E-commerce site Primary offers low-key threads for kids

  Christina Carbonell, left, and Galyn Bernard are the founders of Primary, an e-commerce site that believes parents want a simple and low-cost solution to basic children's clothing.  (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

Christina Carbonell, left, and Galyn Bernard are the founders of Primary, an e-commerce site that believes parents want a simple and low-cost solution to basic children's clothing.(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

NEW YORK — Does the world really need another e-commerce site? With some 200,000 peddling goods in the U.S. alone, according to RJ Metrics, starting an online company that cuts through the noise would seem a task for true fools.

Or true believers like Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell. Friends, fellow mothers and former marketing execs at Diapers.com — which was renamed Quidsi and bought by Amazon in 2011 — the duo recently launched Primary.com, a children's clothing site that shuns fashion in favor of inexpensive staples.

"We don't sell anything over $25, the idea being that what we have are basics, like polos and hoodies and pants, that parents just need to reorder when kids grow older," says Bernard. "What we learned at Diapers.com is that parents love quick and easy. And we feel no one right now sees clothes as replenishment items."

Think of Primary as the Ford Motel T plant of kids duds. While the clothes come in more than just black — there are 20 colors covering 29 styles — the idea is to offer time-crunched parents simple choices at low prices.

"We don't follow fashion trends, so we have fixed design and development costs and a five-year style turnover," says Carbonell. "It all adds up to cost savings."

She pulls a few items off a rack in the company's small brightly colored offices across from the Empire State Building.

"Here's our hoodie, which is $20 compared to $35 at a major competitor, and this reversible sundress is $24, compared to $65," she says. "These are prices that make sense of kids clothes, unless you really have to buy that cashmere sweater."

Launched in March after a year of research and development, most of it in the café of a nearby sports club, Primary is a lean machine with only nine employees.

Fabrics and Indian factories were sourced by a partner company in Portland, Ore., and funding stands at $3.2 million, with the latest round of $2.5 million led by early-stage investors at Homebrew and Harrison Metal.

  Part of Primary's approach to developing a loyal consumer base is simplifying the kids-clothes buying process, from an easy to use website to eye-catching packaging.     (Photo: Primary)

Part of Primary's approach to developing a loyal consumer base is simplifying the kids-clothes buying process, from an easy to use website to eye-catching packaging. (Photo: Primary)

While it's tough to start a new brand from scratch, the incentives to try are powerful.

Global e-commerce sales are projected to continue their annual double-digit growth, racing from about $1.5 trillion today to more than $2 trillion by 2017, according to eMarketer. And the 10% of U.S. sales that currently happen online will hit 30% by 2020, making one wonder about the future of stores.

Raising money wasn't that difficult for these e-commerce veterans, but they did find that some investors didn't get their pitch ("They tended to be younger men who weren't parents," says Bernard) while at least one early interviewer assumed Primary was a vanity project ("We were asked if our husbands funded us, which made us pause," she says).

The founders won't disclose sales to date, but say they're pleased with Primary's progress and note that 25% of customers have already reordered using a feature called My Closet, which keeps track of your go-to items.

The biggest challenge for any start-up, particularly one on a thin budget, is letting consumers know you exist. Bernard and Carbonell say they intend to experiment with social media, targeted direct mail and perhaps consider catalog inserts.

"Much like with Diapers.com, we're offering a solution as opposed to fashion, and we know that that audience is highly targetable and viral," says Bernard. "But the biggest thing we can do is make sure that when you come to our site for the first time, the experience leaves you wanting to return."

Primary is capitalizing on a radical shift in retail. A generation ago, building a new brand took years and required one or more brick-and-mortar stores. Today, tech breakthroughs have not only brought stay-at-home convenience to shopping, but also have made the relationship between brand and consumer more intimate.

Big-data analytics allow retailers to both parse detailed purchasing patterns as well as directly interact with shoppers through emailed promotions and reminders.

What's more, stores are no longer a requirement, as evidenced by the success of companies such as Warby Parker (glasses), Harry's (men's shaving) and Bonobos(men's clothing) — though ironically each of those three brands is slowly opening flagship shops to provide a more hands-on experience with their products.

  Primary's website focuses less on fashion and more on practicality, as consumers are encouraged to stock their My Closet page with staple items they plan to re-order as their children grow.     (Photo: Primary)

Primary's website focuses less on fashion and more on practicality, as consumers are encouraged to stock their My Closet page with staple items they plan to re-order as their children grow. (Photo: Primary)

"The good news for Primary is that the kids' clothing category is a $30 billion a year business — but it's also a crowded and competitive space," says Elizabeth Spaulding, head of Bain & Company's global digital practice.

"You've got your Targets and Walmarts already providing low-cost, one-stop shopping. So the question is, is that mom or dad going to go off those sites over to Primary just to shop for basic clothing?" she says. "They'll see soon enough if their value proposition is big enough, and if they've really found an untapped need."

