The word ‘shopping’ can elicit fear in the bravest of men. Most of us hate running the Saturday afternoon high-street gauntlet, but why? Is it because the stores are often heated like saunas? Maybe it’s the changing rooms, which tend to be coffin-narrow and lit with spotlights that can turn even the squarest of pecs into man-boobs.
Well rejoice, high-street haters, because there is a new online shopping service to hand you back your weekend and your sanity. The Chapar, named after the unstoppable couriers of the Persian empire, will hand-pick items based on your personal style, ship them for you to try on at your leisure, and later pick up any pieces you do not wish to keep, charging your credit card for the rest. You don’t pay the Chapar for the service; it takes its cut from the retailers who supply the clothes. Aimed at men aged 27-plus and leaning towards the preppie, smart-casual end of the menswear spectrum, the company stocks established labels such as Hackett and Sunspel alongside what it calls ‘discovery brands’, such as Hentsch Man and PlayerLayer.
The Chapar is the idea of the Middletons (no, not those ones) – Joe and Sam, a British father-and-son team. Middleton Senior spent 20 years working for Levi’s, and noticed the ‘curated inventory’ model of hand-picked items being used by fashion retailers in the US. With Sam on board, he brought the idea back to Britain and they launched the business 18 months ago. ‘The Chapar is revolutionising how men shop for clothes,’ Joe says, ‘and I think our customers not only like the service, but they also like the fact that they are revolutionaries.’
I gave the Chapar a test run. First I completed a series of questions on the website about my style, size and shape, and my sartorial needs and wants. In stepped stylist Alison McDougal, who called to find out more about how I dress, which items I might want, and crucially those I might not (for the good of society, and my circulation, I left skinny jeans behind long ago). Soon after, my ‘trunk’ of carefully chosen clobber arrived at my door.
Opening the box of goodies was exciting. I wondered how well Alison had gauged my style, and if there were items inside to fall in love with. She had, and there were. Jeans and navy chinos by Scotch & Soda; a charcoal wool cashmere blazer from Hackett; and a grey cable-knit jumper by Brooks Brothers were just a few highlights from her winning 19-piece selection. Apart from a pair of yellow Dockers that I knew straight away were not for me, these were items that I might actually wear, rather than push aside with the tags still attached, like some previous high-street impulse buys.
Joe Middleton knows it is the human touch that makes the difference. ‘The stylist aspect takes the service to a whole other emotional level,’ he says. ‘Our stylists develop a deep personal relationship with our guys.’ That relationship pays dividends, as the service gets better the more you use it. The stylists note any returned items, along with your reasons (they follow up by phone and email), and they factor the pieces you keep into future selections to maximise your outfit options.
All this, and not an unflattering spotlight or bleating shop assistant in sight. You simply build a coherent wardrobe of personally chosen pieces, tried on and purchased in a convenient way. Yes, thank you, The Chapar, we will take one in every colour!
I originally wrote this piece for Telegraph Magazine – you can read it on Telegraph Men here
All images © 2014 The Chapar. All rights reserved.