Don’t tell these companies that men don’t shop online.
There are now a slew of men’s wear-focused e-tailers offering everything from designer clothing to socks, underwear to streetwear. While some of these businesses have become household names and others are still flying under the radar, all of them have managed to make their mark. They’ve also attracted some big bucks from outside investors, a key indicator that they’re doing something right.
Here, a closer look at some of the major players and their businesses.
Primary business: Tuxedo and suit rentals
Backstory: The Los Angeles-based company was founded in 2013 by longtime friends Andrew Blackmon and Patrick Coyne, who saw an opportunity to improve the traditional tuxedo and suit rental process. Often referred to as the Rent the Runway for guys, the Black Tux has raised $60 million in funding since it started, the most recent round coming in March when TZP Group — along with Stripes Group, Menlo Ventures and Raine Ventures — came through with $30 million the company said it would use to add more warehouse space. A facility opened in Pennsylvania earlier this year.
Reach: In addition to its own e-commerce site and six of its own showrooms, the company has 15 shops within Nordstrom stores.
Primary business: Casualwear
Backstory: The company was founded by Brian Spaly, who set out to design a better fitting men’s pant while at Stanford Business School in 2007. He solicited his housemate Andy Dunn to create an online business, and within three years, the company had raised $7 million in angel funding from such deep-pocketed investors as Wealthfront chief executive officer Andy Rachleff and JetBlue chairman Joel Peterson. Although Spaly moved on to create Trunk Club, Dunn remained on board and Bonobos eventually raised $127.6 million from firms ranging from Accel Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners to Nordstrom, and expanded beyond pants to denim, swimwear, suits, furnishings, golfwear, outerwear and accessories. It also began to open Guideshops, which were locations where customers could try on merchandise and place orders. In 2017, Walmart Inc. purchased Bonobos for $310 million in cash.
Reach: Bonobos now has in excess of $100 million in sales, operates 55 Guideshops around the U.S. and is sold in all Nordstrom doors. Despite being owned by Walmart, the brand is not sold at its stores, but is part of the stable of brands under its Jet.com division. Dunn, who continues as Bonobos’ ceo, is also overseeing Walmart’s growing collection of digitally native vertical brands.
Primary business: Basics
Backstory: Founded in Los Angeles in 2013 by Sasha Koehn and Erik Allen Ford, Buck Mason has built a business selling high-quality updated basics to regular guys. The founders have purposefully kept the business small and manageable and have raised only $2.5 million in four years, preferring instead to self-finance the growth. They even turned down two $300,000 offers from billionaires Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec on “Shark Tank” to sell a stake in the business. The brand has expanded from T-shirts to jeans and related casualwear that is affordably priced.
Reach: E-commerce still accounts for nearly 80 percent of sales, but Buck Mason operates four brick-and-mortar stores in L.A., New York, Chicago and San Francisco. There’s a pop-up in Nashville and another New York store will open before the end of the year. In 2019, the plan is to add five to eight units.
Primary business: Multibrand men’s wear
Backstory: The men’s division launched in 2013 as the brother site to Shopbop, a women’s e-commerce company, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon. The brand offers more than 125 designer and national brands ranging from Alexander Wang and Billy Reid to Levi’s and Rag & Bone. In addition to merely selling merchandise, the site also offers practical advice on how to wear the pieces and suggestions on what goes best with a particular item. Right now, for example, there are suggestions on what to wear on vacation — Getaway Essentials — as well as an assortment of Editors’ Picks.
Reach: Once a customer joins the loyalty program, the more he spends, the more access he receives to the specials on the site. Those who spend less than $300 get first crack at sales, but those who spend more than $5,000 get 20 percent birthday discounts and a special VIP customer service line, as well as invitations to exclusive events. Amazon Prime members get additional loyalty benefits and free two-day shipping.
Frank and Oak
Primary business: Basics
Backstory: The Montreal-based company launched in 2012 when Ethan Song and his childhood friend Hicham Ratnani decided to design a collection of basics targeted to Millennial men. They started with oxford shirts and have expanded into T-shirts, short- and long-sleeved button-downs, sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans, underwear and even suits and blazers for men, as well as a small collection for women. Their unique spin has attracted $39.8 million in financing, which includes a $30 million series C round it secured in February, led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. The business is still primarily e-commerce although the company has opened 19 locations around Canada and a few pop-ups in the U.S.
Reach: The latest round of funding will be used to accelerate the company’s digital experience, increase its reach in North America and jump into the artificial intelligence arena through the launch of Style Plan, a program of personalized recommendations for customers.
