In my last article we gave you three shops that were bellwethers of an emerging trend: a bottom-up trickle effect that has innovative brands skewing small. Here are three more bellwether retail stores that are becoming the go-to brands for modern young men, and are further redefining and reprogramming their customers’ experiences, online and off. What’s interesting about these three is that the founders are innovators who play to the online and offline strengths of their aging Millennial consumers, act as a disruptive force for traditional retailers, and capitalize on their customer-centric behaviors that are defining this generation.
Many innovative next-gen retailers are fully informed, and framed by the digital age and gifted in using all its disruptive tools. One such business that is uniquely online customer-focused is menswear retailer Indochino; a custom tailoring service based in Vancouver and Shanghai. Catering to the individual, Indochino provides each global customer with a 10-minute online measuring process and then delivers a custom tailored suit “at your door anywhere in the world” in four weeks. The suits (including tuxedos) retail from $399-$699 each, making custom tailoring a reality for the next generation that thrives on Mad Men over the Mod movement. Co-owners (and Millennials) are Heikal Gani, and Kyle Vucko. Heikal was inspired to create Indochino after diligently researching and then overspending on his first suit that was ultimately a disappointment, and needed extensive (expensive) tailoring after the fact. Gani’s initial disappointment in buying his first suit mirrors the paradox of an entire generation that has come of age after an adolescence of unprecedented customization, yet find themselves without choice in bespoke, affordable tailored menswear. This generation as preteens customized their skateboards, Nike sneakers—even developed their own brands through social network profiles. Why wouldn’t they also want a fully customizable experience in investing in their first suit—all done online?In counterbalance to the rush towards customization is a desire for curation. In menswear, one of the most trusted sources of curated style is STAG, located in the annual influencer South by Southwest mecca, Austin, Texas. STAG’s tagline, “Provisions for Men” defines their robust online site and brick-and-mortar shop with manly amenities and clothing for modern men. The shop personifies the Texan boy-adventurer and captures a very of-the-moment sentiment on the part of men in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s that is an effort to make the urban, intellectual man more ‘grizzled’ and manly. The Atlantic’s notorious “End of Men” article launched in 2010, may have inspired the success of STAG’s refined but rustic clothing that is selling like hotcakes; they are projecting double-digit percentage growth again for next year. Don Weir, co-owner of STAG describes their success, “Unlike some more specialized menswear boutiques, and partly because we’re located on a street with really heavy foot traffic, we make it point to try and offer something for most everyone who walks through our doors—but always with our own, unique spin on the offering. Along with the menswear assortment that makes up the bulk of our store, we sell original paintings from local artists, concert posters from local graphic designers, books on the Austin music scene, vintage furniture and clothing picked in Texas, locally made leather goods, and all sorts of other goods that would be hard to find elsewhere.”
Online retailer Everlane targets a gap in the menswear market: accessibility of the fast-fashion world combined with with high-quality, classic styling. In Everlane’s case, it is purely virtual, and their ecommerce profit is funneled into ensuring high-quality fabrics in their own menswear line. Founded by former venture capitalist Michael Preysman, the team is comprised of former Gap merchandiser Edoardo Monterubello, former Content Director and Fashion Director of American Apparel Alexandra Spunt and Mathew Swenson, and web engineer Nan Yu. Their slogan, “We offer the finest essentials at truly disruptive prices. Online only, no middlemen, edited collections.” could be foreboding to traditional retailers. Combining the talents of in-house online developers to create a sleek interface, and the strategy of creating street cred and exclusivity at launch, through invitation- only marketing to shop the website, Everlane merges the cool sense of Silicon Valley with the sensibilities of traditional high-quality menswear retailing. Looking ahead, the future of a resilient customer experience may be by delivering a trusted interface interaction rather than physical store design and in-person customer service. Everlane is the small-scale online model that could be the tip of the iceberg of a battle that will redefine the future of retailing pitting online and offline worlds. Their website says it all: “We believe in a new way. Online only, we create the finest essentials without traditional retail markups.”
Each of these three brands has identified opportunities in the menswear market and is providing unique solutions to enhance and elevate the customer experience. And although (full disclosure) two of the three have womenswear components in their business models, each is heavily concentrated on the male consumer. These three brands are bellwethers because they put customer experience first and foremost, provide curated collections, and use online tools to attract today’s young customers. Their approaches may be nontraditional and digitally enhanced, but their financial goals could not be more traditional. Editing the many available choices as a curator is key with this generation that is looking for guidance and direction. And interestingly, it may be the software engineers and coders in collaboration with innovative, disruptive retailer visionaries, backed by risk-taking venture teams, who are truly redefining the future of retailing.