Mike Mast considers himself a corporate escapee. He spent a decade in corporate America donning custom-made suits to take his place in Philadelphia's urban rat race, until one day, he decided to take a detour.
Burnt out from years on the grind, he went to one of the places where he could always unwind with a shot of whiskey and enjoy the company of friends. Mast was a longtime client of Commonwealth Proper (CMMP), a full-service wardrobe agency and custom clothier and he talked with the founders about his plan to escape from corporate life -- he wanted to be part of CMMP.
Mast worked at the shop in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square consulting with, fitting and styling men before heading South to bringing CMMP's metro appeal to Atlanta.
"We are not your typical buttoned up corporate guys. We appeal a lot to entrepreneurs and people who have a sense of design and we saw a lot of that in Atlanta. Atlanta is a growing, young and energetic city," said Mast, seated in one of the fitting rooms at CMMP.
After two years in West Midtown, the company moved its offices to Buckhead and a space that allows for a consulting room and multiple fitting areas and offices.
Custom-made clothing for every occasion is on display including polos, suit jackets, suits, coats and t-shirts, all infused with CMMP's subtle details.
A raincoat made of tech fabric from Switzerland, for example, is so adept at repelling water that liquid practically bounces off the surface. Waterproof on the outside with moisture wicking on the inside, the raincoat also features UV protection and anti-microbial double-sided fabric.
An unstructured knit blazer is designed for the guy seeking an alternative to the standard business suit. It allows for a serious presentation without opposing a casual ethos, said Mast.
"Our style is relaxed. For us, fit is king. We are not trying to do anything revolutionary, we just want people to find their style and personality," he said.
About 90 percent of CMMP clothing is custom and 10 percent is ready-to-wear. Everything, down to the 120 proof whiskey offered to visiting clients, is made in the USA. Prices range from $225 for a custom shirt to $1,950 for a suit, but depending on the options desired, the price can go well beyond that range.
When CMMP first arrived in Atlanta, they had only a few clients in the metro area. The Atlanta location served as a way to test the viability of the company in other markets, said Mast. Now they are opening new stores in Pittsburgh and New York City.
Another new direction for the company is a recent move into custom clothing for women. "We held off for a long time because we didn't have the expertise, but we did a ton of research and development and didn't bring it to the real world until we were happy with it," said Mast.
Consultations at CMMP are by appointment and begin with a chat about lifestyle, likes and dislikes, hobbies, family and more. Customers may then select fabrics before heading to the sitting room with a large mirror where Mast takes measurements and helps customers refine the details of a garment like the lapels, buttons and linings. The initial visit takes just over an hour with a second fitting to follow in about four to six weeks.
In Atlanta, male customers are more likely to request separates instead of suits, said Mast. But with nudging as subtle as the details on the clothing, Mast helps men step out of their comfort zone and try something new.
While the company doesn't push trends, they do offer seasonal updates. For summer, clothing takes a more playful feel with bright, fun prints such as the casual BBQ shirt which can be layered for a more buttoned up look. This summer, the company is making its first foray into swim wear with a new line of trunks.
Everyone, regardless of gender, is paying more attention to the way he or she presents, said Mast, but men in particular have come around to a new way of thinking.
"Men are realizing no matter how you feel about it when you walk into a room and make a first impression, you are judged on what you are wearing," he said. "Men are learning to portray their personality through what they wear."