In Los Angeles tuxedo shops, the Oscars are big money. And a big headache

Olga Markosyan is very busy.

She works as a designer and seamstress for TUXEDOS By Mike, a shoebox-sized store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. In 30 minutes, she helps a man named Paolo find a suit for a wedding, makes outfit alterations, takes phone calls, puts a date on her large desk calendar, and answers questions about the article you’re reading.

Olga Markosyan, dressmaker and designer at Tuxedos by Mike, left, prepares a tuxedo for Catalunya Radio Spain correspondent Francesc Garriga as he prepares for the Oscars.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Outside, a handful of colorful suit jackets are displayed in the glass case. When you walk into the narrow store, you’re met with an explosion of tuxedos and tuxedo paraphernalia. (Markosyan estimates there are about 2,000 costumes in the store.) There are clothes hanging from the ceiling. In the L-shaped reception area at the front are stacks of fedoras, a rack of suit pocket handkerchiefs and at least five pairs of shoes. The desk itself doubles as a showcase for cufflinks.

However, your eyes are first drawn to the walls, covered in suit jackets in seemingly every color and pattern you could think of: Glittery. A type of woolen fabric. tinsel. Houndstooth. Velvet. Floral.

Markosyan, who came to Los Angeles from Armenia not long ago, says she’s outfitted everything from a Jennifer Lopez production to members of the Church of Scientology. But right now, he’s preparing to face dozens of people who will be attending Sunday’s Academy Awards. He says he helped about 100 clients for the event last year.

Working in the shop alone can be difficult under normal circumstances. So, in preparation for the heavy workload that comes with the Oscars, she uploaded a document to the store’s Google Maps page warning customers not to come shopping at the 11th hour awards shows.

A man tries on a shirt in front of a mirror.

Francesc Garriga tries on the tuxedo he plans to wear to the Oscars.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Fancy shoes and hats for sale.

A few selections of shoes and hats inside Tuxedos by Mike on Sunset Boulevard.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

“Please don’t wait until the last minute. There’s nowhere to get up,” he says, explaining that there’s usually a queue on the street. “I want to have time for my clients. There’s not enough time – for the weddings, for the parties – because of the Oscars.”

While America’s eyes are on the gowns, trophies and social media moments, local businesses are watching the revenue. Each year, the awards season injects a significant amount of cash into the Southern California economy. a 2013 report by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation estimated the economic impact at $130 million. From January to March, a lot of money is spent on hotels, limousines, restaurants and tourism. Beneficiaries include stores that sell tuxedos to event attendees — and not all of them are after high-end fashion designers. Local tuxedo vendors say the awards season drives huge sales on top of their usual income from weddings and proms, accounting for 20 percent to 30 percent of their annual revenue, according to tuxedo shops reported by The Times.

This does not mean that the influx is easy to manage. The assemblies, conversions and staffing required to pull it all off is a tall order.

Some stores order suits months in advance to stock up. Macy’s said in a statement to The Times that the company is increasing tuxedo inventory across the U.S. in December for New Year’s events. However, in SoCal, the company is keeping tux inventory higher through March. The grind begins in earnest when the nominations are announced. Stores are hiring extra staff, extending their hours and staying late to prepare orders for the next day. Many shop owners keep the measurements of regular customers so they can provide them with matching suits in a pinch.

A board shows some fan messages, inside Mike's Tuxedos on Sunset Boulevard.

A board shows some fan messages, inside Mike’s Tuxedos on Sunset Boulevard.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

During the years when awards shows had strict COVID-19 protocols, such as isolation and testing, attendees were better off making arrangements in advance. As these protocols have become more relaxed, panic buying has returned.

Shop owners don’t always know who wears their suits, as the most prominent customers have teams that do the shopping for them. Zarik Kazanchian, owner of Kiraz Bridal & Tux in Glendale, says she prefers not to know so she doesn’t feel the added pressure of dressing a celebrity client.

She says men aren’t the best at buying clothes on time: “That’s the way it is. We are used to it. It’s not just for awards season. my grooms are the same a lot of times. It is universal.” Vrej Grigorian, owner of Gregory’s Tux & Suits in North Hollywood, recalled that just before the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards this year, “there was a guy that came in literally two hours before the awards that needed a tuxedo.”

Handling each request so quickly can be difficult and not everyone has the best attitude about the process. “They expect you to have it all there and then,” says Marielee Seda, manager at Men’s Wearhouse in Beverly Grove. “They may be impatient. Some of them, they work with you and understand that it’s kind of their fault that it’s last minute, so they’re patient and I appreciate that. But the ones that aren’t kind of drive me crazy.”

The delay in orders cannot be attributed entirely to buyer procrastination. Store owners say many people find themselves attending events at the last second. Some buyers are foreign travelers who may not have had the opportunity to pick up a suit before traveling to the US. Store owners can’t predict what each awards season will bring, but they can always bet on seeing chokers just before the show.

“Everybody wants their tuxedos and we have about five or six people waiting. And we try to help everybody, but sometimes they get too impatient and nervous,” says Abi Yescas, owner of Ryders Tuxedo Shop in the Miracle Mile neighborhood. “It should be around 5. They’re here to get a tux at three.”

Returns can be a deflating experience. People who come on behalf of those who are going to attend the awards make quite a few purchases, only to return them after the event.

“They come in and say, ‘OK, he’s not sure if he wants to wear a blue paisley jacket or a more conservative black jacket. So I have to buy the blue and the black jacket and then three different bow ties and two different shirts and everything,” says Grigorian. “Then, the following Monday, they’ll come back and return all the things they didn’t wear. And so your revenue is more than $700 instead of the $3,000 they walked away with.”

He also says many customers fail to return suits on time. “There have been cases where the Academy Awards are in March and they don’t get their suit back until May,” Grigorian says. Store owners said people occasionally returned tuxedos in terrible shape or with unexpected items in their pockets, such as money.

In the long run, the stress may be worth it: Awards season’s impact on the tuxedo industry lasts long after the Best Picture Oscar. It informs the look that stores will order for their stock locally and beyond, as people attending weddings and galas will want to replicate them.

“When you’re in the fashion industry, awards season is something you look forward to,” says Kazanchian. “Once the community sees what the celebrities are wearing, it helps shape our clients for their upcoming events. It’s a prediction.”

The retirement of awards season is also a community effort. It’s not uncommon for stores to refer customers to tailors and other stores that can handle their additional needs. For example, the Yescas store is conveniently located next to a dry cleaner that helps with pressing and alterations.

But the local effort also includes helping clients find self-worth. “We have to work really hard to get them to understand that they look good. They look good, but they don’t think they look good,” says Yescas. “It’s because you don’t wear a tuxedo every day. They’re used to just wearing jeans, nothing formal.” He adds: “I won’t send them to the Oscars if something doesn’t look good.”

Yescas says clients feel an added pressure to appear worthy of hanging out with society’s most beautiful people. As a result, many customers leave the store in an attempt to find another look that offers the confidence they are looking for. They usually end up coming back to buy the outfit.

“After all, they say, ‘Oh, he looked great. Everyone was happy. My wife was happy,” says Yescas. “And then they start to believe you.”

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