Vishaal Melwani, knows the men’s fashion business. The co-founder and creative director of Combatant Gentlemen is a third generation tailor with 17 years of experience as an apprentice. He’s also part of a growing number of executives in the menswear industry who embodies his own customer: A millennial man.
“Men are getting more interested in what they’re wearing and how they’re wearing it,” said Melwani. It’s this trend that’s given rise to a number of new men’s fashion labels. But how men shop and stay loyal to a brand is something many brands are exploring and experimenting with.
Combatant Gentlemen, a tailored suit and denim label that sells direct to consumer online, has carved out a niche with professional working men (31 percent of its clients are in New York). Melwani joined this week’s Glossy Podcast to discuss the challenges involved with launching and being a direct to consumer business, attracting and building a loyal customer base through online and physical in store experiences, and running and scaling a business on a tight budget.
Melwani spoke to Glossy’s managing editor, Shareen Pathak. Edited highlights below.
‘Fashion tech’ isn’t a thing — yet
The term fashion tech is increasingly being used by wearable tech or online based fashion companies built around data, such as the fashion e-commerce aggregator, Lyst, and Project September, the app that links shoppers with brands through users uploading photos. But when Melwani launched Combatant Gentlemen four years ago, he said it was a very different time: There wasn’t ‘fashion tech,’ and there were fewer companies solely selling online.
“It was kind of like the Wild West. It was all about what’s customer acquisition looking like, how are you getting customers to come to your site, and how are you following up with really good service.” He said fashion tech hasn’t exploded because businesses and companies are still trying to work it out. “You need a lot of expertise, so to get that, start ups have to learn by mistakes and then become an expert, hire experts, or have previous knowledge.”
Direct-to-consumer brands have to know what they’re doing
A number of fashion startups are attracted to the direct-to-consumer retail model, which cuts out the middlemen in the supply chain and keeps overall costs low. But Melwani said a lot of new startups get it wrong by not understanding the ins and outs of the supply chain from manufacturing systems, processes in different countries, logistics, shipping and pricing. He said many brands price themselves too low to begin with.
“It’s really low barrier entry, but it’s a really high barrier to scale and stay.”
Using in-house created articles and video to build a lifestyle brand.
According to social media analytics firm Brandwatch, 2,700 brands call themselves “lifestyle” brands in their Twitter bios, from Calvin Klein to Volcom. Combatant Gentlemen also calls itself a lifestyle brand, which happened organically, said Melwani, once “two or four different personality [profiles] started buying products for different reasons.”
To reflect its lifestyle philosophy, the company creates and publishes its own daily in-house video and written finance, travel, and styling content on its site to connect with its millennial male consumers. “We really try to dig into certain things that guys are really digging, but more importantly it’s what we’re digging. Our company is run by five millennial guys and we have a bunch of millennial women who give us great insight into what guys want to read.”