Amid Men's Wear Hype, Thoughtful Basics Are Making Noise, Too

It’s all about simplicity.

At a time when streetwear is dominating the conversation in the world of men’s fashion, there are a number of brands that are quietly building sizable businesses selling updated basics to guys who don’t live and die for the latest Supreme drop or Virgil Abloh sneaker collaboration.

Brands such as Buck Mason, Everlane, Goodlife and Huckberry are making inroads selling these items, which could be labeled “everyday casualwear” or “essentials.”

In years past, their customers probably bought their chinos, T-shirts and hoodies in department stores or specialty retailers such as Gap or Banana Republic. But today, they’re increasingly seeking out other options and spending their money on brands they feel better address their needs.

“They offer simple solutions,” said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive officer of WSL, a global strategy consultancy. “When you look at all the new businesses that are cropping up, they address the fundamental issue in the industry, which is that men are looking for something reasonable to wear that is comfortable and stylish.”

Liebmann believes the “increased lack of service” at department and large specialty stores, coupled with the “enormous” assortment offered “without curation,” is what is driving men to indie brands that are trend-right but not overwhelming. “It makes the average man loathe to embrace fashion beyond the button-down shirt and khaki,” she said.

Companies such as Everlane and Untuckit fit the bill. As a result, Liebmann believes that brands such as these have a lot of opportunity to scale. “The question is how broad is their appeal and do they have the strategies in place to stay ahead of the fast-moving competition?” Liebmann asked.

Bayard Winthrop, founder and ceo of American Giant, one of the companies that has built a business selling high-quality made-in-the-USA basics, believes brands such as his offer solutions to a fundamental problem in today’s society.

“All of us are living increasingly disconnected digital lives,” he said. “And in response, people feel the need to connect back and represent who they are by how they spend their money.” So, like the movement toward microbreweries, artisanal coffees and local farmers markets, many consumers are abandoning mass-market brands and embracing newer companies that reflect their personal tastes.

Matt Rubel, the former ceo of Collective Brands and Cole Haan and a onetime president of Tommy Hilfiger who is now a senior adviser at PJ Solomon, asserted that some of the stalwart men’s brands are “too stuck” in the past or have hitched their carts to the struggling department store channel. The state of mall-based retailing isn’t helping.

But men still need to buy clothes and these new brands are reaping the benefits of changing shopping habits. Some of these companies sell mainly, or exclusively, online while others have embraced an omnichannel approach. Some even wholesale.

Regardless of their approach, all have homed in on the lucrative updated basics niche — giving the category their own spin.

Instead of basics, Rubel prefers to describe these fashions as having “a casual attitude at an accessible price point. In men’s wear, we don’t get too fancy to begin with, but these brands are simple and in good taste [and speak to today’s] relaxed attitude.”

Untuckit is a case in point, he believes. “It’s not basics, but it’s not fancy either,” he said. “But then, neither are most men.”

And while streetwear continues to garner headlines, “for a large consumer base, this is their streetwear,” Rubel said. “It’s classic American styling with a relaxed attitude. It appeals to all age groups and it’s not going out of fashion.”

As a result, the opportunity for growth for these brands is enormous, Rubel said. “They’re on the 25-yard line,” he said. “There’s a whole young herd [of companies] out there who can grow much bigger and more material.”

Men’s wear industry veteran Nick Wooster, the former men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, also sees runway ahead for purveyors of simple chic.

“Our lives are about simplification,” he said. “I don’t have time to cut through floors and go up escalators. And these brands cut out the extraneous middleman.”

Wooster said he learned early on in his career while working for the legendary merchant Fred Pressman from Barneys New York, that “it’s all about product,” he said. “And these brands are building a better product. If you’re in bed with the major department stores and the motivation is price, your product reflects that.”

Like the merchandise that these brands offer, the concept for success is also straightforward. “It’s not a great mystery, but a lot of people have forgotten this simple formula: Make amazing things and people will buy. At the end of the day, that’s what will always win,” Wooster said.

