Men’s wear start-ups that straddle the fence between fashion and e-tail are starting to get attention from investors.
The latest to secure a round of financing is Buck Mason, a brand committed to American manufacturing of essentials for men. Earlier this month, Frank & Oak and Mizzen+Main also secured venture capital funding. The latter two both launched in 2012 and are further along in development than Buck Mason.
Buck Mason has closed on a $300,000 seed round, led by Finn Capital Partners and Simplepitch Ventures. Other investors are Innovation Global and Kristina Chang of Westlake International.
The company, founded by Sasha Koehn and Erik Schnakenberg, started in November 2013 with $10,000 in funding from friends and family.
According to Koehn, “Erik and I were neighbors in Venice….Erik’s background is in the fashion business for 15 years, and I come from the tech and media side. We saw the need to simplify the male shopping experience.”
Schnakenberg said there are 35 stockkeeping units in core basics, such as a T-shirt, Henley top, polo shirting and denim pants. About 40 percent of the collection is in knitwear and 25 percent in denim and trousers. There are also some accessories, such as belts. A basic T is $24, while a button-down shirt is $88. Bottoms average $135.
The targeted customer is a man between the ages of 25 and 55. According to Koehn, about 40 percent of its customers are repeat buyers and 10 percent have bought from the site more than four times. The average transaction is $50.
The company also provides on-site information about the manufacturing process, such as the six to eight steps needed to make its denim offerings. The aim is to be transparent to consumers about the costs of production while emphasizing the quality of Buck Mason’s product. It considers Banana Republic, J. Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch as competitors in the brick-and-mortar space.
Schnakenberg said, “We’re helping customers understand how much [everything] costs. Some brands mark up their products 800 percent and more. We’re looking at how can we spend our dollars differently and put more money into the manufacturing of the garment so we can offer a superior product at a lower price. The key is finding our customer and spending less on billboards, as well as keeping our marketing [costs] down.”
According to Koehn, the company has had most of its success in customer conversion via Instagram. “We are creating content ourselves and partnering with people on Instagram. The visual-based platform helps with the storytelling of our brand,” he noted.
The focus on content marketing and Made in America was what attracted the attention of Patrick Finn, founding partner at Finn Capital Partners, which focuses on investments in emerging, mission-driven consumer brands. Finn’s other investments in the fashion space include sunglass brand Westward Leaning and men’s shirt brand Marine Layer. He’s taking a board seat at Buck Mason.
“Buck Mason is leading with the brand and the product. They are executing with e-commerce as a secondary thing. This is about the power of the brand. Other firms flip it around. The company caught my eye because of the way they think of content marketing. They are starting with the emotional connection with the brand,” said Finn.