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Building a New Online Fashion Brand: Combatant Gentlemen CEO Vishaal Melwani (Part 3)

Posted on Monday, May 19th 2014

Sramana Mitra: Can we go back to the exact moment when you decided that you were going to do this business? What triggered the idea? What was going on in the industry? What are the dynamics of the founding?

Vishaal Melwani: One of the biggest things that struck me was there’s a need for this. There’s something that is missing. There’s a huge gap in this market. Between the low-end bargain bin like JC Penney and all the way to the higher-end Hugo Boss, there’s really nothing in between. There’s nothing that’s there to give our guy a spark. At that point, it was all about us creating a solution to that. It was around 2007 to 2008 when we first developed this idea.

We spent the next year in hibernation and really tried to look at the competitive nature of what was going on in the market. Who is out there? Who is doing something similar? What’s going on? What we really found was that there was no one in the fast fashion price point with great quality.

At the same time, there was no one really who had the level of supply chain expertise that we did. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we jumped into this business. We understood how to make the product really well at an affordable cost. We have done so for so many other brands before, so we figured, “Hey, let’s do this. Let’s create a brand that really focuses on helping people.”

Sramana Mitra: What is the positioning? Is this something that is parallel to a men’s wear house?

Vishaal Melwani: Our goal was to create a more modern men’s wear house. We wanted to disrupt that entire market. We felt that it was old and stale – and it still is. One of the big reasons that we still, to this day, take away clients is because their messaging is incorrect. They don’t understand the pains and the trials and tribulations that our guy goes through on a daily basis. We wanted to create a Hugo Boss experience at a price point even lower than men’s warehouse. We thought that that was possible. It was going to be hard, yes. It was going to test our knowledge of everything that we have learned up to this time on how to create a brand online all the way to how to create a suit with 100% wool that’s at about $160.

Sramana Mitra: You are talking about a fully bootstrapped business?

Vishaal Melwani: Yes, we bootstrapped this business up until we had raised our first seed round – all of the research and development, all of the early testing and sales. Before we had raised a seed round, we had already done running revenue of about $700,000 or so.

Sramana Mitra: The revenue was all online?

Vishaal Melwani: Everything was 100% online between the core businesses of just selling to guys. What we realized when we first launched was that there’s a big need in the wedding market as well. That fell on our lap. What’s so interesting about startups is that there is a lot of serendipity that goes into building this. You find out a lot about your product and you find out a lot about your company that you once never thought was happening. It was probably never even in your business model. For us, that was weddings. We did not know that weddings would be this big of a sector for us. At this point, in our first sales year, we did 1,100 weddings. This year, we’re set to do about 4,000. It’s insane. I think a lot of people see that value when they see our brand.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Building a New Online Fashion Brand: Combatant Gentlemen CEO Vishaal Melwani
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