Shirts, for example, can be designed in real time and viewed on a mobile device with the garment shown on a 3D avatar representing a customer. Clients can choose from 8,000 kinds of fabric and create their own shirt, from collar to cuff, and examine how the elements come together in an interactive setting — rotating 360 degrees to see different angles and zooming in on details.
Augmented reality is a branch of virtual reality, but where VR is immersive, AR enhances the real world by integrating computer-generated images and real life. While augmented reality certainly dazzles, the company still prioritizes offering a personalized experience. Francois Theriault likened it to going to a favorite restaurant where the server knows “whether you like two sugars or one” in your coffee.
“When you come in, we ask a lot of questions,” said Francois Theriault, who co-founded the company with his brother Vincent. Style consultants ask if the clothes are for work and what kind of job; or if it’s for a wedding or prom. A client travels frequently for work? Consider wrinkle-free fabric. Prices start at $60 for a shirt and $375 for a suit. Measurements and tailoring are done on site.
The brothers developed the company in their basement. The first shop opened in Quebec City in 2010. Now the company has 14 locations, of which 12 are in Canada — Pittsburgh was the first in the U.S., followed by Chicago — and boasts 100 employees. The Downtown location has about six employees. “The DNA of our company is the technology,” Francois Theriault said.
The first step in developing the business was to design an avatar on which to build shirts and trousers that could be viewed on a computer. The second step was to build The Studio, Surmesur’s proprietary software that allows customers to visualize what they are creating. “And now, we’ve launched the AR,” said Vincent Theriault, incorporating mobile capabilities. With the employees’ eye for style and technology at the ready, “We can get the ‘wow’ effect,” said Francois Theriault. Surmesur initially approached Google about incorporating Tango software, which allows users to hold their phone up and virtual objects and information appear on screen.
“It’s all about the customization,” said Vincent Theriault. “With AR, you all know about Pokemon Go, but how do you integrate AR into retail?”
Now the company is looking at the best way to expand to other cities. “We are looking at whether to use a franchise model or corporate structure to expand,” said Francois Theriault. The brothers want to make sure the culture of the company is maintained as it expands. “The customer is most important,” Francois Theriault said. “We don’t do commissions among the employees because we don’t want them to feel pressured to simply make a sale.” “In today’s world, whether you’re small or large, you need to be able to offer the same standards to customers,” Vincent Theriault said. “I don’t have the money to be Amazon. We’re not in a big mall. We like to be in locations like this because we’re a destination.”
Stephanie Ritenbaugh: [email protected] or 412-263-4910.