My Week: Jake Allen of King & Allen

The clothing entrepreneur on his flamboyant partner, having an eye for figures, and getting it right first time.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Every Monday I’ll have a catch-up meeting with my business partner, Adam King, although this week he’s been away enjoying the ski season in Chamonix. We met through snowboarding, actually, as we were both members of the ski and snowboarding club at Birmingham University. Throughout uni we were just snowboarding buddies, so that’s all we really saw of each other, until we decided to go into business together after we graduated.

I would say that Adam and I have very complimentary skillsets: Adam looks after the marketing, the PR and the customer experience as a whole, and my role is more the back office, so I do the HR and the logistics, and other things of that nature. Adam was always the more flamboyant one, the creative one, whereas I’ve always been the more meticulous, methodical person. It’s not unknown for us to have creative differences. Adam’s job is to make the customers feel special. My job is to make the customer a number, and make those numbers add up. So whereas my eye is always on the bottom line, his is nowhere near it.

I really enjoy my close involvement with our Wilmslow store, near Manchester. We decided that I’d do everything there – even the PR and the marketing that Adam would normally take care of. This means that I travel up to Manchester about once a fortnight for two days. We decided to open the second store near Manchester (the first, also the head office, is in Surbiton) because it has historically been a very successful city for us, when the mobile teams have been up there. The two main stores also act as hubs from where our mobile team travels to nine city centres nationwide and operate ‘pop-up shops’, where people can come out of their offices and visit us to be fitted for their bespoke suits.

I usually try to get to one of these fitting days in the week, where I’ll actually muck in and do some of the measuring - although I leave it to one of our qualified tailors to do the fittings. I like to get involved because it helps me keep in touch with what’s going on. The head office (where I spend the majority of my time) is at the store in Surbiton, so I can always go into the shop and do consultations any time in the week if I want to (which I do frequently).

Once a week, usually on a Wednesday, we’ll have a video conference with our suppliers in the Far East. We visit them once every six months, but the weekly call is crucial because it gives us the chance to talk through new styles etc. As part of our general product development, we’re always introducing new options - but since every customer’s requirement are unique, they might also suggest something that we’ll then bring into our range. Then we'll look at individual suits to make sure the suppliers are making them to the exacting standards we’ve laid out. We make a huge amount of individual products, so everything has to be absolutely watertight. If we make a mistake it’s not like we can just pull out another 38 regular from the stockroom.

Jake Allen is a founding partner of King & Allen, a bespoke tailoring company.

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