store where you return time after time. We want to make clients feel as though they are part of our family.”
The business remains family run; Michael’s younger brother Matt is his partner, and their father, now retired, still comes in two to three months out of the year and does a refresher course with the newer tailors.
Community service occupies a big part of the Duru brothers’ time. “We are involved actively with numerous charities,” Duru said. “We dedicate ourselves to our community because our clients are the community.”
Those charitable efforts include an annual “Suit Up For Success” event with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in which the store’s excess inventory and donations from clients are fitted and given to young people in need.
“During the event we teach young men how to tie a tie and give them clothes that could be used for job interviews,” Duru said. And he and his staff offer the young people the same advice about proper fit that Duru gives to all of his clients: “You need to look like you’re wearing the clothing, not like it’s wearing you.”
Michael Duru Clothiers
801 Broad Street Shrewsbury / 732.741.1999 / michaelduru.com