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Start-up: Benjamin Siggers brings the tailor to your home or office

Inspired by traditional Italian style and craftsmanship, Matthew Benjamin and James Siggers provide bespoke and sustainable tailoring solutions. The team shed light on their journey

We decided that we wouldn’t only offer the best product but produce it in the most sustainable way we could, taking into account the environmental and social costs.

How long has it been since you started your company?

We started the company in September 2017. However, collectively we’ve worked in tailoring for 10 years. Prior to launching Benjamin Siggers, we both worked for Tom James, the largest custom clothing company in the world. Matthew started in the London office in 2010 and moved to Dubai in 2012 to open an office here, as the brand found that UAE clientele were frequently using the company in London due to an inability to find equal quality in the region. It was here that we met.

Describe your business.

We offer bespoke menswear in the most sustainable way possible. Unlike a traditional tailor or retail brand, we visit our clients in their homes or offices to save time and add convenience. This also allows us to pass on more value to our clients, as we don’t have the overheads of a traditional retailer.

Where did the idea come from?

We knew there was a market from our experience at Tom James, but we wanted to offer genuine Italian tailoring that was light and more flattering to wear. While doing our research, we became aware that the fashion industry was actually the second-biggest polluting industry, behind oil and gas. In addition to this, there are a number of other issues that affect the sector, from poor working conditions to modern-day slavery. So, we decided that we wouldn’t only offer the best product but produce it in the most sustainable way we could, taking into account the environmental and social costs.

There are a small selection of companies doing this in casual wear but not in men’s formal wear. Although we are ahead of the curve in this area, we believe it is the right way to do business and we hope to see more brands following us in this initiative. Consumers understand this more frequently when it comes to the food industry, so hopefully more and more people will also start to evaluate their clothing choices in the same way. All we can do is give them the choice.

We decided that we wouldn’t only offer the best product but produce it in the most sustainable way we could, taking into account the environmental and social costs.

Matthew Benjamin and James Siggers.

How did you finance your business?

We self-financed it with our savings when we first started out. Luckily, we were able to make sales from day one and have made a decent profit from then, which has allowed us to continually reinvest in the business.

At which point did you have a clearer idea of how you would turn your passion into a business?

We both ultimately wanted to start our own businesses and the timing just happened to be right, as we both were getting itchy feet in our respective roles. The more we spoke about it, the more aligned our visions were and it made perfect sense to embark on this journey together, as we share the same passion but bring different skills to the table. 

How difficult was the transition from full-time employment to start-up?

It was difficult at the beginning and has taken some adjustment. We went from earning a relatively high salary that was incentivised mainly by commission, to paying ourselves a relatively low salary and taking away the carrot that had driven us throughout our careers. But we both believe in what we are building, which makes it easier. We are prepared to live like we have to during these formative years in order to reap the benefits further down the line.

What are your biggest challenges?

A cofounder relationship is like a marriage, and there are ups and downs. The downs have been some of our biggest challenges but they have allowed us to improve our communication skills. Early on we hired a leadership coach, and that has been invaluable.

Second to that is working in an industry where there is no regulation. Some companies have no qualms about embellishing things, such as the origins of the business or how and where they make their garments. You even have tailors visiting from the UK claiming to be Savile Row tailors when they most certainly are not. A big part of our role is educating people on what really goes into making a high-quality garment.

What are the advantages to being your own boss?

The ability the make our own decisions and own them, whether they are right or wrong. As a start-up and being small, we can change direction quickly if need be, which is refreshing having been at a big international company where changing course was like moving an oil tanker.

What would your advice be to future entrepreneurs?

It won’t be plain sailing, so really make sure before taking the leap that this is something you want to do. In the age of social media, you can call yourself an entrepreneur at the click of a button, and it’s become cool to do so. However, the reality is that to be a successful entrepreneur means a lot of sacrifice and hard work.

We are lucky because we have a number of successful entrepreneurs as clients, and we are able to learn so much from them. We aren’t saying we are there yet, but we are laying those foundations. Be prepared to put in the groundwork.

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