Stitch Alterations founder Alexander Harden tailors a new strategy

Alexander Harden, founder of Stitch Alterations on Melrose, envisions a national tailoring chain

Walk into Stitch Alterations and Design on Melrose and it's clear this isn't your usual tailor shop.

The open airy space, modern interior design and curated corner showcasing chic clothing by local designers grew out of owner Alexander Harden's craving for a different kind of alterations experience.

"I've secretly always bought my suits at the outlets," says Harden. "Hugo Boss fits me really well, and I can go out [to the outlets], spend a third of the price on a beautiful suit, spend a couple hundred bucks on alterations and, bingo, it looks like a bespoke suit."

But while he experienced the power of tailoring firsthand, he was disappointed in the overall experience. Changing clothes for a fitting in a cramped, tiny space behind curtains that don't quite close at a neighborhood dry cleaner didn't speak to Harden's modern sensibilities and predilection for privacy and comfort.

"Like a lot of small businesses, the desire to open Stitch started out as frustration," says Harden, who had worked in the private equity field. "The experience I had, not to knock on any alteration specialists because there are some incredibly talented ones, but the overall customer experience wasn't up to standards I would expect … most importantly to me the reliability wasn't always there. I'd go to pick up my suit and it wouldn't be ready on time."

He saw an "unexplored niche" in the alterations industry for a reliable, modern chain of tailoring shops that could open across the country. "Alterations, like hairdressing, is a very neighborhood business. You're not going to go too many miles to get your suit altered. To have a brand in many cities — that's really the goal. We want to be the DryBar of alterations," Harden says, name-checking the national chain of blow-out hair salons.

His first shop, at 7306 Melrose Ave., feels almost like a gallery.

"We wanted really a contemporary but very classic feeling, so hardwood floors, beautiful marble, white walls, Midcentury furniture," Harden explains. "Our key was to keep it private and spacious in the back for the customer. We also play nice music, have candles on, offer beverages — make it somewhere you enjoy being. We wanted an open space for the seamstresses where hopefully they enjoy working. It's got natural light, it's clean and the machinery is the best we can buy."

Another way Harden says Stitch is different than many other alteration shops is its jump into 21st century technology. "We have text and email notification when your item is ready to be picked up," he says, and he has plans to partner with e-commerce stores so that a clothing item you order is shipped directly to Stitch. "You can come in and have it altered immediately or return it from here," says Harden.

The shop also offers in-home fittings for two or more items at no extra charge.

Harden says the core of his business is basic alterations, but Stitch also does custom work (including custom bridal) and works with fashion stylists, production companies and costume designers.

The talent he hires includes those who've graduated from local design schools.

"The beauty of being in Los Angeles is we have some highly talented designers," says Harden, who also shows select pieces from local designers in his shop. Designers who "perhaps aren't established enough to have a presence in a retail store or maybe they just have an e-commerce store and they're looking to have a pop-up in a physical location.... We welcome local designers to get in touch with us. We'd love to showcase their work."

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