1/5

06 Mar 2020

Time 8 minutes

Gens du Vieux Portrait: Clusier, A Peek into the World of Upscale Men’s Fashion

Gens du Vieux Portrait: Clusier, A Peek into the World of Upscale Men’s Fashion

As we pushed open the boutique door, we were welcomed in by a young, smiling man – Pierre-Benoit Duhamel. He wasted no time in offering to take our coats, while a caffè lungo was prepared for us, as requested. In that instant, we could see the pride and quality of service offered at this boutique, settled on McGill Street. Thirteen years have passed since Pierre-Benoît opened his business in the historic district, and he has met with success year after year. Less subject to the neighbourhood’s seasonality than other businesses, he has nevertheless faced his own challenges with energy and daring, which may itself be the secret to his brand’s lasting power. Let us now paint a portrait of this gentleman who is both fashionable and an outstanding businessman.

Betting on Quality Materials, Cuts, and Service

Clusier is both a brand and a boutique, but you will also see some other brand names within the store. Pierre-Benoit offers some of his shirts and jackets, for example, which were made in collaboration with other fashion houses whose work he particularly holds in high regard.

He immediately expounded further on the matter: “Alongside Jean-Michel, who has worked here for seven years, we tried different clothing, and we tested cuts. For us, it is essential to have confidence in our products.”

“Comfort first comes from the material used, then from the cut of the garment,” the owner explains, inviting us to feel the materials as we toured the jackets, shirts, and pants on display. The normal clientele for this store is comprised mostly of businessmen who are often working long days and no doubt experiencing endless amounts of stress, and so a quality set of clothing is an essential element for getting through their day-to-day. Pierre-Benoit's greatest pleasure is running across clients dressed head to toe in Clusier as he walks out and about in the neighbourhood.

Old Montreal DNA in Clusier’s Genes

The historic district is in fact a choice location that made Pierre-Benoit a visionary when he set up shop here. “I told myself that I could have a business clientele in this neighbourhood, with all the offices and lawyers here, and also build part of my clientele with those who come to the Old Neighbourhood from downtown to dine out,” he states. “The people who come out to Graziella, Hambar, or Holder, for example, could be potential customers, and having neighbours that place value in this level of service and quality is very important to me. It creates a favorable environment for everyone.”

Pierre-Benoit first began in premises close to the Marché des Éclusiers, hence the name ‘Clusier’. Since then, the store has moved. It has stayed on McGill Street, “Because it is the most beautiful street!” But is now at 432 McGill, and has recently undergone some renovations to expand the sales floor. “We really wanted to have a more ‘cozy’ space,” he explains. Pierre-Benoit happily embraces the ‘boy’s club’ or ‘gentleman’ side of his store. The customer experience is modeled after that fashion of thinking, resulting in a carefully-thought-out service and special moments, much like an evening of sampling fine wine.

The Business Community: A Top-Tier Clientele

“My mid-range products today would have counted as my top-of-the-line stuff back when I started,” Pierre-Benoit reminisces. When we asked him about his success, he did not hesitate for a second: “I think that in order to succeed, you must readily try different things and, above all, bet on high quality.”

When we raved on about the impeccable quality of house-made espresso, Pierre-Benoit explained: “My clients are used to the finer things. The best tables, the best establishments, and so forth. So if I am to propose something to them, I need to be up to the task of fulfilling these same criteria of quality in everything I offer them.” And to this end, every member on his team has received formal barista training to properly use the professional-grade machine.

Tailor-Made Service, Research, and Strategy for a Demanding yet Loyal Clientele

Ten years ago, in order to attract his first clients, Pierre-Benoit sent them letters with fabric samples, already sure of his product’s quality, and this original step allowed him to break into the market. In fact, some of his current clients have been following him since the beginning.

“I never expected that foot traffic would make up the whole of my clientele,” Pierre-Benoit mentions. The owner, who graduated from McGill University with a degree in marketing, continues: “We set strategies in place in order to connect with our clients and ensure their satisfaction during their entire experience with us.”