Here, a closer look at a dozen men’s wear companies specializing in updated basics.

American Giant

Looks from American Giant.

Looks from American Giant.  Courtesy Photo

Bayard Winthrop was looking for an exit strategy when he ditched his life as an investment banker in New York City and moved to San Francisco, where he soon found himself running businesses in the consumer product space. But he was still unfulfilled.

He saw consumer wardrobes changing and the line between work and casual apparel continuing to blur. With large and important American brands losing their footing, and with the rise of the direct-to-consumer model, Winthrop spied an opening.

So in 2012, he created a hooded men’s sweatshirt, made in America, and launched American Giant. Today the company sells a full collection of men’s and women’s casual basics, all made in the U.S., at affordable prices. Premium T-shirts are $36.50, full-zip hoodies are $89, five-pocket canvas work pants are $125 and a coach’s jacket is $99.

Winthrop believes American Giant connects with consumers because it “looks and feels different. The massive brands have lost their attention to customers and culture. We don’t have venture capital money, we don’t spend on marketing — we’re a very old-school brand in a modern time.”

American Trench

A look from American Trench.

A look from American Trench.  Courtesy Photo

Jacob Hurwitz was in London with his wife in 2009 and stumbled across an arcade where a guy was selling Aquascutum raincoats out of boxes. He bought one and began pondering why there were no American manufacturers of raincoats. He vowed then and there to change that.

So although they had no background in apparel, Hurwitz and his buddy David Neill turned to Kickstarter in 2013 to raise the $15,000 they were seeking to produce an American-made trenchcoat.

Although their initial idea was to produce the coat in their hometown of Philadelphia, they weren’t able to find the right facility, so they went to New Jersey, where their trademark trench is now made “by an Argentine family with deep Italian roots.” The factory makes the coats from waterproof Ventile fabric, made from cotton that is grown and spun in the United States and sent to Switzerland to be woven into fabric. The coat has a plaid cotton lining from North Carolina, and a wool warmer woven in Connecticut. They sell for $849.

The has expanded into other outerwear pieces, including bombers, field jackets and peacoats as well as socks knit in Iowa and knit cashmere hats made in Texas.

American Trench has also collaborated with what Hurwitz said are “like-minded” brands to offer complementary products to service their customers. That includes Corridor for shirts and shorts, Goodlife for T-shirts, Shockoe Atelier for selvage jeans, Lowercase for sunglasses and Rancourt for sneakers.

Although a key talking point for the brand is that it’s made in the USA, Hurwitz knows that’s not enough. “Bad product made in America is just bad product,” he said. “We know it has to be great. We have a very pragmatic approach: neither David nor I went to fashion school, so we didn’t set out to change the aesthetic. We wanted to create a contemporary, slimmer, more modern fit that looked classic and won’t go out of style.”

Buck Mason

A look from Buck Mason.

A look from Buck Mason.  Courtesy Photo

“Only the essentials — clean, straightforward basics that stand the test of time.” With that as its mission, Buck Mason has built an omnichannel option for guys seeking high-quality shirts and pants that are comfortable and classic.

Sasha Koehn and Erik Allen were neighbors in Venice Beach, Calif., whose backgrounds were markedly different. Koehn was in the digital advertising space, while Allen was toiling away at apparel companies including Lucky Brand and the Jean Shop.

“I came up with an idea about reinvention,” Allen said. Instead of the fickle world of high fashion, he believed there was an opportunity to “simplify timeless iconic classics at an affordable price.”

He got Koehn on board and they invested $4,000 each to create T-shirts under the Buck Mason name in 2013. Koehn built the website and Allen worked with a local family factory in Los Angeles to create small-batch production runs that combined old-school manufacturing with modern technology.

Their big break came when the brand was featured in The Wall Street Journal in early 2014. “We’d been doing about $200 to $500 a day in sales,” Allen recalled. “We woke up that morning and had orders for 4,500 units. That was the beginning.”