The company's founders are convinced from both personal experience and informal research that parents will embrace their pitch for low-key threads.

"We feel kids' clothing doesn't have to be complicated," says Carbonell. "They don't have to have logos or sayings or embellishments. Good luck finding a hoodie today without a logo. And people are telling us they find our approach refreshing."

The key to Primary's success will be translating this early goodwill into long-term repeat customers.

"Quidsi was all based on the relationship with the customer, as opposed to soliciting an impulse-based purchase," says Carbonell. "If we stay focused on that, we'll be OK."

 Marco della Cava, USA TODAY3:31 p.m. EDT June 25, 2015


Former Quidsi Execs Launch Primary, A New Site For Kids’ Clothing Essentials

A pair of former Quidsi execs, Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell, longtime employees who stayed with the company through its acquisition by Amazon.com, are today launching a new e-commerce site today called Primary which focuses on the kids’ clothing market. The two, who are both parents themselves as well as savvy marketers, believe there’s still an untapped opportunity in the industry to offer quality kids’ clothing at more affordable price points by selling direct-to-consumer online, as opposed to through brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Carbonell, Primary’s co-founder and COO, was the third employee at Quidsi, while Bernard joined later in 2010. With backgrounds in marketing, the founders helped the company known for its websites like Diapers.com grow from an $11 million dollar business to one that reached $500 million following its purchase by Amazon.

The co-founders left Quidsi last February to focus on their new project, which Bernard explains as something of a personal passion. Shopping for kids’ clothing online today is not ideal, she says, as everything is either too expensive or just harder to shop for than it needed to be.

“We wanted to shop for kids’ clothes as easy as we shop for things like diapers and formula,” says Bernard. “From a personal perspective, it felt like a huge gap.” In addition, she notes that the kids’ clothing market is a $30 billion industry, and parents, on average, spend $1,000 per year per child on clothing purchases.

What makes Primary different from others in this large, and still fragmented, industry is that no one else is really focused on Primary’s mission: to offer evergreen quality essentials at low prices. What the company means by “essentials” is that it will sell the basics only – classic pieces of clothing that serve as the starting point for a kids’ wardrobe.

At launch, the site offers 31 styles for babies up to girls’ and boys’ size 10, including everything that a kid wears from polos to sundresses to hoodies and more. But unlike competitors, Primary’s clothing line-up is only available in solid colors. There are no patterns, embellishments, characters or designs. Instead, the idea is that you can augment the pieces from Primary with more fashion-forward products from elsewhere. Of course, you could also just mix-and-match Primary’s own clothes for simple outfits or even school uniforms.

The founders say that over time, they may choose to add some simple patterns to the line-up like stripes or polka dots, but the focus will remain on classics.

All of Primary’s pieces sell for under $25 – a price point that the company hopes will attract online shoppers looking to stretch their clothing budgets further. For example, a Primary hoodie is $20 while a GapKids hoodie is $35 and one from J.Crew is $45. That said, Primary’s clothes will still use better quality fabrics, like Pima cotton, for example, the founders note.

The price points are kept low thanks to the direct-to-consumer model, the compressed supply chain, and manufacturing that takes place in India.

In addition to its focus on essentials and quality, Primary also aims to differentiate itself through its user experience. The company is working to personalize the site with a number of features that will make it easier for parents to shop. One feature, for instance, is a smart order history that lets you see filter the clothing you bought in the past by boy/girl or size, then, with just a click, shop from that order again, adding everything to your cart a second time. With another click, you can change the size on your new order, allowing you to quickly replace your favorite essentials.

Products will ship in three days’ time anywhere in the continental U.S., and Primary says it’s working to reduce that window still. Orders over $50 will qualify for free shipping, but company will be sharing a promotion online that will waive that fee for the first year while it grows.

The now nine-person team is backed by $3.25 million, which includes $2.5 million in equity from Homebrew and Harrison Metal as well as another $750,000 in venture debt from WTI.

The site is open as of today at Primary.com – and yes, they scored the single-word domain name, too.

by Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa)

via http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/31/former-quidsi-execs-launch-primary-a-new-site-for-kids-clothing-essentials/


The common thread of almost every Fast Company story is a creative person who had a compelling idea and managed to spin it into a successful company or organization that continues to innovate.

In case you missed them the first time around, here are some stories that inspired or fascinated us during 2014. You'll find teenage lingerie entrepreneurs, feminist coders, crossword-puzzle game changers, the engineer shaping the future of wearables, and more.


High-school student Megan Grassell couldn't find cute, age-appropriate bras for her younger sister, so she made her own. Now her company, Yellowberry, is being held up as a model of innovation, design, and feminists united against the sexualization of girls.



