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Building a New Online Fashion Brand: Combatant Gentlemen CEO Vishaal Melwani (Part 2)

Posted on Sunday, May 18th 2014

Vishal Melwani: Within a year, we garnered around 180 clients that were some of the world’s top urban wear brands. We ended up selling to a large trading firm within the first year. We sold to a trading firm based in Hong Kong. I was 25 and I had an exit under my belt. I was this guy who was a highly-driven, third-generation tailor who wanted to focus on the product. I took a couple of months off and went to visit my friends who I’d graduated with. They were typical guys who graduated from business school and law school and they moved out to the east coast to get jobs at Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan. This was the height of the recession. This is around 2008 when jobs were literally just decimated.

These guys spent so much money taking on loans for their college and grad school. They were now sitting in line waiting to go on their 13th to 15th interview and not hearing back. Life was becoming really suffocating for them.

The one thing that I caught onto was they would wake up in the morning and they will share corporate clothing. They would go to each other’s closet and say, “Hey man, I wore this on Monday. Can you wear this today? I’ll wear that one.” I was thinking, “You guys are so fixated on looking good and looking the part. Why don’t you guys go to JC Penney or go to men’s wear house.” They said, “Have you ever walked into one of those stores?” I said, “No, I haven’t.” They took me there and I quickly understood why they were trading their clothes and didn’t want to spend too much because all the passion and the want to look good were taken out by the lack of overall inspiration in the clothing. It was just blah.

These guys were fixated on getting ahead in life and they had fire in them. They wanted to make sure that they were getting the right job, were paid well and at the same time, they wanted a great social life. They wanted to make sure that they were having a great experience while they were out on the east coast. I wanted to create a brand that encapsulated all of that. I wanted to do it differently. I was so ingrained in what was going on in fashion and wholesale and said, “I want to create a brand that encapsulates what these guys are going through, make a solution for them, and really help them get to the next step whether it’s a raise, getting a job, or going through a black tie event at the end of the year.” I wanted to make this attainable for them so that it’s one less thing that they’re worrying about.

At that time, I got together with my two co-founders. Mo, who is my cousin had the same upbringing as me and is focused on product. Scott, my CTO, was my friend well before the startup. We sat down and said, “Let’s create a brand that’s different. Let’s create a brand that doesn’t have wholesale and is not seasonal. We don’t want to be this fast fashion-Forever 21 knock off. We want to focus on getting guys the essentials that they need. We wanted to serve that purpose. That’s what led us to our immediate success.

When a guy comes on to our site today, he’s able to go and say, “I can wear this to an interview. I can also take off the jacket and go somewhere else.” Everything that they’re getting from us serves a purpose and helps them get somewhere. What we like to say is we like to help guys dress smarter. By that, you understand that we’re vertically integrated and we don’t have a wholesale middleman. We’re able to get you products at the best price possible – probably the best out there that you can find for the quality. At the same time, it serves a purpose and gets you a return on investment. If you’re wearing a suit, we want you to get paid better. We want you to feel good about what you’re wearing.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Building a New Online Fashion Brand: Combatant Gentlemen CEO Vishaal Melwani
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