From there, Buck Mason branched out into indigo five-pocket jeans, a product that, like its T-shirts, was seasonless. “We became product builders, not designers,” Allen said. “We don’t care about the fashion calendar.”

Today the brand adds about five to eight products every year and its offering ranges from the $30 tri-blend curved hem T-shirts and $105 denim button-down shirt to a raglan sweatshirt for $82, twill trousers for $135 and standard jeans for $175. The most recent addition is swimwear, which retails for $65.

Although e-commerce still represents nearly 80 percent of sales, brick-and-mortar is an important part of the equation.

Since the beginning, the company had operated a shop in a 350-square-foot garage off Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Los Angeles. It will have seven stores by the end of the year, including Silver Lake in L.A., TriBeCa in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. It also has a converted school bus called The Open Road that travels around the country; it’ll be in Nashville this summer. “We love retail,” Allen said.

Looking ahead, the brand hopes to continue “symbiotically growing online and retail,” Allen said, which Koehn said is now “completely seamless.”

“What we do is simple and honed,” Allen added. “Men don’t want their clothes to change. So we do a few things very well and it helps us compete against the big guys.”


A look from Corridor.

A look from Corridor.  Courtesy Photo

The Feds don’t dress especially well and Dan Snyder would know. The founder of Corridor started his career working as an independent contractor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but hated the way his suit fit. So he borrowed his aunt’s vintage Kenmore sewing machine and taught himself how to sew.

He began designing in Washington, D.C., created his first pattern in Boston and started the business out of his six-floor walk-up in New York’s East Village five years ago.

Snyder describes his aesthetic as “new American sportswear. It has a city sensibility blended with Northeastern prep. It’s accessible and familiar, but with a slightly forward lean in silhouette and patterns.”

Snyder started his business with one rack of shirts, but it has expanded to a lifestyle collection that is carried in some 90 stores in 16 countries. He also operates his own Corridor store on Mott Street in NoLIta in Manhattan, where he showcases the shirts along with jackets, pants, shorts, accessories and a small assortment of women’s wear.

Short- and long-sleeved sport shirts remain the backbone of the business and Snyder offers them in a range of unique fabrics and patterns. Most retail for around $148 to $225 and are designed to fit the “American body type,” Snyder said. “They look sharp but are interesting — they’re not just another gingham shirt.” The silhouette is tapered with a broad shoulder and a tapered waist and the shirts feature a trio of panels on the back, which has become Corridor’s signature. “It was derived from old sewing patterns and has been on every shirt since the beginning,” he said.

In addition, there are chinos, jackets and unstructured suits that are half-lined with a natural shoulder. New this season is a garment-dyed resortwear line, Sunshine Blues; a colorful assortment of shirts; stretch cotton shorts, and pants, which all retail for less than $100.

“We strive to create clothing that is tasteful yet interesting, while still being accessible,” the web site says. “Our focus is to offer the best value using the finest materials, and the garments reflect our core principles: fit, quality and character.”

A simple strategy, but one that is working. The NoLita store has done “really well” since opening this spring and as a result, Snyder is looking to expand his retail footprint next year — possibly to the Hamptons — as customers continue to discover his brand.

“No one needs another shirt, but if you make beautiful things, they’ll buy them,” he said. “Then you have to figure out how to make it and sell it. Fashion is a blend of art and commerce and if you don’t have the commerce part figured out, it’s just an expensive hobby.”


A look from Everlane.

A look from Everlane.  Courtesy Photo

The backstory is the stuff of legend. When Everlane launched its brand with a T-shirt in 2010 in San Francisco, there was a waiting list of 70,000. And the brand repeated that feat in 2017 when it launched denim and had a waiting list of about 50,000.

Founder and ceo Michael Preysman believes the brand has been successful because it has mastered the art of “storytelling” on its web site.

As he said during an interview last year: “Online you can do things that are very different than in a physical manifestation. Since the early days, I guess you could say we used viral mechanisms to get people to tell their friends and tell the [brand] story. Now we do the same thing; we just do it very differently.”

