The perfect fit

Photo courtesy of Rene Gibson.

The Newell Building has captured a lot of history in the more than 100 years it’s stood on Ontario Street. But what was once a home to a printing and shoe company now houses a mix of studios for artists and creatives, including Four Fifty Five.

Antique typewriters and trinkets fill the shelves, and a large painting of a man in a suit and bowtie covers a part of the deep, red brick wall. The antiques in the studio give the space a vintage feel. On the opposite side of the studio, a thick white pipe stands out of place. “It’s an old building,” said co-founder of Four Fifty Five, Noah Parker. “This connects the heat to the rest of the building. You might even be lucky enough to hear it if someone turns their heat on.”  

A variety of suits hang on a rack alongside a mirror, and a tape measure sits close by. This is where the fitting magic happens. On the opposite side stands a table with specialty ties and socks in all sorts colours and patterns. This is Four Fifty Five.

Four Fifty Five is a custom suit and men’s accessories store focused on affordable prices. The store is open all week for the working men and women that are in need of the perfect fitted suitParker said the idea to start the business came about after he wore the same H&M suit for his high school graduation and throughout university.  “The problem we wanted to solve is that many people couldn’t afford to wear the suit they want to…and to look the way they wanted to look,” said he said. “With that in mind, we built a business that is affordable for people in all walks of life.”

Noah and his brother and co-founder Jake started their business in the attic of their home, which doubles as Noah’s bedroom. When boxes of stock piled up too high, Noah and Jake transported their business to Ryerson’s Fashion Zone.

Noah was in his third year at Ryerson studying entrepreneurship when he originally pitched the idea to his professor for a project.  He said his business plan earned him a solid F and he was told it would never be viable.

“To that I said, watch me,” said Noah, sitting comfortably on a modern black leather couch while adjusting his round-framed glasses. He said that he has a huge authority problem, which encouraged him to prove his instructors wrong.

Jake on the other hand, graduated from George Brown College with a certificate in construction project management and said he doesn’t recall fashion being present in their childhood. “We wore the same identical outfits probably until the age of 13, until we grew out of Gap Kids,” said Jake as he chuckled. “Fashion wasn’t really our forte.”

But in high school, the Parker family went on a trip to Italy with family friends. One of the family friends on the trip, Louis, was retired and working as a fabric buyer. Noah said he recalls overhearing Louis chat on the phone and complain about how he couldn’t be in France that week as he already has business plans to be in New York. Whatever he was doing, the Parker brothers said they knew that is what they wanted to do.

But starting a business is never easy. The brothers said they remember a time when they were so close to the finish line and lost out on $25,000 in capital during a competition at Ryerson. This was the money they needed to get their own studio.

“At that point we were still in the Fashion Zone, in the basement,” said Jake. “It looks and feels like an incubator and that’s not the best place to sell somebody a thousand dollars worth of suits.”  

“But look at us now,” Noah said, throwing his hands in the air and pointing at the studio. “When it gets harder just know you’re onto something. We just had to find another way to make money, which was to sell suits.”

Today, Four Fifty Five stands as a modern, distinguished studio that focuses on quality suits. Four Fifty Five’s customers can get a custom suit starting at $455, hence the name of their business. 

Originally, they didn’t want to name the company something too personal, “Nothing like Parker Clothing or whatever,” said Jake. “For a while we lived at 455, we still live there now actually, we just thought okay, why don’t we name it 455?” And just like that, their business was born.

In the future, the Parker brothers’ goal is to have only a maximum of two stores so they can productively manage the business while maintaining their focus on customer service. “If you asked your grandfather where he bought a suit he wouldn’t tell you the name of the place,” said Noah. “He’d tell you the name of the person. That’s the vibe we want to bring back.”

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