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Custom Suits Created With Care: Suit Up! Tailors is Ottawa’s Go-To

Clothes make the man. Meet the man who makes the clothes.

 

Ukeshen Kistan, known to his loyal customer base as UK, is the co-founder and owner of Suit Up! Tailors, Ottawa’s boutique designers and makers of custom suits, shirts, and, as of just a few months ago, shoes.

 

The ten-year-old business began, believe it or not, as a hobby. Its seeds were planted when UK, an immigrant freshly arrived in Ottawa to attend university, couldn’t find a form-fitting suit for an upcoming conference. Commiserating with a friend, the two went into the custom tailoring business. Their DIY approach yielded instant dividends. After buying out his partner, UK parlayed SuitUp! into one of the Ottawa clothing scene’s best-kept secrets. 

 

 

Today, the company serves clientele from lawyers and real estate agents to members of The Ottawa Senators and the Ottawa Red Blacks. Its popularity, spread almost entirely by word of mouth, is attributable to its diehard dedication to the proper fit. In addition, Suit Up! offers its wares at an astoundingly affordable price, comparable to what one would pay for something off-the-rack. Measurements are taken, then, after the materials and colours are selected, off the information goes to a facility in Bangkok where the Canadian Dollar goes much further. By the time the completed suit makes its way to Ottawa, it’s ready to remake the buyer into a figure of respectability. UK is quick to point out the modest nature of the company’s foreign facilities. Unlike the mega-factories of China, Suit Up!’s manufacturing arm doesn’t do bulk orders. The emphasis is on one-of-a-kind designs. This premium on the personal starts as soon as you walk into UK’s St. Laurent Blvd headquarters. “When you come to see us,” explains the amiable figurehead, “we will sit down with you and discuss fabrics. We’ll take your measurements, talk about why you’re getting the suit, then we’ll give you advice. It’s one-on-one service. You don’t get that anywhere else in Ottawa at our prices to be honest. When you walk into a made-to-measure outlet for example which Ottawa has, it’s strictly salespeople that you’re dealing with. They will say, ‘Here’s the fabric’ and walk away. Here, you’re important to us because we are a local business and our reputation is extremely important.”

 

When the company isn’t busy classing up sports stars like Daniel Alfredsson and Henry Burris, it’s accommodating wedding season. The last couple have been extremely busy affairs, with the company working hard to meet the backlog brought on by COVID. The same technology that Suit Up! employed throughout the epidemic helps them deal with the geographic disparity of wedding parties, whose groomsmen can be situated all over the world.

 

“A lot of online suit companies, they have instructional videos, then they make the suit based on the measurements you provide them. But once that suit is made, if there’s a mistake, whose responsibility is it? The company or the customer? So I thought, hey, why don’t we do a video chat with our customers? We guide them through every measurement and can see exactly what they’re doing. If they’re doing something incorrectly, we can correct it on camera. So when the suit comes in”—in a remarkably short period of time compared to, again, those ubiquitous outlet stores—”if there’s anything wrong with it, we take full accountability.” Adds UK with understandable pride, “There hasn’t been a suit that’s been incorrect. Occasionally, a minor adjustment needs to be made, but everybody is super happy with the process. There’s nobody in the world that offers that approach.” As for what’s trendy in men’s suits these days, UK elucidates on the two main styles: classic and slim fit. 

 

“Classic dominated for years because people didn’t want to feel constricted. Then, the younger generation came along and wanted things to fit perfectly hence the “slim fit”.

 

So now, younger guys want the shoulder pad thin and fitted to their true shoulder, the arm length 1/2 inch shorter than the shirt sleeve and the pants to just touch the shoe to show off their funky socks. The mature generation wants the classic look. It doesn’t look as nice as the slim fit, but it’s more comfortable. The bottom line is whether you’re short or tall, skinny or big, or anything in between  I can make a suit that’s ideal for your body.”

 

 

Right now, it’s Ottawa that UK is making look good. But tomorrow? 

 

“I would love to expand—but I don’t know if I can. It’s a very technical job. You can’t just hire people off the street and expect them to get the hang of it in a few weeks or months. I can go big, but I would lose quality. We’re competing with the big corporations now, so I’m very happy with that.”

 

Ottawa, in turn, is happy with SuitUp!

 

By Dan Lalande

Photography by Sean Sisk

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