In the beginning, Everlane relied mainly on customer referrals, but today it uses social media platforms such as Instagram, where it has around 500,000 followers hooked on its mission of providing “exceptional quality, ethical factories, radical transparency.”

Its web site boasts that it partners with the “best, ethical factories around the world,” sources “only the finest materials,” and shares its stories with its customers, “down to the true cost of every product we make.”

That product offering still centers around that $22 to $25 T-shirt, along with the $68 denim, short and long-sleeved button-downs, sweaters, sweatshirts and hoodies, chinos, five-pockets and swimwear, some outerwear and underwear for men.

“We don’t have a massive lifestyle component to our brand because it’s not about how you live, it’s about why you live,” according to Preysman.

Everlane has a reported volume of $250 million and the brand has raised $18 million in funding from a variety of venture capital funds. The brand now offers a full assortment of women’s wear, shoes and accessories, too.

In the beginning, Preysman said he’d shut the company down before opening a brick-and-mortar location, but he changed his tune. The company’s first permanent store opened on Prince Street in New York’s SoHo at the end of last year and it also has a unit in San Francisco.

A store, he said, allows Everlane to connect with customers “in this ADD world” while sharing the “values of the brand.”

But whether it’s connecting via its store site or through e-commerce, the message will remain the same.

As Preysman has said: “Businesses have to push the world forward because, in today’s day and age, government does some of it but not a lot of it. Businesses are the ones polluting, so businesses have to lead. The easiest change agent is business and so we do [what we do] as a way to educate customers and as a way to change and do things better. If that means we won’t be a $10 billion business, that’s fine with us.”  


A look from Goodlife.

A look from Goodlife.  Courtesy Photo

Chris Molnar was no stranger to the apparel business when he started Goodlife Clothing in 2014, having worked for Michael Kors, John Varvatos and WP Lavori in Corso over the course of his 15-year career in fashion.

And the industry was in his blood — his father was a Hungarian immigrant who launched Hugo Boss in North America.

While he could have continued working for other brands, Molnar decided he wanted to make his own mark. So he left his full-time job at Kors in 2013 to create a premium essentials brand that blends nostalgia and modernity and consists of “wardrobe staples and timeless products that is forever young, irreverent, but still sophisticated, offering the very best in fit and quality,” according to the brand’s mission statement.

When he was working for the designer brands, Molnar realized that what he was selling wasn’t of interest to 95 percent of consumers. “They’re less interested in seasonal trends and want timeless product — things they can wear forever,” he said.

Goodlife is centered on knits: T-shirts, Henleys and sweats with a smattering of accessories. For holiday, sweaters made from baby alpaca from Peru will be added, and a cardigan blazer was offered for spring. Swimwear is a new classification for Goodlife, which is made primarily in Los Angeles.

“Everything we do is a product with a purpose,” Molnar said. “We don’t believe in giving too many options. It hurts salability and profitability.”

Unlike a lot of his basics brethren, Goodlife’s primary distribution is wholesale, with Nordstrom its biggest customer. Molnar said a five-store test at the Seattle retailer in the spring of 2016 is being rolled out to all stores this fall and the brand is key to the company’s core replenishment knit program.

“It’s cool enough for the fashion customer, but not intimidating to the regular guy,” Molnar said.

Because Molnar’s background was in wholesale, it made sense to start the brand with wholesale distribution. Around 30 percent of sales come from the company’s e-commerce site but Molnar said the goal is to increase that to at least 50 percent or higher by 2019.

In addition, Goodlife has collaborated with a number of different partners, including photographer Ben Watts on T-shirts and sweatshirts; Blade, the helicopter flight to the Hamptons, on a limited-edition terry hoodie for big spenders; Surf Lodge on a hoodie and terry program, and 3×1 for T-shirts and limited-edition jeans.

