Ascot Chang

Helping Customers Find Their Ideal Shirt

There's nothing quite like an ill-fitting shirt to make a man cranky. Ascot Chang knows this better than anyone else, and has applied personalization techniques to the garment industry in a very unique manner: by letting customers make their own shirts.

It started when company founder Ascot Chang brought Shanghainese men's tailor craftsmanship to the rest of the world by opening the doors to his company in Hong Kong in 1955. Since then, he's opened stores in Manhattan and Beverly Hills. The firm's customer list comprises some of the world's most demanding and distinguished men, including congressmen, dignitaries and President George Bush

But you don't have to be the president of the U.S. to want a high-quality, comfortable dress shirt, and Chang knows this. "Creating the perfect shirt is much like creating a building," he explains on his firm's Web site. "You have to start with the person who lives inside. The rest is easy."

Through Ascot Chang's special order catalog, which is available online, customers are able to create a virtually custom-made shirt from the convenience of their own homes (talk about personalization!). After measuring themselves according to the site's directions and inputting the measurements, customers choose the fabrics shown from Ascot Chang's seasonal, ready-made shirt catalog, which also offers a variety of collar and cuff styles.

Through its personalized, online service, the company claims that customers can have more control over an Ascot Chang shirt "than any other shirt you can buy from any other catalog or any other non-custom shirt store." In fact, Ascot Chang guarantees that its special order shirts will fit the customers better than any other shirt, with the exception of a fully custom-made shirt (which the company makes at its stores). It also feels that details matter, and, as such, painstakingly selects its fabrics (including Swiss 200s 2-ply Egyptian cotton by Alumo) from the "most serious weavers in the world."

An architecture buff, Chang likens the shirt-making process to the construction of a perfect building. Every shirt is made up of building materials, he says, much as a skyscraper is made of steel and concrete and glass. He also compares the buttresses and arches, curtain walls and conduits that go into a building to the collars and cuffs, plackets and pleats that make up a shirt.

Ascot Chang's custom shirts aren't cheap, and range in price from $80 to $390, and Chang himself admits that there are probably other more modern, less expensive techniques for making shirts than the ones his firm uses. "But the shirt wouldn't feel right to me," he says in a letter on the company Web site. "More importantly, it wouldn't feel right to you."