Loose Threads Podcast: Getting Better, Not Just Bigger — with Steven Alan

Loose Threads Podcast: Getting Better, Not Just Bigger — with Steven Alan

On the 12th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, I talk with Steven Alan, the founder of his eponymous brand that started as a retail store in 1994 and grew into the international empire it is today. We had an awesome talk about how Steven got started; how he grew the brand over the last two decades, adding stores, a showroom and many different verticals along the way; how the his customers have evolved over time; how direct to consumer brands are changing the landscape; what is was like selling on Amazon in the early days of its fashion play; why the brand entered into the optical market; and how 2017 is the year of reinvention.  

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Loose Threads Podcast: Focusing on the Rules of Business, Not the Glamour — with Vishaal Melwani of Combatant Gentlemen

Loose Threads Podcast: Focusing on the Rules of Business, Not the Glamour — with Vishaal Melwani of Combatant Gentlemen

On the 11th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, I talk with Vishaal Melwani, CEO and co-founder of Combatant Gentleman, about the brand's founding; how the team decided to build a suiting essentials brand meant to scale; how they incorporated technology into the company from the ground up; why they decided to vertically integrate to an extreme degree; how the brand approaches its own retail and relevant partnerships; how its products are priced affordably while still being produced ethnically; what opportunities are on the horizon for the brand; and what have been some of the most exciting parts of the journey to build a global apparel brand. 

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If people are price-sensitive to ethical products, then redefine the pricing scheme

If people are price-sensitive to ethical products, then redefine the pricing scheme

Liz Pape, the founder of Elizabeth Suzann, a direct to consumer brand based in Nashville, recently wrote a thorough post about the complexity of making ethical clothing and running a successful business in a time where consumers are increasingly price sensitive. The post, which is worth reading, as well as this follow up interview in Racked, discusses the challenges of making domestic, ethical clothing at prices that are both affordable for consumers and sustainable for brands.

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What happens when beauty, health and wellness products move from standardized to personalized?

What happens when beauty, health and wellness products move from standardized to personalized?

Right now, if you walk into your nearest grocery store, drug store or department store, you'll find at least thirty different types of toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, mouthwash, sunscreen, moisturizer, makeup, lipstick, foundation and a litany of other cosmetics and daily essentials. Although there are dozens upon dozens of options on the shelf, finding the right one for each individual can be challenging, assuming that right one even exists. This is the current state of consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands in the cosmetics, health and wellness space. Lots of options, but little personalization. 

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Loose Threads 2016 year in review: six trends at the intersection of fashion, technology and commerce

2016 was quite a year for fashion, technology and commerce. This was the year where the reality of different ventures, channels, and theses started to become clearer, as we moved on from the pure hype cycle of endless venture funding and direct to consumer brands popping up left and right. There was plenty of great stuff that happened in this space, and there were a fair amount of reality checks as well. What follows is a review of the six major trends that came to fruition this year.

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Loose Threads Podcast: Pioneering Wholesale in a Direct to Consumer World — with Garrett Leight

Loose Threads Podcast: Pioneering Wholesale in a Direct to Consumer World — with Garrett Leight

On the 10th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, I talk with Garrett Leight, the founder of his eponymous optical brand. We had an awesome talk about the founding story of Garrett Leight; the path towards building a wholesale-first brand in a direct-to-consumer world; the process behind designing eye-ware; how the optical market has evolved; how the brand approached its initial distribution strategy; how the brand has stayed in tact as its scaled; the role retail plays for a wholesale-first brand; and Garret's predictions on the potential of Snap Spectacles.

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The Scale Series — Part V: Bigger isn’t always better

The Scale Series — Part V: Bigger isn’t always better

Part I of this series explored the capital conditions that got us to a place where many brands swung for the fences, while Part II and Part III investigated some of the successes and failures in this growth environment. Part IV proposed a new framework for scaling brands globally while keeping them potent. Finally, it’s worth talking about the idea of scale itself. That itch that many founders and designers feel to keep getting bigger and bigger. 

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The Scale Series — Part IV: Localized Luxury

The Scale Series — Part IV: Localized Luxury

The early 2000s were full of brands launching adjacencies, some of which we looked at in Part II and Part III. Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Burberry and many others created endless diffusion lines and offshoots that tried to take the spirit and cache of the mother brand and infuse it into sister brands that sold lower priced products. While some of this worked, many brands also struggled as they scaled past their brand promise, which resulted in a litany of offshoot brands that were all diluting the main brand.