Because Goodlife is a premium priced brand — T-shirts are $60, Henleys are $98 and a terry beach short is $125 — he knows he can’t appeal to everyone. “We’re not trying to take over the world,” he said, “we’re more aspirational.”



Looks from Faherty.

Looks from Faherty.  Courtesy Photo

Growing up, twin brothers Mike and Alex Faherty enjoyed surfing and fashion and vowed that one day they’d find a way to combine the two.

So after moving to New York after college, Mike took a job with Ralph Lauren, while Alex cut his teeth in the finance field. But they never let go of their childhood passion and in 2012, they took the plunge.

Mike made the first move, quitting Ralph Lauren to travel the world searching for prints and textiles to create the first collection. Alex followed the next year, and together they gave birth to the Faherty brand.

Today the business boasts seven stores — the most recent just opened in Sag Harbor, N.Y. — as well as a healthy wholesale business.

Alex believes Faherty has been successful because of its “super artisanal and creative approach to making clothing.” Thanks to “Mike’s creative vision,” he said, the company custom designs all its fabrics and patterns to offer “easy, casual clothing” based on a “beach lifestyle.”

In men’s, 30 percent of the business is wovens, 25 percent knits, 25 percent bottoms and the remainder is outerwear. Its shirt patterns range from washed ginghams and plaids to oxford solids and Hawaiian prints that retail for around $148 to $168. Khakis, twills and jeans are offered ($148 to $198), shorts are $78 to $138 and swimwear averages $128. There are also ponchos for $188 and rugged jackets in the same price range. Women’s and children’s wear and colorful blankets are part of the mix.

“Tops are the majority of our business,” Alex said, “because guys have 10 button-down shirts to one pant — that’s how they diversify their wardrobe.”

Over the years, he said, casualwear has been equated with low quality, but Faherty’s assortment comes with a lifetime guarantee. “The way Filson thinks about its bags, we think about our shirts,” he said. “They’re something guys want to wear on the weekend when they’re outside and out of their work attire.”

He said Faherty’s “beachy, vacation” vibe has been especially appealing to guys in New York City and proves that the minimalistic, all-black wardrobe that has become de rigueur in the city has an alter ego.

The company’s own retail — its two stores in New York and one each in Malibu, Boston and Nantucket — combined with e-commerce, accounts for 65 percent of sales. This summer, Faherty is relocating to a significantly larger store in SoHo and always keeps an eye open for “interesting, fun markets” where its line will resonate. “There are a lot of Sag Harbors in the U.S.,” Alex said. 

Frank and Oak 

A look from Frank and Oak.

A look from Frank and Oak.  Courtesy Photo

The story starts in what cofounder Ethan Song describes as “a broom closet” in Montreal in 2012. It was there that Song and his childhood friend Hicham Ratnani designed a collection of basics — and a website — to help Millennial men dress better at an affordable price.

The impetus for Song, who had studied engineering and was working at Deloitte at the time, was that he had a hard time finding clothes he liked and that spoke to him and his generation.

“We weren’t focused on fashion trends,” he said.

Neither, apparently, were its customers. By 2017, the company had sold nearly 80,000 oxford shirts, jumped into the women’s business and attracted three rounds of investment capital.

Its product offering today includes T-shirts, short- and long-sleeved button-down shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans, underwear and even suits and blazers.

“Our customer is the creative, professional Millennial who works in technology or marketing,” Song said. “We do very well in New York and Silicon Valley.” And while tailored clothing is offered, it’s the “cool casual” merchandise that defines the business.

And it’s attracted the attention of a number of venture capital investors in the U.S. and Canada. In February, a Series C round of financing led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec added $16 million to Frank and Oak’s coffers. The funds were earmarked to “accelerate development of its digital experience and support its growth online in North America and other parts of the world,” the company said at the time.

This includes expanding its new Style Plan monthly subscription program, Song said. “Men like the work to be done for them,” he said. “They don’t want to go to the mall and do the legwork.”