Celliant offers new yarn technology


January 12, 2015  Advanced Textiles Source  What's New?

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Hologenix LLC, makers of Celliant polyester infrared yarn technology, now offers two nylon yarns (70D and 40D FDY), available in January 2015. Celliant’s mineral-based yarn creates infrared light that penetrates the wearer’s muscle and tissue to increase circulation, which leads to improved recovery and increased performance.

Celliant yarns with drirelease® technology have created Dry Energy Technology. Celliant breaks apart water molecules and returns heat to the body; drirelease pulls moisture to the surface.

With Portland, Oregon’s design consultants The S Group, Celliant has developed pima cotton through the Cofaco Industries mill in Lima, Peru. Intended for base layers and active applications, the yarn is available in both 50 percent pima cotton/50 percent Celliant and 47 percent pima cotton/47 percent Celliant/6 percent spandex configurations.

Celliant is also developing a Merino wool yarn blend, available in early 2015, that will be both renewable and biodegradable.

Celliant is the proprietary technology of Hologenix, LLC, designers, manufacturers and distributors of bio-responsive fibers and textiles.



Can a Shirt Help Improve Your Posture?

 A Look at the Scientific Evidence on Posture Shirts

A Look at the Scientific Evidence on Posture Shirts

The Ache: While most people know they should avoid slouching, it's hard to train yourself to improve your posture.

The Claim: Specially designed "posture" shirts, with elastic bands that press on certain muscle groups, help keep the body upright, say companies that sell the shirts.

The Verdict: Wearing the shirts can reduce neck, shoulder and back pain and improve sports performance, say some physicians and athletic coaches.

In two recent studies, posture shirts led to better posture among computer users and temporarily boosted pitching speeds in a small group of major and minor league baseball players tested at a training clinic at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The studies are preliminary and more research is needed, scientists say.

Posture shirts use elastic bands to press gently on upper back and shoulder muscles, giving them a "mini-massage" and helping to activate the muscles and prompt you to sit up straighter, says Bill Schultz, president and founder of AlignMed Inc., of Santa Ana, Calif. The shirts, including a lightweight model for $95 and a heavier one for $195, with adjustable straps that help pull the shoulders back firmly, also provide support for the core and upper back, he adds.

"A lot of patients come in with their shoulders forward and their head in the forward position," says William Stetson, a Burbank, Calif., orthopedic surgeon. The shirts, including AlignMed's and $95-to-$105 models from IntelliSkin USA, of Newport Beach, Calif., "are part of the regimen we use" to correct bad habits that can lead to pain and injury, adds Dr. Stetson, who says he has no connection to the companies.

While the shirts may help provide a boost for some, it's also important to correct the underlying issues that may be causing posture problems, such as an imbalance between strong pectoral muscles and weaker back muscles, says Timothy Sell, a physical therapist and associate professor in the department of sports medicine and nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh.

The shirts are becoming popular among professional athletes, particularly in sports that require lifting the arms overhead, such as pitching and golfing. Proper posture in those sports is critical to avoid injury and fatigue, says Roger Fredericks, a San Diego-based professional golf instructor who has begun recommending the shirts to his students.

In the USC pilot study of six professional baseball players, wearing AlignMed's shirt increased pitching speeds during the first two of three simulated innings compared with the same pitchers wearing a relaxed-fitting T-shirt, according to C. Thomas Vangsness, a professor at USC's Keck School of Medicine who presented the research last year at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon's annual meeting in Chicago. The difference in pitching speeds wasn't statistically significant over the entire three-inning test but there was a significant improvement in blood flow to the pitching arm as measured by ultrasound scans, says Dr. Vangsness. He says he has a small shareholder stake in AlignMed, which partially funded the study.

In an unpublished monthlong study of 95 computer users who wore the AlignMed posture shirt at a Colorado municipal utility, posture improved and users reported reduced fatigue. The study didn't have a control group that didn't use the shirts. AlignMed provided shirts, but not funding, for the study.



July 21, 2014 6:13 p.m. ET


Rhone Apparel Makes Activewear Just for Men

 High-quality, guys-only brand Rhone Apparel wants men to stop buying their wives' yoga brand

High-quality, guys-only brand Rhone Apparel wants men to stop buying their wives' yoga brand

1. Flat-lock stitching avoids chafing; 2. Woven with antimicrobial fabric that cuts down on odors; 3. A mix of zippered and open pockets; 4. Wide soft waist bands for comfort. At right: Tyger Long Sleeve Tee, $68, and Mako Short, $62, rhoneapparel.com F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas (2)

WHILE THE WOMEN'S activewear scene is awash in premium gear, men's workout clothes trail by several laps. "A guy can either be a billboard for a mass brand or shop from a niche, high-end brand that isn't really for working out," said Kyle McClure, who, as both a former retail entrepreneur and NCAA lacrosse player, knows whereof he speaks.