Primary business: Tuxedo rentals
Backstory: George Zimmer has a new tag line: “Looking good has never been this easy.” But instead of hawking Men’s Wearhouse, the company he founded more than a quarter century ago, Zimmer is promoting his new business, an online tuxedo rental business called Generation Tux that he created in 2014. As he did for years with his former company, Zimmer is front-and-center in the commercials, saying he’s “a voice from the past speaking to you about the future” of wedding rentals, encouraging men to “click and it’s at your door” two weeks before the big event. The site offers more than 200 color combinations of tuxedos and suits in super 140s and 130s wool, along with furnishings and accessories. The company created a new fit process that uses an algorithm to replace the tape measurer and simplify the fit process.
Reach: At the end of 2017, Generation Tux spent $25 million in a stock exchange deal to acquire a competing tuxedo rental brand, Menquin, to enhance the company’s technological reach. The nameplates are operating separately, but share executives and back-office functions.
Primary business: Made-to-measure tailored clothing
Backstory: The Vancouver-based company was founded in 2007 by college buddies Kyle Vucko and Heikal Gani, who hated shopping for suits and were looking for an alternative. So they created an online made-to-measure site. But since Drew Green joined the company as ceo in 2015, the company has been on a growth tear. It raised $30 million in financing from the Dayang Group, the China-based manufacturer, two years ago, and earlier this year, Japan’s Mitsui & Co. made an undisclosed strategic investment in the business. While the privately held company does not release sales figures, it has said that gross margin increased 49 percent in 2017 and is projected to rise to 52 percent this year when it is expected to have a 53 percent compounded annual growth rate.
Reach: While the backbone of the business continues to be the e-commerce site, Indochino has been expanding its brick-and-mortar presence by opening showrooms around the U.S. and Canada. These shops feature a virtual inventory model where style guides take measurements and help men choose fabrics and details for their wardrobe. By the end of the summer, Indochino will have 31 showrooms in operation, a number that will increase to 36 by the end of the company’s fiscal year in January.
Primary business: Made-to-measure tailored clothing
Backstory: Founded by high school friends Robin McGowan and James Wakefield, the company is now one of the largest made-to-measure producers in its home country of Australia. And the duo has set its sights on the U.S. market. In February, it received a $3 million strategic investment from Dayang Group of China, which is said to be the world’s largest suit producer, to expand its showrooms and elevate its in-store and online experience. In June, InStitchu purchased George & King, a Sydney-based custom, tailored men’s wear company with a similar operating model. The acquisition is expected to add 4.5 million Australian dollars, or $3.33 million, to the brand’s sales. The two businesses will continue to be operated separately.
Reach: The company now operates nine showrooms in Australia and New Zealand as well as one in the U.S. in New York’s Flatiron District. In addition to its permanent location, InStitchu has opened a series of successful pop-ups around the U.S. where it takes orders that are shipped directly to customers later. The average price of a suit is $699.
Primary business: Custom men’s suits
Backstory: The business was founded by John Ballay and Matt Mueller, two expatriates living in Dubai, in 2010, who started working with a local tailor there to sell suits to family and friends. Now headquartered in New York, the company has seven showrooms across the country offering “digitally bespoke” men’s wear, including suits, blazers, shirts, trousers and casualwear. It also has a shop in Bloomingdale’s in New York City. In 2015, Marvin Traub Associates acquired a “significant minority stake” in the business. At the time of the deal, Traub ceo Mortimer Singer called Knot Standard a prime example of “the intersection between customization in the men’s wear business and e-commerce/omnichannel.” Provenance, a growth equity investment firm based in Los Angeles, apparently agreed, because it invested $15 million in the brand in the spring.
Reach: In addition to investing in its e-commerce site, Knot Standard will use the funding to open more showrooms around the country — three are in the works — further invest in technology, develop its stylist training program and expand its custom casual line.
Primary business: Upscale hunting apparel
Backstory: Jason Hairston never went to fashion school — far from it. In fact, he was a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos but persistent neck problems led him to seek out his second chapter after his football career ended. After selling commercial real estate for a while, he was restless and looking for a way to do something more suited to his passions for hunting and fishing. He launched a line of high-performance outdoor gear named Sitka targeted to upscale adventurers, a business he eventually sold to W.L. Gore of Gore-Tex fame. Soon after, he launched Kuiu, a line with a similar aesthetic that did $500,000 in sales on its first day, thanks to a blog he created before releasing the brand. In 2017, he had a hard time keeping up with demand and accepted a reported $50 million investment from Main Post Partners in San Francisco.