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The Scale Series — Part II: Brands that overscaled

The Scale Series — Part II: Brands that overscaled

In Part I, we looked at the factors that both businesses and brands need to consider when scaling. With this foundation, we'll now examine some of the failures and some of the successes in the fashion industry. This piece will look at the former, while Part III will look at the latter.

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The Scale Series — Part I: How and why brands overscale

The Scale Series — Part I: How and why brands overscale

A person starts a business to grow it. The general goal is to earn some revenue, and then some more revenue, and then lots and lots of revenue, while being profitable along the way. The process of getting there is often called scaling the business, with different definitions of what scale is. 

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Loose Threads Podcast: The Fashion Industry Is Not Exactly Broken — with Marc Bain of Quartz

Loose Threads Podcast: The Fashion Industry Is Not Exactly Broken — with Marc Bain of Quartz

On the 9th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, I talk with Marc Bain, the fashion reporter at Quartz, about his path to covering the fashion industry, which included working for a fashion brand in New York; how he found his reporting beats and how the storylines often intersect; the similarities and differences between food and fashion; how the blockchain might impact the fashion industry; the current state of affairs in the fashion industry; how luxury brands will continue to scale globally; how luxury brands are approaching Amazon; how brands are handling sizing online; how Digitally Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs) are approaching retail; and how malls are being revitalized. 

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Nasty Gal: the dangers of ephemeral growth and focus

Nasty Gal: the dangers of ephemeral growth and focus

Nasty Gal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, which allows the company to reorganize its finances but continue operating. The company, started by Sophia Amoruso as an eBay store selling vintage clothing in 2006, quickly grew over the past decade into a middle-market retailer that sold "limited-edition designs that cut through the noise" to west coast women and girls.  

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Buzzfeed Product Labs and the intersection of everything

Buzzfeed Product Labs and the intersection of everything

The most interesting piece of news last week was that Buzzfeed is formally launching a commerce lab. Named Buzzfeed Product Lab, and led by Ben Kaufman, the former founder of Quirky, the goal is to bring the Buzzfeed mentality—and its massive reach—to consumer products.

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Hype vs discovery: lessons from the Spectacles rollout

Hype vs discovery: lessons from the Spectacles rollout

The world is full of hype. Hype starts as a whisper, then turns into a growing thunder, finally transforming into all out hysteria. This chain of events can apply to anything. A new brand, the latest sneaker drop, "Hamilton." The problem, however, is that hype is really boring. It often seems like it would be fun to be a part of, to be one prodding the fire. But again and again, I always come back to the fact that hype is a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode. 

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Loose Threads Podcast: By Hand, Not by Machine — with Tull Price of FEIT

Loose Threads Podcast: By Hand, Not by Machine — with Tull Price of FEIT

On the 8th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, I talk with Tull Price, the founder of FEIT. The episode covers the evolution of Tull's career that led him to start FEIT; why Tull is mostly interested in making the best products from the best materials over making money, bucking many trends that ushered in mass production and globalization; the process for building FEIT products and how it differs from a traditional footwear design process; why FEIT sells mostly direct to customers and the importance of retail stores; how FEIT has built immensely strong relationships with the craftsmen who make its products and why this is crucial for the brand's success; and where the name FEIT comes from.

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From online to offline: cost structures and sunken costs

From online to offline: cost structures and sunken costs

The future potential of a business is closely linked to where it stands in the present. If the future is headed north but the current business is positioned south, it's going to take a lot of work to reorient itself. In the commerce world, the most evident manifestation of this idea is brands—especially online only ones—increasingly opening up retail stores. The fact that brands who were started less than ten years ago on an online-only premise are now popping up in the physical world is a testament to the industry's rapid change.

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Loose Threads Podcast: Building the Future of Clothing and Unlocking Social Mobility — with Abe Burmeister of Outlier

On the seventh episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, I talk with Abe Burmeister, one of the founders of Outlier, a New York label that set out to build the future of clothing. What started as a brand aimed as casual urbanists who used bicycles as their primary method of transportation has morphed into a highly experimental, technical and refined menswear label.

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When replicating your previous success isn't enough

The biggest head-scratcher (that probably should not have been a head-scratcher) last week was that Totokaelo, the well-known Seattle boutique that opened a flagship almost a year ago in New York, had sold to Herschel Supply Co, the company that makes those backpacks that are everywhere and also owns Need Supply Co.

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