It's this dilemma that prompted Mr. McClure, 34, his friend and avid athlete Nate Checketts, 31, and two other zealously sporty pals (they're less public since they still have day jobs) to cook up Rhone Apparel, a line of men's activewear that launched quietly last winter. Sales of Rhone's nine basic pieces—two pants, two shorts and five tops—have already outperformed projections; and the company's funding has now reached $1.2 million, which will help it roughly double its offerings over the next year.

  Rhone Apparel founders Kyle McClure, left, and Nate Checketts   Weston Wells for The Wall Street Journal

Rhone Apparel founders Kyle McClure, left, and Nate Checketts Weston Wells for The Wall Street Journal

"We couldn't find the quality we were looking for or a customer experience that was about championing masculinity," continued Mr. McClure. In other words,Lululemon LULU -2.12% may offer quality and style, but the name still sounds like Strawberry Shortcake's BFF. Still, Rhone, named for the European river and valley, took a page or two from that company's playbook. Each piece has an inspirational quote printed inside, e.g., "Man is not made for defeat." Style names come from masculine icons, like the Durden T-shirt after "Fight Club" character Tyler Durden.

Rhone's pieces are also made from remarkably soft, lightweight technical fabrics. Silver—known for its antimicrobial properties—is incorporated into the thread. Then there are thoughtful details like wide, comfortable waistbands, and a combination of open and zippered pockets. The fit is a flattering happy medium between the two familiar extremes of XXL and compression.

"So much attention is paid to the women's market," said Mr. McClure, "but customers are savvy now, they understand quality. We want to level the playing field."



July 18, 2014 11:58 a.m. ET


This Hoodie Is So Insanely Popular You Have To Wait Months To Get It

The insane popularity of a single sweatshirt has forced its maker to expand into four new factories within the last year just to meet the soaring demand.


The zip-up hoodie, made by San Francisco startup American Giant, costs $89. It had been on the market for 10 months when a December 2012 Slate article declared it "the greatest hoodie ever made" and suddenly sales exploded.

The pace of growth was so rapid that backorder waits grew to as long as four months. But people continued placing orders regardless of the wait. 

At the time, American Giant had only one factory in Brisbane, Calif. The company has since expanded into a factory in Los Angeles and three more in rural North Carolina, just outside Raleigh. 

"We've been chasing demand the entire year," American Giant CEO Bayard Winthrop said in an interview with Business Insider. "In September, we were finally back in stock — and then the rate of buying went up by four times."

With its expansion into new factories, the company has begun selling t-shirts, sweatpants and a women's line. In the meantime, demand for the sweatshirts hasn't slowed. The hoodie is currently sold out of most sizes and colors.

“We are absolutely throttled down on manufacturing,” Winthrop said. “We are maxing out all of our capacity at all of our factories. As much as they can give us, we are taking.”

So what's so great about this hoodie, anyway?

For starters, it appears to weigh more than two pounds. The fabric, which is 100% cotton, feels about three times thicker than most sweatshirts. And ribbed paneling along the shoulders and sides help create a tailored look, eliminating the boxy silhouette of most hoodies. Bayard said he spent about eight months designing it with the help of former Apple engineer Philipe Manoux and world-renowned pattern designer Steve Mootoo.

Customers appear to love the quality and fit, calling it “shockingly well made” and “absolutely fantastic” in dozens of reviews on American Giant’s website.

“This sweatshirt is seriously worth the wait, and awesome for the price, too. I'm considering ordering more to stock up for the rest of my life, but I'm not sure this one is ever going to wear out,” one reviewer wrote.

Another said: “The hype around this hoodie seems absurd. But once you try it on, the quality really does take you by surprise. It's unlike any hoodie —or any other piece of clothing — I've ever owned. A must-have.”

An equal — if not even bigger — draw to American Giant’s apparel over the fit and quality is that it’s all made in the U.S.

The company advertises that it’s “bringing back American manufacturing” and pledges to never outsource jobs overseas. It can afford the higher labor costs in the U.S. because it is a direct-to-consumer business and therefore avoids expensive overhead associated with brick-and-mortar stores.

To keep costs down, Winthrop said he doesn’t plan to open any pop-up shops, like many e-retailers have done. He also hasn’t made any investments in major marketing campaigns. He said the sweatshirts have all been selling by word-of-mouth. The company offers $15 for referrals to help that process.

“One of the great unspoken, dirty secrets about the apparel industry is that brands for the last 40 years have been investing a tiny amount in the product to sustain huge marketing and huge distribution costs,” Winthrop said. “In American Giant’s case, we do almost the exact opposite of that.”

Looking ahead, Winthrop said he plans on sticking to the basics: t-shirts, jackets, hoodies and sweatpants.