While the business is still primarily e-commerce, Frank and Oak has 19 locations around Canada and has also dabbled in pop-ups in the U.S. “We like to link the experience of online and off-line,” Song said. With the additional financing, he hopes to soon expand into permanent retail in America as well.

“Our core focus is to continue to build experiences [such as Style Plan] and add more innovative materials and fabrics in our products,” Song said.

Because the styles are classics, Song wants Frank and Oak’s offering to be distinct by the use of its socially conscious materials. Using recycled polyester and organic fibers along with water-efficient denim is part of the equation, along with investing back some of its proceeds to human rights organizations and other charities — causes that connect with its target customer.


A look from Huckberry.

A look from Huckberry.  Courtesy Photo

“Bootstrapped, profitable and proud” — that’s the headline on Huckberry’s story. But after seven years, the brand founded by Andy Forch and Richard Greiner has created a bustling community and attracted some outside capital to allow them to “take the Huckberry experience to the next level. So while we’re no longer technically bootstrapped, we’re still independent, profitable and proud.”

The buddies were just 25 when they decided to ditch their corporate jobs and create a business that “spoke directly to us” — guys who worked in the city but lived for the outdoors. They invested $10,000 each to create Huckberry.

“We chose the name Huckberry because we both loved Mark Twain’s ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and thought Huckberry was the perfect totem for the spirit of adventure we wanted our brand to embody. More practically speaking, was available on GoDaddy for $9.98 and was not,” Greiner said.

That sense of humor has become a hallmark of the brand, which plunged into the open market and bought men’s casual wear that spoke to their mission: Grayers, Taylor Stitch and Roark Revival shirts, pants from Adam Mar and Finisterre, jeans from Raleigh Denim and Revtown and activewear from Myles and Vuori.

It also has its own brand, Flint & Tinder, which accounts for some 25 percent of sales, Greiner said. “We have over seven years of customer data and we take that information and see where there are merchandising holes and opportunities.”

Apparel and footwear account for 50 percent of sales, and the remainder is “everyday carry,” which is accessories and gear such as pocket knives, pens and audio equipment. There is also a home component.

Greiner said Huckberry’s strongest asset as a company, however, is the e-mails that it sends to more than one million customers every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. “It’s a cross between a magazine and a newspaper,” he said. “There are 50 hours of work in each edition. And we use that as our main channel to reach our customers.”

For example, an e-mail right before Memorial Day weekend speaks about “our buddy,” a Green Beret who founded Goruck backpacks and other bags. Others have discussed the “forgotten Eighties lawn game” of spikeball and sock-free leather slip-ons. “We’re very storytelling-driven,” Greiner said.

The company is also producing four print catalogues this year that will be mailed to between 500,000 and 750,000 people.

Huckberry is still headquartered in San Francisco, but will be moving into a new, larger headquarters this summer, at which point it will open its first retail store there. “We’ll be dipping our toes into brick-and-mortar,” he said, adding that the company is also seeking a semi-permanent shop in New York City for the fall and holiday season. Other plans for the future include “being more aggressive in customer acquisition and working more on our own merchandise,” Greiner said.

Neither he nor Forch had any retail experience when they started Huckberry, which Greiner said has been “in some ways a blessing. Fashion retail sometimes gets snobby and not real, but we talk up to you, not down.”

Save Khaki United

A look from Save Khaki United.

A look from Save Khaki United.  Courtesy Photo

David Mullen had been toiling in fashion for a while before launching Save Khaki United 12 years ago. He had created his own brands that were sold at better retail stores and also consulted with Millard “Mickey” Drexler when he headed J. Crew.

But he felt he had something to add to the casual men’s wear market and created a pant that was “broken in and washed down with a contemporary fit,” he said. “Prior to that, all the pants were fuller and I thought that’s what was missing.”

That pant has grown into a full collection of what Mullen calls “purposeful basics — we don’t pay attention to trends.”

