We were lucky enough to sit down recently with Trent Clark, CEO of Upper Echelon. Trent Clark, aka, “Trent the Gent” and/or “The Custom Clothier Whisperer” is the founder of Upper Echelon, a fine custom clothing company based in Seal Beach, Ca. For over 24 years Trent has visited his clients at their offices and/or home. Trent’s goal is to become accountable for his clients’ images via their wardrobes and advice. Trent operates under the wise words of Oscar Wilde, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Trent has dressed the likes of high powered trial attorneys to financial titans to NFL owners to 9th Circuit Court of Appeal Judges to public speaking legends. Trent is disrupting the bespoke clothing industry by traveling to his clients along with his master tailor to ensure optimal fit. Trent has become the preeminent custom clothier by building his business via referral only. Check out our interview with Trent below and stay tuned for a very special offer from Trent in our upcoming holiday gift guide.
Q: How did your career as a custom wardrobe designer start?
A: My career as a custom clothier/wardrobe advisor started by happenstance. I was deciding on whether to take a position with Procter and Gamble as a merchandiser. During my decision-making process, I met some gentlemen who were starting a new custom clothing design firm in Newport Beach, Ca. At that time, I did not have any clients, any measurement skills and definitely no custom clothing. (I was actually selling custom clothing while wearing off-the-rack suits until I made enough sales to pay back my draw and re-invest into my wardrobe/image.) Needless to say, wearing my product made a huge difference in my development. What I did have, however, was an extensive sales background, a pleasant persistence, a creative way and means of meeting gentlemen, and the knack to create innovative looks.
Q: What services do you provide?
A: I design and create custom wardrobes and, more importantly, images for successful individuals. My niche has always been working with gentlemen, but I do have the wherewithal to provide business suits (with pants or skirts) and shirtings for ladies. I also offer a full range of accessories, including footwear, neckwear, cufflinks, hosiery, belts, braces, tie bars, lapel rose pins, etc. For the gentleman who appreciates hi-end off-the-rack garments, I can bring Brioni, Kiton, Cucinelli, and the like to their offices and/or homes, just as I do for their custom garments. I even have access to Borelli jeans. Anything that a gentleman can wear, I can and will provide for them. If that was not enough, over the years I have developed partnerships with the preeminent dry cleaners and shoe shines in Southern California. These collaborations are important because they round out my services. For the gentleman who is not inclined to coordinate patterns on patterns or even solids on solids, I offer a numbered wardrobe management system, so the client feels comfortable and confident in every outfit they wear. I sometimes receive texts and photos asking,” how do I look”, before they exit their homes. That reminds me, I’m available, via phone or in person, for my clients at any reasonable time from 6 am to midnight. Did I just promote that? Anyways, as you have figured out, I bring lots of value to the relationship. One way that I’m disrupting the industry is by traveling with my master tailor to the appointments with my clients to ensure optimal fit. Nothing gets lost in translation this way. If someone is investing over $6K on a suit, then they ought to let my master tailor and I show them the virtues of an “honest garment” and old-world craftsmanship. No other direct sales custom clothier is offering this level of service by traveling with the best master tailor west of the Mississippi.
Q: Who do you typically work with?
A: I typically work with business professionals, while my contemporaries tend to work with athletes and entertainers. It’s exciting working with any gentleman who wants to aesthetically affect a room. These gentlemen could run the gamut from hi-powered trial attorneys to public speakers to life insurance agents to financial titans. As long as the person is committed to the power of their image, then it’s a good match.
Q: What’s your approach when you first start working with someone?
A: My intention from the outset is to understand my client’s personality and their goals. I trust that they are of the belief that my wardrobe advisement is an integral part in helping them achieve their goals, whether it is getting a huge settlement, making partner at their firm or closing a deal. One of the first questions I may ask is, “What do you want to convey when you enter a room?”. One client actually replied, “To make heads roll”. (Oh well, so be it)
Q: What is the most fun part of your job?
A: I get the pleasure of selecting who I want to work with. I refuse to work with jerks because jerks will refer you to other jerks. That’s paramount because my business is built on my clients having the trust and confidence to make introductions to people in their contact sphere, knowing that their family member, friend or associate will receive the same level of attention that they do. My clients are all down-to-earth individuals who respect what I do for their image. I am blessed to be able to work with savvy businesspeople and learn from them.
Q: What is the most challenging?
A: I have to be a chameleon, in effect, because everyone has their own ideas of what is the proper way to dress. Most of my clients are “set-in-their-ways”, so I tend to give them what they want… not after discharging my responsibility as their trusted wardrobe advisor, by letting them know what “the book” says regarding certain protocol. i.e., when to wear a white dinner jacket, to cuff a tuxedo pant, the acceptable monogram placement, etc.
When it is all said and done, I want to be held accountable for my clients’ look. As long as I educate my clients to the pros and cons, then they can make an educated decision as to if it adds or takes away from their credibility. It’s also challenging and my responsibility, as the preeminent wardrobe advisor in the industry, that my clients do not invest in their wardrobe too frequently, not frequently enough or pay too much or too less for their garments that will speak long before my clients begin speaking.
Q: Describe your style in 3 words.
A: Classic with Flair!
Q: How do you want people to feel when wearing your suits/clothes?
A: Humble, so they can handle and deal with all the compliments coming their way.
Q: Who would most love to design a custom suit for?
A: President Barack Obama
Q: What’s one thing you’d never put a client in?
A: Anything goes… I like to push the envelope and keep em guessing. My goal is for my client to be the needle in the haystack— not the invisible man. Just by wearing my garment, without being flashy, will accomplish the former.
Below are just a few of the AMAZING custom suits Trent has designed for his A-List clients. One of Trent’s long-time clients puts it best, “If you value your personal brand/image then an introduction to Trent the Gent is a blessing and an honor.”