I first became acquainted with NiAlma 10 months ago. After a couple of email exchanges with director Stuart Andary, in which we discussed our many MTM shirt reviews, he offered to provide us with a NiAlma shirt for review. Today, I want to share the results of my experience with this shirt, in addition to my impression of working with the company.
NiAlma Company History
First, let’s take a look at the company. NiAlma is an Australian organization that offers online Made to Measure shirts for men and women allover the world. Like many MTM shirt manufacturers, their shirts are produced in Hong Kong and then dispatched to their new owners around the globe.
The NiAlma Website
All shirts are ordered online, and as such, the website design and functionality are important. The website’s look is clean and simple, enabling the user to easily find what they are looking for. You can either create your own shirt or choose from an existing design. Also, they offer a “buy 3, get 4″ shirt promotion, but they smartly offer to produce one shirt first. Upon testing and correcting the fit and measurements, the other three shirts are made. This seems to be a fair option if you are willing to invest in 4 shirts upfront. However, there is always a risk that you might not be satisfied with the product, in which case you can always stick to ordering just one shirt in the beginning.
In regards to the website, I did not like their login process; it did not support cookies, I had to type in my login information every time, despite using a password manager.
The NiAlma Shirt
Once you decide to create a customized shirt, your first step is the choice of fabric. Currently, they offer 333 fabrics in three different price groups starting from Classic ($90) to Premium ($130) and finally up to Black Label / Thomas Mason ($149).
The fabric overview loads rather quickly and gives the option to categorize your search by material, pattern, color, Super No. or thickness.
Every detail view of the fabric will also provide you with the the thickness and some other information. Nothing is included about the fabric weaver, unless you order from the black label range, but even then it is not specified what Thomas Mason range the fabric comes from.
In any case, with such a wide range, you should be able to find something to your liking.
Next, you can choose between nine collar and nine cuff styles, as well as other details such as (machine) monogramming. They also offer the option to change the tip point length of the collars as well as the collar height. In addition, you can choose from 4 different German collar interlinings, plus an unlined collar.
Compared to the other shirt manufacturers, I would say NiAlma is not as versatile as Deoveritas, but they offer the options right online, whereas Deoveritas requires you to ask. In any case, they both provide more options than J. Hilburn.
With regards to measurements, you can either take a stock size, have yourself measured or provide shirt measurements. As with the other shirts, I chose the latter option, because it is more objective and leaves less room for error. I provided them with the same pictures that I used for all my other MTM shirt reviews.
I ordered the first shirt in December and it arrived at the end of January. Considering the holidays, I thought that was quite timely. Although the Thomas Mason Black Label fabric was the first feature that caught my eye, as soon as I put the shirt on, I could immediately feel that the cuffs were too wide. At 1.25 inches wider than my specified measurements, my initial suspicions were confirmed. The next day, I noticed that the fabric had little holes in various places on the fabric – which was obviously unacceptable – and so I contacted Stuart. He told me that the cuff measurement was a mistake on his end, since he had manually entered them incorrectly. However, he had no clue why the fabric would have holes, and so he requested the shirt back.
Unfortunately, NiAlma does not have return labels or any other way of managing returns, so I had the tedious task of going to the post office, filling out a customs form, waiting in line and paying for the return shipping. If I were a paying customer, I would not accept this lack of basic service, even though NiAlma refunded the shipping costs.
It simply requires too much time and effort to solve a problem that was not caused by the customer, and a return label with door to door service is easily obtained nowadays. Compared to other companies, NiAlma has room for improvement in this area.
I sent the shirt back in early February; Stuart wanted to look at it and have another one made. After about a month, I sent an email asking whether he received the shirt back, which went unanswered. Over the next few months I wrote two more emails without a reply. When I finally suggested that we stop the project, I received an apology, and an explanation that he was traveling in Europe and his employees did not dare answer the email.
Personally, I totally understand that mistakes can and will happen, though I also believe the company should try to remedy their mistakes and reply to the emails of their customers in a timely manner.
In June, five months after the original, I received the second shirt, and this time the measurements were correct. However, I did find a monogram on the cuff, which I did not request. In my opinion, monograms on the cuff are extremely tacky, but considering the difficult return experience that had already passed, and after an email conversation with Stuart, I decided to test that shirt as is without having a third one made.
In terms of fit, this shirt is a great example of how precise measurements do not automatically make for a perfect fit. First, my sloping shoulders were only somewhat considered, although I understand that this can be tricky over distance, despite the photographs. But then again, that will always be the case with online MTM shirt manufacturers.
The other issue concerns the parts that are usually not measured, such as the sleeve width on your underarm. I like to wear my cuffs relatively tight, but the sleeves around my forearm were also very tight. In fact, they are so narrow that I can permanently feel them, which is quite uncomfortable.
The French seams are mostly very neat, although the stitch density of the could be a little higher. Overall, I appreciate the look of the single needle needle seam throughout. The buttons look rather British and are made of thin mother of pearl. They are sewn on by machine and do not have a shank. The buttonholes are machine made and just average; I have seen much prettier ones in the past. The interlinings have held up nicely so far, but a real quality verdict can usually only be reached after a few years.
Overall, NiAlma produces a feature-rich shirt with French seams, in a good range of fabrics in different price categories with a big focus on the mid market segment. The workmanship is functional and clean, but the details are nothing to rave about. The consistency of email response times was below average in my case, the production time was very long, the process of returning the shirt was cumbersome and time intensive and the details like monograms and sleeve fit were off. If NiAlma can work on these things, I think NiAlma would provide a solid product for a fair price, especially considering the comparatively large fabric selection. According to Stuart, my shirt was made by a new supplier that they were testing. Personally, I wonder why you would send someone a shirt from a new supplier, knowing that it would be reviewed. Their “buy 3 get 4″ promotion, sounds great but if the fit and details are not right, it is not worth a lot. In any case, you should check out the NiAlma website and see if you find something you like. Also, take a look at our second NiAlma Shirt Review.