Story Leather: What is Custom? With BALANI Custom Clothiers

Posted on April 21, 2014
By: Jonathan Ly

Custom clothes, accessories, furniture, etc. These are some of the few items people are customizing these days. Why is that though? Wouldn’t it be easier to order something and have it delivered right away instead of waiting for it to be made? For the most part it would be, but having something that is custom really speaks wonders. Every custom item tells a story whether we think it has one or not and every story is unique to the person that designed it.

That’s why we’re fortunate enough to speak to Elizabeth from BALANI Custom Clothiers about why custom items are so popular these days, but before we get to that I wanted to give a quick synopsis about BALANI and what makes them so unique.

Balani Clothiers is named “One of the Top 6 Tailors in World,” by JW Marriott Magazine, and “Best Custom Suit” by Chicago Magazine, Balani Custom Clothiers has been in the custom clothing business for over 50 years.

To read more about BALANI you can visit their website at

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Story Leather: What does “Custom” mean to you?

Elizabeth: Custom is an incredibly powerful concept in the clothing business, because it gives the consumer the ability to take complete control in an industry where they rarely have input or a voice. It allows our clients to create the “perfect” garment, while getting the exact fit and styling details that they want.

Story Leather: With fashion/style trends constantly coming and going how do you think custom items will hold up?”

Elizabeth: There’s a fine line that custom clothiers walk when it comes to style trends. There was a time when over-sized, 3-button suits, with pleats and cuffs were popular. Today, the trend leans toward very trim fit suits, with shorter jackets and little to no break in the slacks. Our goal is to help guide our clients and have them style their garments in a way that will stand the test of time. The best advice we can give is it to keep it simple and meet in the middle; Avoid fleeting trends and focus on what’s right for your body type.

Story Leather: I’ve heard that when buying a custom item it’s not really about the item it’s more about the story behind it. What are your thoughts on that?

Elizabeth: The beauty of custom is that every suit has a story, because every detail is intentional and carefully thought out. It’s these personal touches (i.e. colorful linings, functioning buttonholes, monogramming the suit jacket) that make a custom piece so special.

When others notice these details, it organically becomes a conversation starter. I’ve had dozens of clients who’ve come to me and said they closed a deal or attained new clients purely based on a compliment they’ve received on how they were dressed. That’s a wonderful gift to be able to give people.

Story Leather: Do you have a custom item that tells a unique story? If so would you care to tell us a little about it?

Elizabeth: BALANI carries thousands of fabrics from all over the world, but there’s one pinstripe suit that stands out from all the rest. Made from luxurious Super 180’s wool, this fabric is unique because the pinstripe is actually the client’s name hand-embroidered into the stripe. Costing over $10,000, the customizable pinstripe guarantees that your suit is an original and one of a kind. If that’s still not extravagant enough for you, you can opt to have the fabric mill embroider your suit with 14k gold thread.

Story Leather: Our last question is about BALANI. We know that you specialize in customize clothing, what are some of the special orders that you’ve seen go through BALANI?

Elizabeth: My favorite orders are the one’s which have the most sentiment behind them. Whether it’s a wedding tuxedo or a jacket specifically designed for the winner of a beer pong tournament, these garments mean more to our clients than just an ordinary suit. They want it to be special and we do our best to incorporate meaningful elements into each garment. Sometimes it’s as simple as embroidering the wedding date into a suit, and for others it’s adding a special crest or patch to the front of the jacket. It’s these personal details that change a suit from being simple and ordinary to extraordinary.

I wanted to thank Elizabeth and BALANI again for sharing some of their stories as well as their insight on how custom items represent such a powerful story, image, and memory. If you want to know more about BALANI their website is You can also follow them on TwitterFacebook, and Google+ for any updates they might have.

For more of our stories you can visit, visit our FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest for all of any updates on new styles, leathers, or promo codes.

Sonny BalaniStory Leather: What is Custom? With BALANI Custom Clothiers
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Dress to Impress – The Job Scholar

Dress to Impress

 Feb 28, 2014

We have all heard the saying “the clothes make the man”, but do the clothes also make the candidate? Our experts in the recruiting and HR space say absolutely yes, that they have been influenced one way or another about a candidate based on their choice of attire on interview day.

Clothes Are a Communication Tool

According to Elizabeth Fasula, marketing coordinator and clothing consultant at Chicago-based Balani Custom Clothers, the way a candidate is dressed is the first communication exchange of a job interview. “First impressions are made within a tenth of a second upon seeing someone. A potential employer will already have a preconceived impression of a candidate long before the first interview question is even asked,” Fasula says. Kenny Frimpong, branding and fashion expert at fashion house Eredi Pisano USA, agrees. “Appearance can be your most powerful non-verbal communication tool in business, especially when you’re interviewing for a job,” Frimpong says. Frimpong warns that when appearance is not attended to properly, it can cause a negative first impression that cannot always be fixed.