“When we think about next year, just being in stock — not expanding the product mix — but just being in stock will be a huge lever up for us,” he said.

Original Post from Business Insider found here:


Hayley Peterson

Dec. 5, 2013, 11:06 AM


Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/this-hoodie...

Skirts Sports Jill Bra Best Rated by Runner's World.com

  Skirt Sports Jill Bra

Skirt Sports Jill Bra

Best Sports Bras for Runners

This year's crop of sports bras offers more depth and range than ever before.


Dimity McDowell


August 19, 2013

Filled with features and popping with bold colors, this year's crop of sports bras offers more depth and range than ever before. Adjustability is now the rule, not the exception (goodbye, plain old T-backs), and design elements like padding, mesh inserts, and hidden structure are ubiquitous. We recruited 55 women, with band sizes from 32 to 42 and cup sizes from A to FF, to test 41 new models on roads and trails. Here are the bras they liked best.

BEST RATED: Skirt Sports Jill Bra

Combines style and support with plenty of adjustability.

Padding prevents, uh, unwanted attention. "I am not usually a fan of bra padding," says a 36DD, "but this is the perfect amount."

Features four options for bottom band width, instead of the typical three.

"A little wrangling to get on and off," says another tester of the racerback, "but well worth it for the support."

Cushioned, front-adjustable straps prevent shoulder dig.

Mesh on the inner lining stabilizes and helps wick moisture.

Less Ab, More Flab

MW NYT.jpg

Five middle-aged men were seated in a clinical gray conference room to discuss the latest advertising campaign for 2(x)ist, an underwear label famous for plastering aggressive images of hyper-ripped, nearly naked men on bus shelters and phone kiosks just about everywhere.

Among them were Joey Harary, the president of the Morét Group, a company that acquired 2(x)ist in 1995 and is to skivvies what LVMH is to couture; the designer Jason Scarlatti; two marketing executives; and James LaForce, whose fashion public relations firm has been hired to take the label in a direction that is “more aloof” and “not so intimidating.”

A video playing in the background showed behind-the-scenes moments from a recent photo shoot, where a lithe young man, Lasse Hansen, described his journey from serving in the Danish Navy to landing a big-time modeling career in New York City.

“I like the quiet life,” he said. He wears a robe in most of the scenes, his modesty intact.

“We describe it this way,” said Mr. Scarlatti, a winsome, precisely scruffy designer who also works part-time as a comedian. “We are going for something a little more statuesque, and a little less steroid-y.”

Mr. LaForce interjected, “We are giving the models an identity, so they are not just a piece of meat.”

Vic Drabicky, the founder of January Digital, who is consulting on the company’s online business, got to the point: “We are taking the focus off the crotch shots.”

It should be emphasized, right up front, that 2(x)ist is a company that has long held a strict “no stuffing” policy when it comes to advertisements. Only last October, the company staged a runway show of hot guys in their underwear, hosted and ogled by Jenny McCarthy.

Sex sells, you know, and nowhere is this truer than in the booming business of briefs, where the imagery has followed an ever-more-provocative and chiseled trajectory since Marky Mark dropped trou for Calvin Klein in 1992. Things have become so raunchy now that the marketing for a sizable niche of underwear brands bears a marked resemblance to gay pornography (see, or please don’t if you are prudish, labels like Andrew Christian, Papi, Baskit, Rufskin and, for a very particular man, Nasty Pig).

At 2(x)ist, and elsewhere in the underwear market, there was a growing sentiment that the models were getting to be, well, too sexy, at least to be relatable to a new breed of fashion customer: the average heterosexual man.

Thus, the change in campaign direction, which shows models (still attractive, shirtless and depilated, mind you) in lifestyle situations like exercising on a beach, often turned slightly away from the camera. The company is also creating a series of online videos that show the products in a more artistic light, including the one with Mr. Hansen, and another using dancers from the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

The focus here, it should be noted, is more on the packaging than the package. And that is also the message coming from some new underwear brands, like MeUndies and Mack Weldon, that are hiring models of less conventional beauty. Reacting to what is perceived to be a case of abs fatigue among male shoppers, these companies are resisting the notion that a model has to look like Matthew Terry, the one from the Calvin Klein Super Bowl commercial, to move products off the shelves.

Flint and Tinder, another new collection taking an artisanal approach, rarely uses models in its marketing, which is more focused on the fact that the underwear is American made. “You don’t need to see a picture of a half-naked man to get a feeling of how a product is going to work for you,” said Jake Bronstein, its founder.

Who’d have guessed that a lot of men are uncomfortable with underwear shopping these days? “They don’t want to see only those plucked-chicken models,” said Michael Kleinmann, the editor of the blog The Underwear Expert. “They want models who are somewhat aspirational, and they want to look like the guy in the pictures, but every model can’t be blond, hairless and perfect.” The most common feedback Mr. Kleinmann has heard from readers recently is that they want to see more diversity, including guys with tattoos and guys over the age of 40.