And that is exactly what they are aiming for: an experience for oft-hurried business people who appreciate the efficiency and good taste of the Clusier brand. “We decided to no longer offer online sales,” Pierre-Benoit states, explaining to us that while this decision seems to run counter to current trends, it is very in line with his vision for Clusier. “We are offering an experience, and that happens here, in the store. The majority of our models, when they aren’t made to measure and even if they are of excellent quality, need to be touched up in order to fit perfectly. For us, this accompaniment during the choosing of models and articles of clothing, up to delivery, and ensuring that the customer is satisfied goes hand in hand and must be done in our location.”

“When a client visits for the first time, we discern their tastes and needs, we take their measurements, and for the next visits we can propose items that they would like, while also considering how the suggestions would fit with other clothing that they bought here previously.” And to do this, Pierre-Benoit relies on his team. “I started out on my own, six days a week. And then Richard, our tailor-made specialist, joined up in my second year. Then Jean-Michel seven years ago. Now, our team numbers five, we are open every day, and I know that excellence of our service is always top-level and flexible enough to accommodate our clients.”

Italian Inspiration: Business Done Among Aficionados

When we asked him why Italy was so present in both his inspirations and the products he offered, Pierre-Benoit got a big smile on his face. “I love that there are still family-run mills and businesses there. Those people value doing things the right way and I know that someone from there will work with me for the long term, I can count on an outstanding service and quality, and I can subsequently pass that quality on to my clients. Our dealers are very important partners to us.” And of course, there is a level of class in Italian fashion that will never leave a businessman wanting. “But I always tailor European fashion with the North American market in mind,” he specifies. “The cuts are less form-fitting, and the colours a little less strict.”

When you look at him, you find that Pierre-Benoit exemplifies a certain Dolce Vita personality, a classic style that isn’t old fashioned, and a perfect equilibrium of class and modernity that inspires confidence in him and in his clients when he gives advice or tips. He also talked to us about his favorite locations in the Vieux – businesses like his, whose owners he shares a certain affinity with: “Graziella or Hambar for lunch, Dispensa for coffee, and of course the Monarque. Oh man, the Monarque! Have you ever been there? It is excellent!” he exclaimed as he passed his hand through his front-styled hair.

Classics and Trends: What Should You Wear This Season?

“For about ten years now, the Italian suit jacket has replaced the traditional English-style suit coat,” Pierre-Benoit informs us. “But of course, the navy blue blazer remains a mainstay.” With the onset of Casual Fridays, we have seen a certain relaxation of men’s fashion in businesses, but don’t mistake relaxation for completely leaving fashion behind! While we’re on the topic, we want to highlight another all-season must-have in your wardrobe: denim. “We have timeless cuts that work with all body types and all ages,” the shop owner explains. “That’s the advantage that we’re passing on to our clients: quality materials and cuts that transcends seasons and trends, without ever aging.”

For travelers, a new article of clothing caught Pierre-Benoit's attention. Another Italian product (of course!), “Manto” by Mantova in Italy, is a crease-resistant rain jacket that comes in either a ‘sport’ or ‘trench’ cut, depending on your style. “You can fold it up and put it away, or bring it out depending on your needs. It’s perfect for between seasons.” For those that love comfort and don’t want to compromise on style when they go out on weekends or on trips, you will want to check out the variety of hoods available in the boutique.

Finally, even if Clusier does not stick to passing trends and offers more timeless items, the team still keeps up on the big fashion breakthroughs and each year, Pierre-Benoit and Jean-Michel travel to seek out what their clients need, from Florence to New York. For the summer season, we are expecting a predominance of pastel colours. “This year will be a return to softer shades. But don’t be fooled,” Pierre-Benoit cautions. “They can be very masculine and will fit a wide range of people.”

Interested in talking fashion, business, or wine? Don’t hesitate to drop by the boutique – a consummate gentleman awaits you.

Photos: Allen McInnis