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Startups plunge into men’s e-retail

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Kevin Lavelle is the founder and CEO of Mizzen and Main, a Dallas-based e-commerce retailer. (David Woo/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

Kevin Lavelle is the founder and CEO of Mizzen and Main, a Dallas-based e-commerce retailer. (David Woo/Dallas Morning News/MCT)

Neiman Marcus. Fossil. J.C. Penney.

North Texas has a rich history of retail and fashion businesses.

Now a new generation of entrepreneurs is building e-commerce and fashion technology startups in Dallas.

“In Texas, I think Dallas is the biggest hub of e-commerce,” said Kevin Strawbridge, founder and managing partner of Square L Group, an e-commerce consulting firm in Frisco, Texas. “A lot of people talk about Austin having an e-commerce play. But Dallas has true merchants and retailer type of people.”

These entrepreneurs are spending far less, often bootstrapping their startups and using creative strategies to build brand awareness and log sales.

These three Dallas startups are making a name for themselves by combining fashion and technology – and proving that having fun is essential.

Foot Cardigan provides a subscription-based sock-of-the-month club. Mizzen and Main sells moisture-wicking, wrinkle-free “performance” dress shirts for men. Need Lifestyle is a monthly e-commerce men’s shop that blends editorial content with carefully selected items.

FOOT CARDIGAN: Leave those boring black dress socks behind.

career01_jd_27apr_shirtsWhen you sign up for Foot Cardigan’s socks subscription service, expect to get some whimsical and fun designs like pink elephants, flamingos and skulls.

“Surprise and delight. That’s a huge part of our brand,” said Tom Browning, Foot Cardigan’s chief operations and financial officer.

Before the startup launched its e-commerce shop, the founders bought Google ads and after a 45-day experiment, the Foot Cardigan website had signed up 200 people.

Foot Cardigan launched in June 2012, becoming one of the first sock-of-the-month businesses in the U.S. For $9 a month plus $2 in shipping, customers receive a pair of novelty socks.

MIZZEN AND MAIN: Under Armour virtually created the performance-sports apparel category in the past decade.

Now upstart Mizzen and Main is trying to do what Under Armour did but with men’s dress shirts. The brand’s performance-based shirts have similar moisture-wicking and wrinkle-free properties.

While brands such as J.Crew, Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers carry no-iron dress shirts, Mizzen and Main co-founder and CEO Kevin Lavelle says the company’s shirts incorporate better fabric and technology that also provide a comfortable and trim fit.

“My goal was organic appearance and superior feel,” said Lavelle, a Southern Methodist University graduate.

Since launching in July 2012, Mizzen and Main has sold more than 5,000 shirts.

NEED LIFESTYLE: It’s no secret that most men don’t enjoy shopping.

Entrepreneur Matt Alexander aims to make this task less intimidating through an online curated shopping site that sells handpicked items such as shirts, shoes and men’s accessories.

Need, which launched in November, mixes a personal stylist with a fashion magazine. And unlike flash sale sites, the brand sells products at retail prices, buys a limited quantity and assembles an editorial spread to tell a story.

In December, Need sold out within 30 minutes of launching the collection and had to restock twice.

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