Olga Markosyan is very busy.
She works as a designer and tailor 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, alters the outfit, takes phone calls, puts a date on his big paper desk calendar, and answers questions about the article she’s reading.
From the outside, a handful of colorful suit jackets appear in the glass window. As you enter the cramped store, you are met with an explosion of tuxedos and tuxedo paraphernalia. (Markosyan estimates there are around 2,000 suits in the store.) There are suits hanging from the ceiling. At the L-shaped reception desk at the front are stacks of fedoras, a coat rack with pocket squares, and at least five pairs of shoes. The desk itself doubles as a cufflink display cabinet.
Still, your eyes go first to the walls, covered in suit jackets in seemingly every color and pattern you can imagine: shimmering. Cashmere. sequins. Crow’s foot. Velvet. Floral.
Markosyan, who came to Los Angeles from Armenia not long ago, says he has dressed in everything from a Jennifer Lopez production to members of the Church of Scientology. But right now, she’s gearing up to face off against dozens of people who will be in attendance at Sunday’s Academy Awards. She says that she helped around 100 clients for the event last year.
Working alone in the shop can be difficult under normal circumstances. So, in preparation for the heavy workload that comes with the Oscars, he’s uploaded a document to the store’s Google Maps page warning customers not to go shopping for last-minute awards shows.
“Please don’t wait until the last minute. There is no place to stand up,” he says, explaining that a line usually forms down the street. “I want to keep time for my clients. There’s not enough time, for weddings, for parties, because of the Oscars.”
While America’s eyes are on the gowns, trophies and social media moments, local businesses are eyeing the revenue. Each year, awards season injects a substantial 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. Among the beneficiaries are stores that sell tuxedos to event attendees, and not all of them are looking for high-end fashion designers. Local tuxedo vendors say awards season brings in big sales on top of their usual wedding and prom revenue, in the order of 20% to 30% of their annual revenue, according to tuxedo shops interviewed by The Times.
That doesn’t mean the influx is easy to handle. The accessories, modifications and personnel required to carry it out are a complicated matter.
Some stores order suits months in advance to stock up. Macy’s said in a statement to The Times that the company increases US tuxedo inventory in December for New Year’s events. However, in SoCal, the company maintains the highest tuxedo inventory 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 store owners save the measurements of regular customers so they can provide them with well-fitting suits in a pinch.
During the years when award shows had strict COVID-19 protocols like isolation and testing, attendees had better make arrangements in advance. As those protocols have become more lax, panic buying has returned.
Shop owners don’t always know who’s wearing their suits, as high-profile customers have teams doing the shopping for them. Zarik Kazanchian, owner of Kiraz Bridal & Tux in Glendale, says he’d rather not know so he wouldn’t feel the added pressure of dressing a celebrity client.
She says that men are not the best at buying clothes at the right time: “That’s the way it is. We are used to that. It’s not just for awards season; my boyfriends are the same many times. It’s universal. Vrej Grigorian, owner of Gregory’s Tux & Suits in North Hollywood, recalled that just before this year’s recent Screen Actors Guild Awards, “there was a guy who literally showed up two hours before the awards and 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 everything right there,” says Marielee Seda, manager of Men’s Wearhouse in Beverly Grove. “They can be impatient. Some of them work with you and understand that it’s a bit their fault that it’s last minute, so they’re patient and I appreciate that. But the ones that aren’t drive me crazy.”
The lateness of orders cannot be entirely attributed to buyer procrastination. Store owners say many people find out they are attending events at the last second. Some shoppers are international travelers who may not have had a chance to pick out a suit before traveling to the U.S. Store owners can’t predict what each awards season will bring, but they can always bet to see the laggards. just before the show.
“Everyone wants their tuxedos, and we have like five or six people waiting. And we are trying to help everyone, but sometimes they get very impatient and nervous,” says Abi Yescas, owner of Ryders Tuxedo Shop in the Miracle Mile neighborhood. “They have to be somewhere at 5. They’re here trying to get a tuxedo at three.”
Returns can be a daunting experience. People who come on behalf of those who will attend the awards show make several purchases, only to return them after the event.
“They come in and say, ‘Okay, you’re not sure if you want to wear a blue paisley jacket or a more conservative black jacket. So I have to buy the blue jacket and the black jacket and then three different bow ties and two different shirts and everything,” says Grigorian. “Then the following Monday, they will come back and return all the things they didn’t use. So their income is more like $700 instead of the $3,000 they walked away with.”
He also says that many customers do not return suits promptly. “There have been cases where the Academy Awards are in March and they haven’t returned their suit until May,” says Grigorian. Store owners said people occasionally returned tuxedos in poor condition or with unexpected items in their pockets, such as money.
In the long run, the stress may be worth it: The impact of awards season on the tuxedo industry lasts long after the Best Picture Oscar is handed out. Inform which looks stores will be ordering 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 celebrities are wearing, it helps our clients style for their upcoming events. It is a forecast.
Making the awards season is also a community effort. It is not uncommon for stores to refer customers to tailors and other shops that can take care of their additional needs. For example, the Tinder store is conveniently located next to a dry cleaner that helps with ironing and alterations.
But the local effort also involves helping clients find self-esteem. “We have to work very hard so that they understand that they look good. They look good, but they don’t think they look good,” says Tinder. “It’s because you don’t wear a tuxedo every day. They are used to just wearing jeans, nothing formal.” She adds, “I won’t send them to the Oscars if something doesn’t look right.”
Tinder says that clients feel extra pressure to look like they deserve to socialize with the most beautiful people in society. Consequently, many customers leave the store in an attempt to find another style that will give them the confidence they seek. They usually end up coming back to buy the outfit.
“After all, they say, ‘Oh, I looked great. Everybody was happy. My wife was happy,’” says Tinder. “And then they start to believe you.”