Step into the Harlem Haberdashery in Harlem, New York, and you will be in good company.
The store, which is the retail expression of 5001 Flavors, a custom-made apparel company, has made clothes for countless celebrities. Among the celebrity clientele: the late Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, LeBron James, Fat Joe, Alicia Keys and Will Smith. Guy Wood is the designer behind the success of Harlem Haberdashery, which while it opened its retail doors in 2012, Wood has been offering custom clothes for more than 20 years.
Wood was inspired by his mother who was a seamstress. And today, he runs his business with his wife, and his son, Guy Wood Jr. who has his own clothing line, Billionaire New York, under the company’s banner.
Wood shared his success story with TNJ.com.
TNJ.com: How did you get into suit making?
Guy Wood: We’ve made all types of outfits. We make what our clients need and want. From leather outfits to casual looks to red carpet looks to formal wear, we’ve done it all. My goal is to work with our diverse clientele on many different types of projects.
Our clients require different types of looks and we must address all of their fashion needs. Music videos require more casual looks, specific colors. Commercials require we follow the script. Our clients negotiate deals, attend red carpet events, and generally love to dress in suits so we always try to meet our clients’ demands. So customization then depends on if the client wants a more casual or more professional look.
TNJ.com: What were the challenges when you first started?
GW: Initially, our challenges were identifying new clients and new projects. But working with many industry professionals on many different projects allowed clients to literally identify themselves. Working on one project led to many referrals as each photographer, music industry professional, intern, production staff, manager, lawyer and the talent themselves began to open up about new products they were working on.
TNJ.com: How did you start attracting a celebrity clientele?
GW: Our initial clients were celebrities, musicians, and various personalities and entertainment industries. We created a unique niche by working with entertainment industry stylists, professionals, and executives to help our exclusive celebrity clientele get the looks that were not available in the marketplace.
TNJ.com: When did Harlem Haberdashery open?
GW: Harlem Haberdashery opened four years ago. It’s a direct brand extension of our custom clothing business and caters to individuals that have their own red carpet moments, but are not celebrities.
TNJ.com: Has the changing demographic in Harlem affected your business?
GW: The changes in Harlem have not really affected our business. I am Harlem born and bred and decided to open our flagship store in Harlem because this is my community. Harlem is the birthplace of my style and means a lot to me. I’m glad to see that Harlem has changed and continues to evolve but I was already committed to being in business in this community because this has always been my community. As some people celebrate the re-emergence of Harlem, I’ve always known how special Harlem is.
TNJ.com: Tell me more about Billionaire New York?
GW: Billionaire New York is my son’s line. He loves exquisite fabrics and incorporates them into his creations. Still, it’s bespoke tailoring with a little bit more extravagant fabrications.
TNJ.com: Your business is a family business. What is that experience like?
GW: Our custom clothing division was started by myself and my wife almost 25 years ago. Harlem Haberdashery is definitely a family owned and operated business and includes more of the family than just me and my wife. But we’ve always been a family business; now we just have additional members and a new generation of talent joining us.
Working with your family is a great experience as you grow your business legacy together but it’s also challenging to separate business and personal.
TNJ.com: What have been some challenges in growing your business?
GW: Growing your business is hard during shaky economic times. Customers spend less but vendors charge more and expenses never go down. Budgets are smaller as people try to save. As a designer, you still have to provide quality designs yet making it still affordable to your customer.
TNJ.com: Can you tell me more about the denim line?
GW: With our denims, we take raw denim and salvage it, depending on what the client wants. We treat and distress our own denim as we use different weights to get the desired look for the project.
TNJ.com: What is the price range for your suits?
GW: My bespoke suits start at $800 and the price varies depending on what the clients wants.
TNJ.com: Goals for 2016?
GW: For 2016 and beyond, we are taking Harlem Haberdashery to a new level. We are expanding our brand until a full-fledged international lifestyle brand offering all types of cool designs for men’s, women’s, kids, home, beauty and all of the other lifestyles categories with cool branded products and designs.
TNJ.com: Long-term goals?
GW: To build a family legacy that future generations will be able to thrive off of, and to make Harlem Haberdashery a worldwide brand.
TNJ.com: What has been your most important business lesson?
GW: That day-to-day things change. But you always have to be there in order to meet the next potential customer. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy; there are a lot of ups and downs, but you have to be present and consistent in order to succeed.
TNJ.com: What do you like most about what you do?
GW: I love to create. I love to bring people’s creations to life. I love to go from concept to actual design.