As the website describes it: “Save Khaki United, a lifestyle brand of contemporary American sportswear emphasizing comfort and fit. S.K.U. products are everyday essentials: nothing is added without purpose. The result is an aesthetic that is minimalist at heart. Carefully selected fabrics are washed and dyed for broken-in comfort. Understated and easily worn.”

Everything is made in America and the Supima cotton used is actually grown in the U.S. as well. Manufacturing is done out of the company’s factory in Los Angeles.

In addition to the trademark pants, which retail for $120, there are also shorts, T-shirts, loungewear, sweats, fleece and lightweight outerwear. “We sell a lot of chinos, chino shorts and drawstring pants,” Mullen said. And although there is a section devoted to women, the merchandise is actually men’s wear styled on women, he said.

Save Khaki operates three of its own retail stores: two in New York and one in Venice in California and wholesales to better stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Unionmade and Stag in the U.S. and Merci in Paris, End in the U.K. and Journal Standard in Tokyo.

Long term, Mullen said he’d ultimately like to transition to more of a direct-to-consumer model as the wholesale game “becomes harder and harder. But we like working with kindred spirits.”

So he’d like to create some sort of concept that falls between traditional retail and wholesale, “like exclusive shop-in-shops with exclusive content,” he said. “That’s where we’re heading.”


A look from Shinola.

A look from ShinolaCourtesy Photo

As one of the founders of Fossil Group, Tom Kartsotis had nothing to prove when he set out to create a new watch brand that would be manufactured in the economically strapped city of Detroit. Through his venture capital firm, Bedrock Manufacturing, Kartsotis had purchased the Shinola name — it had been a shoe polish brand founded in 1877 — and came up with the idea to use it on watches in 2011.

By the next year, the company had acquired a factory in Detroit and set out on its mission to train a workforce in the city to become master watch artisans. The first watches were sold in 2013.

In addition to watches, which remain the core of the business, Shinola produces leather goods, bicycles and jewelry. It also operates 30 stores and will open a couple more this year, including one in the Shinola Detroit hotel that is opening this fall, as well as in Cleveland. “We may add a few here or there, but we think that’s a good scale for us,” said Tom Lewand, chief executive officer, said. “We also have a nice healthy e-commerce business and a wholesale footprint.”

It has also offered up unique collaborations under its Great Americans Series that celebrates America’s history of innovation and industry. It has partnered with the Wright brothers, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Maya Angelou for limited-edition product and the next one will be centered around the Statue of Liberty through a partnership with the Ellis Island Foundation. “It helps us tell a story,” he said.

Despite the popularity of the brand, Lewand is taking a cautious approach to growth. “We don’t want to be so big that we can no longer be nimble and adapt to how the consumer shops or get product to market quickly,” he said. “We’ve gotten into a lot of categories quickly so we’re working to grow those categories and introduce people to the brand in markets where we’re new. There’s still a lot of runway for us to grow.” 


A look from Untuckit.

A look from Untuckit.  Courtesy Photo

Aaron Sanandres and Chris Riccobono are problem solvers. The business school buddies couldn’t find a casual shirt that looked right untucked, so they set out to create one.

Today, the business they founded in 2011 with $150,000 in funding from family and friends has grown into a multi-faceted men’s brand with 20 stores around the country.

The plan is even more aggressive for this year, when Untuckit plans to more than double that count to 45 by the end of 2018. Untuckit has also attracted the attention of California venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, which invested $30 million last year to fund the company’s growth.

While shirts remain the backbone — accounting for around 75 percent of sales — the company has expanded into polos, sweaters, sweatshirts, shorts, pants and even sport coats as well as women’s wear, children’s wear and shoes.

Their target customer for the shirts, which retail from $78 to $99, are men aged 30 to 65, as well as their kids and significant others.

From Day One, Riccobono said, the company was profitable as its message hit home. As Sanandres said: “Guys have their own personal challenges and perceived limitations when it comes to finding a great-fitting shirt. We wanted to make sure guys know we have a solution.”

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