By Elie Robinson
As a frustrated 5’7” male shopper for too many years, I had the idea to make high-quality, properly fitting, and competitively priced clothing for men who are under 5’10”.
After a day at the mall trying on hundreds of shirts from 15 different stores, I once again walked out empty-handed. All of the shirts I tried on had sleeves that were too long, the overall shirt length was way too long, and the neck was way too large. One consistency was the overall billowy effect of all the shirts feeling more like a drape than a shirt made for me.
When I got home, I started my research. I quickly learned why I was having such a tough time in this seemingly simple desire to find clothes that fit me properly. The average male height in the U.S. is 5’10”. The mass manufacturers are cutting clothing around this average male height to hit the broadest audience possible. (I don’t blame them.)
I started asking others who are under 5’10” if they were experiencing the same frustration. The answer was absolutely, yes. Their “solutions” were what got me motivated to start this company. They were either (1) wearing clothes that don’t fit them properly, (2) spending a ton on custom clothing, or (3) buying off the rack and paying for a tailor to correct the ill-fitting clothes.
I knew I had identified a potential market, but there was still a ton to learn. I was encouraged to learn that there are 32 million men in the U.S. who are 5’4”–5’8,” a large enough audience for me to justify getting into this space. I have run and operated numerous e-commerce companies but did not know the first thing about fabrics, clothing manufacturing, sizing, and so much more.
This past summer I was introduced to an expert in men’s shirt manufacturing. When I told him my dream of creating a men’s fashion brand for men who are under 5’10”, he immediately jumped on the opportunity and became my first adviser in getting this business going.
My team immediately set out to find the perfect manufacturer who could blend working with an outside-the-box idea and had a history of making top-quality men’s clothing. The process needed to be cost-efficient so we wouldn’t have to price our products like custom clothing.
Manufacturing. After months of research and phone conversations, I flew out to Honduras in November 2017 to tour the facility of and meet with a fantastic, likeminded manufacturer who was so in line with our mission and ethics that we immediately joined the family.
Sizing. The next good fortune was my introduction to Catherine Iger who had spent the past couple of years starting a company called Fittery with her partner Greg Vilines. Fittery was founded to help men find the perfect fit in clothing from all of the mass manufacturers based on their dimensions. What they had compiled was a substantial database of measurements of males in the United States. Catherine was enthusiastic about our concept, and she immediately offered to jump on board in helping to create new sizing for our target market. We took this a step further when we decided to purchase Fittery’s database at the end of December 2017 to perfect sizing for our demographic based on analytics and data science.
Data Science. Our partnership with Ann Morhaim, from annalyze101, has helped us in creating unique and perfected sizing for males under 5’10” using the Fittery database.
Fabrics. On our trip to Honduras, we were pleasantly surprised at their vast collection of Italian fabrics. We selected top-quality fabrics with a mix of prints to create our first collection.
Construction. We worked with our factory through all details of stitching, buttonhole placements, collar heights, cuff lengths, and hundreds of additional components to construct an awesome shirt.
Samples. When developing a new product, it is expected to have many versions made and iterated until reaching the final product. We did that (and banged our heads against the wall many times along the way).
Everything Else. This is where I tap into resources from my e-commerce history. Greg Grinman, the e-commerce Superman, has been by my side for all of the above along with his mastery of website building, marketing, branding, and social-media expertise. We are also fortunate to have David Sasson, chief operating officer at Bonobos, previously COO of Derek Lam and vice president at Kenneth Cole, as a board adviser and providing his knowledge and expertise in what it takes to build a successful fashion brand.
Kickstarter. We ran our Kickstarter campaign as a proof of concept which started on 5/9 (5’9”) 2018. We were thrilled to sell over $15,000 of shirts in just 21 days, and at that point, we had confirmation that we were onto something.
Investment Round. After our successful Kickstarter campaign we caught the eye of investors and were able to secure a $750,000 investment from Shevet G led by Baruch (5’3”) and Jonathan (5’2”) Glaubach in August 2018.
Brick & Mortar. With our investment in place and our website already generating traffic and orders, we decided to open our first store in Cedarhurst. The physical location would serve as our office, fulfillment for our online business, and also give us the opportunity to interact with customers. We set up our store in a comfortable 1,200-sq.-ft. space in the heart of Cedarhurst and have been thrilled with the great reception we’ve received (and the sales don’t hurt). The store has allowed customers to come in and get fitted into our unique sizes and fits.
Product Development. At the Kickstarter stage we launched with 11 button-down shirts. We have since expanded to 37 styles of button-down shirts ranging from dress, dress-casual, and casual, along with shorter length and width ties. In February 2019, we launched our first skinny-fit dress jeans with inseams ranging from 26”–31”. The jeans are flying off the racks and are already sold out in many sizes. We are anxiously awaiting our next arrivals of t-shirts, polos, long-sleeve t-shirts, and slim-fit jeans in April/May 2019. We are currently developing eight new products for release in fall 2019.