WHETHER UNDERWEAR models are generally getting less sexy, though, depends on your definition of sexy.

“I think a lot of these brands have segregated themselves a bit, and the models they pick are indicative of their targeted demographic,” said Gregory Sovell, the creative director of the nearly decade-old label C-IN2, and before that the founder of 2(x)ist.

“At one end is a sex party that is basically taken off a porn set out of the Valley,” Mr. Sovell said, looking at the spectrum from Andrew Christian to Mack Weldon, “and at the other end, it has a kind of kookiness to it.” C-IN2 falls somewhere between those extremes, with racier campaigns using well-defined models and athletes, though always in settings where it would be believable to find a guy wearing only underwear (locker rooms or lounging in an apartment). “Why someone would be standing on a rock in front of the ocean in their underwear, I don’t understand,” Mr. Sovell said.

Underwear was the fastest-growing category of men’s wear in 2012, up 13 percent to $2.4 billion, according to NPD Group figures released last month. While economic pundits are quick to theorize that this rise, like rising hemlines or lipstick sales, is indicative of a recovery, it is more likely a result of strong consumer demand for new fashion styles, the neon-bright colors and the trimmer cuts designed to go with “slim fit” suits and dress shirts. The 2(x)ist executives can tell from online sales that the top-selling color in South Dakota, for example, is purple. These styles are especially popular with younger shoppers, and maybe those women who still shop for their men, but they are confounding to a large portion of the male population who remembers when buying underwear was easy.

Walk into an underwear department today and you will encounter black 2(x)ist briefs with fuchsia piping from its “vivid range,” or white ones with racing stripes, or red Diesel trunks with a dragon painted on one cheek, or Calvin Klein’s Pro Stretch Reflex boxer briefs in gunmetal gray or Steel Micro Hip briefs on which the logo waistband is wider than the actual brief. There are few options that could truly be called basics.

“Underwear is a category that has frustrated me for years,” said Brian Berger, an expat from the world of digital who started Mack Weldon last August, with a direct-to-retail business model similar to that of the online eyewear company Warby Parker. His site offers three styles of underwear, four T-shirts and two sock styles (solid or stripes), and is already generating sales in the low six figures each month. The basic brief costs $19.50.

The appeal of Mack Weldon, a fictitious name that was inspired by the early 1900s sleepwear label Weldon, is that the designs are elegant in their simplicity and functionality, with mesh panels in the areas where guys sweat most, and the colors, like lichen green and a light gray called “cloud burst,” are not too crazy. Mike Sharits, the model who wears them in clever animations on the site, may be fatless, but he is just goofy enough, rubbing his belly or tripping out of a pair of trousers, to be relatable. He even has a dusting of chest hair, and sometimes wears glasses.

“It is a departure from the airbrushed guys and the 12-pack abs,” Mr. Berger said. “It wasn’t a Michelangelo kind of look.”

NOR WOULD YOU SAY that of the guy on the site of MeUndies, an average, almost beefy man seen in a video flossing his teeth while debating with his much more attractive mate about sleeping with her girlfriends, if she were to die. The site is about as unsexy as it gets, with hairy-chested models, some good looking and some who would not get past security at Calvin Klein.

“We’re not hiring models from big agencies,” said Jonathan Shokrian, a founder of the company, which was started in Culver City, Calif., in 2011. “We want to find people who we feel are good looking and who emphasize the image of the everyday guy.”

MeUndies products are quirky, with $16 briefs in a variety of unconventional colors, in chevron patterns or houndstooth.

“We’re never going to be Calvin Klein,” Mr. Shokrian said. “This is like American Apparel, but more tasteful.”

Of course, you can’t fault Calvin Klein for making the business of underwear so sexy. In fact, it is that company’s example of turning a basic into a fashion category that has attracted so many new competitors to the realm. Mr. Kleinmann, the Underwear Expert, estimated that there are more than 300 companies in the market, including many small labels that have started within the last year. Each has its own personality, he said, so buck up, guys, there’s something for everyone.

“The bottom line,” Mr. Kleinmann said, “is that you just have a lot more options.”

[A version of this article by Eric Wilson appeared in print on May 22, 2013, on page E1 of the New York Times with the headline: Less Ab, More Flab]

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/fashion/...

Clothing Companies Trying to Find More Direct Paths to Customers

AG NYTimes Photo.jpg

When Joanne and Tim Medvitz founded an outdoor clothing company, Pop Outerwear, in San Francisco in 2009, they were sure of one thing. They were going to sell their clothing directly to consumers, whether online, through their own store or through consumer ski and snowboard shows.