Suit Up

Cindy Elhaj, marketing director for community engagement firm Sprocket Media / Digarati, says a candidate’s choice of apparel on interview day communicates the type of employee the candidate will become if hired. “Unless you are applying to be a lifeguard, candidates should button up and clean up. Attire and general appearance reflect your attention to detail, how presentable you are to clients, and whether or not you take the time out to impress. These all are a strong reflection of your work habits, and they start in the closet,” Elhaj says. Fasula agrees. “A suit shows that the candidate is professional, mindful of the company, and cognizant of wanting to put their best foot forward. It’s a sign of success, power and respect,” Fasula says. Fasula also explains that that there are additional benefits of wearing a suit to an interview. “Many studies have shown that what you wear affects how you view and present yourself. Referred to as enclothed cognition, people are automatically more inclined to be professional and able when dressed in a suit,” Fasula says.

Stay Neutral

Frimpong advises that job seekers stick with neutral colors and fabrics on interview day. “Avoid overwhelming colors, textures and patterns, and loud color shirts and ties,” Frimpong warns. He says navy or charcoal gray suits paired with a blue or white shirt and dark tie are the best bet for men, and for women Frimpong recommends suits in a plum, blue, charcoal, or navy color.

Pay Attention to Fit and Be Sure to Cover Up

Barbara Pachter, president of business communication training firm Pachter & Associates, urges job seekers to pay attention to the fit of their clothing, warning that proper fit is essential to ensure that clothing is sending the right message to the interviewer and potential employer. “If your clothes are too big or too small, they are not going to look good,” Pachter warns, and further cautions that interview attire should fit without over-emphasizing curves or showing too much skin. “Ensuring a proper fit applies to everything you are wearing. One interviewer said he was distracted by a man’s short tie,” Pachter explains.

Be Prepared

Pachter strongly suggests that job seekers have their interview attire ready at all times. “You do not want to find out on the eve of an interview that you have nothing to wear, or that your clothes are at the cleaners when you need them. Anything you wear should be clean and pressed. Interviews can be scheduled with a very short lead-time, and you always want to have something appropriate to wear,” Pachter says.

Hygiene Matters

According to Jessica Ekstrom, founder and CEO of the non-profit Head Bands of Hope, being well groomed is also essential in giving the right impression on interview day. Ekstrom says that wrinkled clothing or messy hair gives the impression that the candidate is unprepared. “Iron your clothes beforehand. The quickest way to give a bad first-impression is by coming in with a wrinkly shirt or trouser,” Ekstrom warns. Ekstrom also says that while the “messy bun” look might be trendy for women, it is not interview appropriate. “It might be cute for lunch with friends or at the gym but don’t do it for an interview. It shows you’re unprepared and probably rushed this morning or didn’t look in the mirror.” Ekstrom suggests pinning hair back and away from the face, she says a candidate who is constantly fiddling with their hair can be distracting – and annoying.

Save Personal Style for When You Get the Job

Sarah Doll, senior director of talent recruitment at Chicago-based Enova International says that personal style has a place in the workplace… once a candidate actually becomes an employee. “Obviously the business world is turning more casual, but we’ve had candidates take it a little too far, coming in to interview in shorts and flip flops. While our website says that we ‘wear shorts and flip flops to work,’ it’s not appropriate for you to do so at the interview.” Doll recommends that candidates wait until after they officially land the job to adapt to the company culture and casual dress code.

While there may some exceptions to the rule, all of our experts warned that it is much better to err on the side of caution when selecting interview attire, choosing conservative dress when interviewing for a new position.

Elizabeth FasulaDress to Impress – The Job Scholar
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Nicely suited: New shops expand Chicago’s custom menswear scene

Crain’s Chicago Business

Nicely suited: New shops expand Chicago’s custom menswear scene
By: Brigid Sweeney
October 18, 2013

BALANI Custom Clothiers, a 53-year-old custom suitmaker based in the Loop, is expanding to a second location in Houston and has hired seven sales representatives in other cities across the country. Owner Sonny Balani, who took over the business from his father, Peter, said he expects revenue to grow to $6 million from $3.2 million by the end of next year. A suit at BALANI starts at $895.

Mr. Balani hired Christian Boehm, a two-decade custom clothing veteran, to launch the Houston business.

“There’s an art to custom clothing that appeals to three different kinds of customer,” Mr. Boehm said. “One, the men who just completely hate to shop, and we can just take it off their plate for them; two, the connoisseur who loves to shop and sit down and choose from 356 different suit linings, and three, the guy with fit issues who is really tall, really short or really muscular. That’s why custom clothing has really grown. People realize they can spend $400 on an off-the-rack suit, but then they have to spend a fortune on tailoring, or they can do it the right way, from scratch.”

