Grayers’ founders fancy the label they launched three years ago as something along the lines of affordable J. Crew. The company has reached a point now, they say, to hunt for capital to fuel the next phase of expansion, which calls for taking the men’s wear brand to full-on lifestyle label.
The company’s founders have their sights set on expanding the accessories collection for fall, launching swim and then following all of that up with kids.
Grayers, headquartered in New York with production in Asia, was founded by former Ralph Lauren executive Peter Georgiou and his wife Joanna, who handles sales and marketing.
“In the case of Grayers, I felt there was a sweet spot in the market, both in price point and product attributes, in the U.S. and U.K.,” Peter said. “Over the last few years we’ve gone from being a 20-door business out of Nordstrom to about 200 points of sale today in the U.S. mostly.”
The line includes polos starting at $58, $88 chinos, selvage denim for $165, French terry cardigans for $138 and wool blazers for $195.
“It’s [for] a guy who cares about what he wears and doesn’t want to be burdened by it,” Peter said.
“A lot of what we do is rooted in the classics and vintage-inspired,” Joanna added.
Grayers’ advantage, the two said, is its market position.
“There’s a lot of growth on the artisanal and luxury side of the business and there’s a groundswell of that which, in my view, is somewhat inaccessible,” Peter said. “And then you have a lot of low price point and commodity brands, but not a lot of men’s wear brands that sit in that forgotten middle section.”
It’s that forgotten space where there’s opportunity for Grayers to expand and a lot of that opportunity has been aided by technology and social media.
The company has steered away from traditional marketing in favor of going directly to consumers via Instagram and other forms of social media to build a following.
“I think just given the development of social media in technology [companies have] been able to launch a business in a very fragmented market,” Peter said. “There’s disruption in the core, established business. That’s going to continue to be the case in the coming years and that is because people are getting the information out without a massive marketing budget…. It does require originality for sure. You have to spend something different.”
The company’s products are sold at Mr. Porter and Nordstrom along with boutiques such as Stag on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Calif., and Local Knit Inc. in Montauk and Greenport in New York. Grayers signed deals with distributors in the last few months for Japan and Scandinavia.
The company counts 14 workers. Peter declined to say how much Grayers does in annual sales except to say the wholesale business has seen 80 percent to 100 percent year-on-year growth. The company became profitable in 2013 and will realize a “comfortable profit” this year, according to Peter.
Grayers’ direct-to-consumer business online, which launched about a year ago, has been averaging 30 percent growth month-over-month.
With that momentum, the company is set to expand into cosmetic kits, laptop cases and other bags for fall. It will also add more ties and scarves to its offering.
Grayers will follow that up with an expansion into swimwear for spring and summer and then will do a soft launch of children’s for fall 2016.
The line will total about 45 stockkeeping units for boys and girls ranging from $45 to $75 at retail.
The company tested children’s clothing this past Father’s Day with a capsule collection of matching father-son and father-daughter shirts.
“It was a logical step to scale down from adults to kids,” Joanna said. “We’ve taken a fair amount of risk as the business has evolved but we’re also pretty calculated about how we do things.”
The company plans to go into fundraising mode in the next few months for its first round of institutional capital in hopes of nabbing funds to build out its workforce and open bricks-and-mortar stores, the latter of which is likely in the U.S. in 2017.
And on the question the two said they have been asked a number of times: What about a women’s launch?
Demand is there, according to Peter, who said there have been multiple requests from women for extra smalls in the men’s product.
“Timing-wise, we don’t know,” Joanna said. “The end goal is to build this whole lifestyle brand. When we do it, we’ll do it right. We like to move fast, but we like to move right.”