“Companies like BonobosWarby Parker and Lululemon were on their meteoric rise, selling direct to consumers,” said Ms. Medvitz, 31. “In a naïve way, we thought, ‘If they can do it, we can do it, too.’ ”

While exact numbers are hard to come by, many new apparel brands have decided to forgo the traditional wholesale route of selling through multibrand boutiques and department stores. “There is no doubt that there is a trend toward direct selling,” said James Dion, founder of Dionco, a Chicago retail consultancy. “And it’s been aided by the Internet, which has given that smaller brand the ability to go direct to the consumer.”

As with most trends, however, direct selling is not for everyone. For one thing, getting your name out there — on the street or on the Web — is hard. Faced with this reality, three years after opening for business, the Medvitzes started to sell through more traditional channels.

“We have been humbled by our experience,” Ms. Medvitz said. “Growth in consumer awareness is slow, and that’s exactly what the wholesale channel offers: scaled exposure at a faster pace.”

It is easy to see why a new apparel brand might want to avoid selling to department stores and boutiques. “The shirt you bought for $70 in Nordstrom was made for $7 or $8. The rest of the money is chewed up in margin and markup that is of no benefit to you,” said Bayard Winthrop, who introduced the American Giant sweatshirt brand as a Web-only company early in 2012. “We thought if you could address that $60, you could deliver a better quality product with a better customer-service platform.”

Those who sell to department store chains not only have to accept low margins, they also often find the rules complicated and onerous. The chains may demand money for advertising, an unlimited right to return orders and the right to pay suppliers less when merchandise is marked down. In addition, the chains have suffered a generation-long decline in market share — from as much as 10 percent of the retail market in the 1980s to 2.4 percent in 2010, said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a market research firm based in New Canaan, Conn.

“What the department stores used to be able to deliver was credibility to your brand,” Mr. Dion said. “But what a lot of these new brands have discovered is that the price that they have to pay is draconian. It’s become almost unprofitable to pursue department store distribution.”

When Brian Guttman founded a men’s clothing brand, Jeremy Argyle, in 2009, he steered clear of department stores. “I saw the challenges of being at the mercy of the large department stores,” said Mr. Guttman, 33, whose family spent more than 60 years supplying department stores with private label clothing through a company based in Montreal, Paris Star. Jeremy Argyle now operates two stores in New York. While it sells wholesale to a handful of boutiques, 70 percent of its $5 million in 2012 sales came through its own stores and Web site.

Mr. Guttman said he was most put off by the inability to control his brand once it hit the department store floor.

“I hate seeing stuff on sale,” he said. “It cheapens the brand so quickly. And when I walk into a department store, everything is on sale. And the people selling your product don’t understand the product. In a Jeremy Argyle store, my sales team can talk about the details, the fit, the fabric.”

By contrast, when Christina Di Pierro helped found Adea, a brand of Italian-made women’s camisoles and layering tops, she started by selling through boutiques and department stores, including Bloomingdale’s. But in 2008, she decided to concentrate on selling directly through the company’s own Web site, MyAdea.com. “We were doing quite a bit of volume wholesale,” she said. “However, the profit margins were very slim. So much of our expenditures went to trade shows and showroom fees and rep commissions.”

Leaving wholesale behind was not easy. Annual revenue, which was about $1 million, plunged to $350,000 in 2009 before rebounding to $500,000 in 2012. And yet, gross margins doubled, said Ms. Di Pierro, 36, to 50 to 60 percent. “That has allowed us to maintain pricing for our customers,” she said, “and it allows us to do more advertising and marketing.”

As the San Francisco brand Pop Outerwear learned, the big issue in trying to sell directly to customers is whether you can reach enough of them.

“The reach you get from opening one or two stores is nothing like the reach of a Macy’s,” said Jack W. Plunkett, chief executive of Plunkett Research, a Houston market research company. “I can’t imagine Coach being the huge brand it is without the marketing boost of all the stores that have sold it through the years.”

And the risks of direct selling can be deceptively large. “If you’re in a top 20 metro market in the U.S., the cost of opening a store can be horrendous,” Mr. Plunkett said. “I have seen my own good friends go bankrupt when they had to close a store and they were sued for the remaining lease.”

Before opening a Pop Outerwear company store, Ms. Medvitz and her husband turned for advice to a friend who had established a successful T-shirt shop. For the store to work, he told them, customers would need to see a variety of products for sale. “After they adhere themselves to a brand,” she said, “they want to keep coming back and see new stuff.”

Another concern, said Mr. Winthrop of American Giant, is whether a brand can inspire passion. “The thing that is going to chew up a lot of pure-play e-commerce brands,” he said, “is if they can’t figure out a way to ignite the irrational relationship with customers, to get customers saying, ‘This brand stands for something I want to get behind.’ ”

Mr. Winthrop marketed his company’s sweatshirts as high quality and made in America. The challenge was to sell the quality to consumers who could not touch the garments. But good word of mouth helped, and then some positive reviews led to American Giant selling out its inventory in December. In fact, said Mr. Winthrop, 42, the company’s first-year’s sales were five times his projections.