Excerpted from this weeks Crain’s

Sonny BalaniNicely suited: New shops expand Chicago’s custom menswear scene
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Why? Because They’re Pros At Making You Look Good.
Ask Men Chicago –

What were you doing in 1961? Well, Balani Custom Clothiers was making impeccably stylish suits, and they’re actually still doing it today. The garment-customizing pros at Balani have applied a contemporary filter to its styles through the ages, and continue to impress customers with top-notch clothing that fits as well as a spacesuit glove. Whether you’re looking for a slim or traditional-fit suit, these guys have you covered, and can even hook up pants that sport grip guards so that shirts resist becoming untucked. They say that clothes make the man. if that’s the case, a stop here would make you a self-made man, wouldn’t it?

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Elizabeth FasulaWhy BALANI?
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J.W. Marriott Magazine

One of the Top 6 Custom Clothiers in the World

by Carlos Rubin – J.W. Marriott Magazine

Tailored to Perfection

Off the rack?  No thanks. Made to measure? Only if you’re in a hurry. For the truly perfect men’s shirt, connoisseurs know that bespoke – a 100 percent personalized product- is the only way to go. Here’s six top tailors in six top cities.


The Man to Know: Sonny Balani at Balani Custom Clothiers

Credentials: This family-owned business-Sonny’s father Peter trained in London and Milan- has kept the men of Chicago looking sharp for fifty years.

Cost: Suits from $895, Slacks from $275, Blazers from $675, Shirts from $125.

The Edge: Service included cocktails from a fully-stocked bar on premises.


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Sonny BalaniJ.W. Marriott Magazine
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Men’s Book

Chicago Bear Israel Idonije suits up with a sharp new look from Balani Custom Clothiers.

By Matt Lee, Photography by Anthony Tahlier

When you meet him, two things quickly become apparent about Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije.  He’s a very nice man, and he has arms and legs the size of your torso.  To craft the perfect gameday suit for Idonije, we visited the Loop’s Balani Custom Clothiers….
Sonny BalaniMen’s Book
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Time Out Chicago

Chicago father-and-son custom clothing company, Balani, celebrates 50 years in business.
On the next generation of Balani
Sonny Balani, owner: I got involved [with the business] eight years ago. I have an investment banking/trading background. I grew up around the business and had no intention in going into this at all. I think my dad asked me once when I was 16, and I just said “No way.” And he just kind of dropped it. And then around 2003, I came around and saw a potential here. But I really wanted to make it a place where I would want to shop. I wanted to bring a little more hospitality into it. A lot of times people think about custom clothing, and they think of it as stodgy and stuffy. We’re the opposite of that.

On the Balani customer
Sonny Balani, owner: Most of our clients are type-A-ish. They dress well and put a pretty high value on their appearance. Everything from the banker guy to a younger guy who likes a slimmer fit. We have full bars [in each room], so you can kick back and have a Scotch after work…Once we made a custom Halloween suit for a guy who wanted an exact replica of the Joker suit. We also do a lot of weddings and a lot of engagements. A lot of brides are buying the experience for grooms.

On added touches
Ricardo Bucio, manager: The inside of our jackets is really cool. Most tailors won’t offer you a lot of choices in linings, but we do. And there aren’t any extra fees for the additional perks. That way, you don’t have to keep calculating what the cost is going to be, and you can really enjoy the experience. On the pants—most people love this part—is a grip guard, so your shirt doesn’t become untucked. Over the years, Mr. [Peter] Balani (pictured, far left) has added different details to make the clothing more durable. The front of the shop also offers ties, cuff links and socks to complete the look.

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Sonny BalaniTime Out Chicago
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Crain’s New in Chicago

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Crain’s Chicago Business
Crain's Chicago BusinessExcerpt: This family-owned business, which sells custom-tailored menswear at 10 S. LaSalle St., will open a second location at 55 W. Monroe St. on Wednesday (Sept. 15). Owner Sonny Balani says business is booming. “Overall, we’re up 80% over last year,” he says. “There was a lot of pent-up demand.” Customers who had put off clothing purchases during the recession are spending more money now as they dress up, he explains. The company is doubling its workforce and tripling its capacity in 2010. Mr. Balani runs the company with his father, Peter, who started it in 1961. Sonny Balani says the company prides itself on old-fashioned customer service, but the stores have a sleek, contemporary look. The Balanis worked with Apple Inc.’s business-development unit to create “learning kiosks” where customers can see how their custom suits will look — on the screen of an iPad. Flat-screen TVs display recent examples of menswear created by the store’s tailors.

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Sonny BalaniCrain’s New in Chicago
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Chicago Magazine’s “Best of Chicago”

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Chicago Magazine
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Excerpt: It may seem counterintuitive, but Balani Custom Clothiers is having a record-breaking year. By demystifying the custom process and forgoing the usual stodginess of the suit biz, Balani has successfully hooked newbies. Clients begin with a one-on-one appointment that includes having 30 measurements taken and making selections at the fabric bar. The next step is a fitting with on-site tailors, and the finished product is usually available in six weeks. The shop offers suites, shirts, sport coats, slacks, overcoats, raincoats, and casualwear, such as funky shirts with contrasting button holes or collar types.

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Sonny BalaniChicago Magazine’s “Best of Chicago”
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