Reach: The money from Main Post, which acquired a 22 percent stake in the business for its $50 million, has helped Kuiu increase inventory, launch a mobile showroom strategy — 18-wheelers that traveled around the country last year — and expand internationally. The company now operates an international web site for distribution in Europe, the South Pacific and Canada. It also operates one retail store at its headquarters in Dixon, Calif., and will add its first off-site unit in Denver in 2020 with plans for additional units after that.
Primary business: Underwear
Backstory: The men’s underwear brand was founded in 2011 by Brian Berger and Michael Isaacman, who were frustrated by what they saw as “a mind-numbing assortment of underwear and socks” at the department store level. So they set out to create an alternative, starting by designing their own fabrics and engineering the products to provide natural stretch, antimicrobial and thermoregulating properties and cooling vents. The brand has since expanded into undershirts, polos, T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, casual pants and shorts, all with the same sensibility. There’s also a selection of swimwear and accessories. Of course it didn’t hurt that they hired Matthew Congdon, the former global design director of underwear for Calvin Klein, in 2016 as the brand’s creative director. Since its founding, Mack Weldon has raised $15.9 million in funding from a variety of investors, most recently from KarpReilly, a venture capitalist firm whose portfolio includes Bob’s Discount Furniture, Dollar Tree and Marie Callender’s.
Reach: Although still primarily an e-commerce player, the brand created a special collection for J. Crew that reached stores this summer. This followed last year’s launch of a new activewear line with the high-end sports club Equinox. And it is part of a “sleep-in” at Nordstrom, which is a pop-up devoted to sleep products.
Mizzen + Main
Primary business: Performance apparel
Backstory: When Kevin Lavelle was an intern in Washington, D.C., he was grossed out by the sweat stains he saw under the arms of a Congressional staffer and thought there had to be a solution. So he set out to create a moisture-wicking dress shirt that had the same properties as athleticwear and launched his brand in 2012. The business quickly drew the attention of several professional athletes as well as private equity firms and has raised $4.6 million in funding since then. In addition, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and professional golfer Phil Mickelson own equity stakes in the brand.
Reach: The brand has expanded beyond dress shirts and now offers sport shirts, performance pullovers and sweaters in addition to socks and pocket squares. There’s even a Phil Mickelson collection that features an illustration of the golfer with his club extended over his head on the cuff. Although e-commerce remains the bulk of the business, the brand is wholesaled to select specialty and department stores and has its own brick-and-mortar shops in Atlanta and Fort Worth, Tex.
Primary business: Multibrand designer men’s wear
Backstory: The men’s-specific offshoot of Net-a-porter was created in 2011. The multibrand site sells designer apparel, shoes and accessories and also has a robust content arm, offering advice and style suggestions to shoppers. In April, the company named Chris Wallace, the onetime executive editor of Interview magazine, as U.S. editor of its men’s style site. He oversees the editorial and social content, which includes a weekly online magazine called The Journal; a bimonthly, The Mr Porter Post, and the digital news feed, The Daily, which is sent out several times a day. Last fall Mr Porter introduced Mr P, a private-label offering of essentials to augment its designer offering.
Reach: Net-a-porter is part of the Yoox Net-a-porter Group, which was purchased in its entirety by Compagnie Financière Richemont earlier this year for 27.7 billion euros. Richemont had already owned 49 percent of the business. Last year, YNAP topped 2 billion euros in sales and its ceo, Federico Marchetti, singled out Mr Porter as a top performer. Sales of Net-a-porter and Mr Porter together reached 1.1 billion euros in 2017.
Primary business: Socks
Backstory: The San Clemente, Calif.-based sock and underwear brand was founded in 2009 by a group of entrepreneurs who believed socks were an overlooked category in the apparel industry. The company quickly expanded into men’s underwear, tapping NBA star James Harden to be its brand ambassador, and added women’s intimate apparel in 2017. In July it began offering men’s and women’s T-shirts made from a proprietary fabric called Butter Blend that’s created from organic seaweed harvested from Iceland, as well as Peruvian tanguis cotton. Since its founding, Stance has raised $116 million through five rounds of financing.
Reach: The brand counts a large number of musicians, athletes and other influencers as fans, including Rihanna, who acts as contributing creative director and has created 10 Fenty x Stance collaborations. In addition, Stance is the official sock of several major sports leagues including Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and several colleges, including Notre Dame and UCLA. Other collaboration partners include Libertine, New Balance and Maharishi. In addition to its e-commerce site, the brand has a healthy wholesale business and operates four full-price stores, with three more in the works for Southern California.