The answer for many brands may be to try a bit of everything and see what works. After concluding that the six products they had developed were not enough to stock a store, the Medvitzes decided to go wholesale. They started selling to four boutiques in San Francisco in 2012, and they plan to add others in the fall. During 2012, about 10 percent of their $250,000 in revenue came from wholesale; Ms. Medvitz says she is aiming to double that this year.

While Ms. Medvitz said she loses 10 to 20 percentage points of her margin when she sells wholesale, she thinks she makes it up in other ways. Some of her customer acquisition costs — Google AdWords and the like — shift to the boutiques, and when the boutiques do not have a certain style or product, the customers often buy from the Pop Outerwear Web site.

“To be honest,” she said with a laugh. “I bet it just evens out.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 7, 2013, on page B6 of the New York edition with the headline: Clothing Companies Trying to Find More Direct Paths to Customers.

Brand man's gift for garb

Robin J. Moody

Business Journal staff writer

Gary Peck spent 18 years shaping product lines and boosting apparel profits as an executive at Nike Inc. and Adidas America Inc.

These days, Peck concentrates his substantial energy and expertise on a smaller family of companies, helping them design, develop and manufacture new apparel products and revamp existing lines through his Portland-based consultancy, The S-Group Inc.

Peck's Midas touch has shone at his own enterprise, which will surpass $50 million in revenue this year, thanks to 30 percent annual sales growth it realized during each of the past five years. It employs 50 in offices in Portland, Peru, China and Malaysia.

He started the company because "after 20 years in the business, I saw that what was missing was the ability to take a brand's DNA and make it visible" in all its products.

Peck's story is a powerful illustration of how Portland's homegrown talent pool is shaping the city into the epicenter of the athletic apparel, footwear and equipment industry. Seven-year-old S-Group works with some of the nation's hottest athletic apparel brands, including Lululemon, Life is Good, Lucy Activewear, New Balance and Reef. Services include design, development, production and marketing.

People who have worked with Peck credit his company's success to his business acumen and sense of design -- a rare combination in the apparel world -- plus expansive industry experience.

"He has encyclopedic knowledge of what's happening in the business," said Steve Wynne, who served as chief executive of Adidas America Inc. from 1995 to 2000. "He can also tell you about every fiber in the marketplace."

At S-Group, Peck uses relationships he has built with overseas manufacturers, germinated during years spent building Asian manufacturing networks for Nike and Adidas.

The consultancy was instrumental in helping the homegrown women's apparel retailer Lucy Activewear launch its own branded line of apparel. Peck helped connect Lucy to overseas factories and helped manage production and quality, said former Lucy CEO Mike Edwards.

Hiring the S-Group freed up Lucy's design group for innovation, Edwards added, instead of forcing them to wrestle with the logistics of production.

"There's a cost to do business with the S-Group ... but when your job is to get product to market quickly, it's great to have a resource like that," Edwards said. "Gary brings a lot of credibility to the table."

Although S-Group targets mid- to large-sized companies, Peck and his team recognize Portland is a hotbed for apparel entrepreneurs, and they have selectively chosen to support small but promising local businesses.

Peck serves on the board for the sustainable apparel and accessory company Sameunderneath, for example, and the S-Group works with Airtime Gear, a Beaverton company that makes apparel for emergency professionals.

The group typically seeks an equity stake for its services when it works with smaller companies.

The S-Group recently moved, and now shares space in Old Town with the Center of Excellence, a business accelerator for startups in the apparel, footwear and equipment space.

The two enterprises are not connected, but The S-Group's new digs will undoubtedly give company leaders a "first look" at many of the area's nascent apparel startups.

Born in Capetown, South Africa, Peck studied in the U.S. and earned his bachelor's of textile engineering degree at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. He later attended the University of Oregon to get his master's in business administration. Those who have known Peck throughout his life describe him as upbeat, candid and optimistic.

"He's a ball of energy," said apparel analyst Jennifer Black, who has known Peck for 20 years. "We are very lucky to have him here in Portland, where there's so much going on in the industry."

While Portland's apparel industry -- and The S-Group -- are experiencing their Halcyon Days, the big picture on apparel is gloomier.

"Right now is the toughest time I've seen our industry go though, from the perspective of costs," Peck said.

Energy and labor costs are rising rapidly, he pointed out, and the average consumer is paying up to $100 more a month for gas and electric, clamping down on discretionary purchases.

"The U.S. dollar is in horrible shape compared to other currencies," he said.

rmoody@bizjournals.com | 503-219-3438