By: Linette Lopez. Source: Business Insider
Wall Streeters do not have time.
They do not have time to go shopping.
They do not have time to try on clothes.
They do not have time to drop off/pick up their dry cleaning.
But they must always — always — look sophisticated. Not just good. Sophisticated.
In the past the solution to this problem was a parade of speedy tailor fittings and a rush of assistants and interns making runs to local launderers.
Now, as men’s retail moves online, a company called Combatant Gentlemen has become a one-stop shop for professional men who want to look polished without spending the money and time they’ve had to in the past. A button down shirt will cost you between $30-$40. A suit between $140 and $220. A tux between $200 and $220.
Founded in 2010, the company has become the most shipped-to menswear package at Goldman Sachs, according to co-founder Vishaal Melwani. Not a bad start.
Melwani is a tailor by trade — a third generation Versace tailor specifically. He grew up watching celebrities go in and out of the Versace store in his hometown of Las Vegas and cut his teeth making selvedge denim. After selling one jean company, he decided he wanted to do something bigger. Something that used technology to make it easier for men to dress.
“At that time I had never actually walked into a Men’s Warehouse… and they took me into one and I was like holy s—t,” he said.
It was not a positive exclamation.
“I knew we wanted a brand that felt like a Hugo Boss or a Zegna… but cheaper than Men’s Warehouse,” said Melwani. “It really caught on with the finance guys… it was fashion for people who wanted clothing for work that was modernly tailored, but wouldn’t give them option anxiety.”
Not only did Melwani know what he wanted the brand to feel like, but also how much he wanted it to cost. Being a child of the industry, he understood how Gucci, Versace and other fashion houses lower their costs but keep the quality of their products high.
This is where the story gets interesting for business geeks. Combatant Gentlemen keeps its own costs low the same way the big guys do — through vertical integration. The company owns the sheep where it gets its wool in Italy, and the fields where its cotton grows in India.
And here’s where it gets interesting for the tech geeks. Everything from the company’s tight supply chain to the way it makes patterns is set by an algorithm. To determine a precise size, a customer fills in their measurements online and the system takes it from there.
“We’re letting data take over this year and let us streamline the company,” said Melwani. We like to think that we are tech first.”
This is an approach that encompasses all of the business — even brand discovery. It is, in fact, an approach that’s taking over retail as we know it.
“The interesting thing about a brand like Combatant Gentlemen is that you can grow into a brand with a huge buzz, and then all the sudden you’re big at Goldman Sachs just because the way consumers are discovering brands is different,” said Elizabeth Dunn, founder of retail consultancy Talmage Advisors.
Instead of walking by stores and getting interested, shoppers are seeing ads online or getting links to stores from friends. When they do go into stores, half of all customers have already figured out what they want by browsing online.
“I think the challenge for traditional retailers is how to stay on top of what’s buzz worthy and stay in the conversation of things that are influencing consumers,” said Dunn adding: [online retailers] “don’t need the brick and mortar stores to bless their concepts anymore.”
Combatant Gentlemen raised $2.2 million in 2012 and 2013, and made it to profitability by spring 2014. Part of that was because of stories like this:
“The moment I knew it was going to work? It was very early on,” said Melwani. “We sold out of white shirts. They [the customers] had ordered 3,000 in a matter of a month.”
A customer who worked at Deloitte asked customer service when Combatant Gentlemen would be restocking the white shirts, and was informed of the back log.
“The guy said — ‘I know, I ordered 30 shirts. It’s cheaper than dry cleaning in the city,’ That’s when it hit me that this IS our guy.” Melwani told Business Insider. “He wants to focus his life on getting ahead and he’s using us as a service. That’s when I realized there’s a lot of guys like this.”
Likely there will soon be more.