'Alexa, Show Me Wedding Suits' -- How Knot Standard Is Redefining Men's Retail - Forbes
Posted: 12 Jul 2019 09:20 AM PDT
In a movement that actually predated much of the current menswear drive, men of centuries past with taste, discrimination and style have managed to make their voices heard. There have been many times in history when the most significant changes were made to menswear. The men of the middle ages, for example, had radical vestimentary transition for sure. Twelfth-century knights made change because they required quilted clothing that was worn under their armor for obvious reasons! Although, today we associate technology as being the catalyst for change in menswear, the truth is that occasionally in the past, men's fashions were generating more excitement and attracting more press coverage than woman's fashions during several periods on history's timeline. Moving forward to the time when Great Britain had skidded into a back seat as a world power, Carnaby Street made her a tour-de-force to be reckoned with in the weighty world of international fashion. In fact, at the beginning of the sixties, men's fashion could be more comfortably contained in the "golden triangle" London, Paris and Rome.
At present, a shift has occurred regarding the management of dress and body. Replacing the world of retail chivalry, between typical brick and mortar retail and e-commerce. In the course of recent years however, terrific new retail talents have surfaced producing forward-thinking strategies of unexpectedly modified retail experiences. When it comes to an artistic endeavor of any kind, the soil of the USA has always been fertile ground- and fashion is no exception. Nor is the business of men's fashion.
I don't think it was quite as sudden as it may have seemed to those of you who were still encased in your gray flannel natural shoulder suits. Let's face it, those of us who are in the fashion field are naturally, aware of trends before they become visible to the naked eye- which is one reason why we're in the fashion business to begin with. But, all the new ideas, which have resulted from all the new talents, were, I think, a definite reflection of the fact that there is widespread if unrecognized – dissatisfaction with the status quo in men's retail outlets. In fact, many men didn't realize it until they were faced with these new ideas, these new approaches to dress and the multiplicity of options that were suddenly open to them though advancements in technology. And that of course, it's the biggest of all the plusses that have emerged from the Retail Revolution: the enormous variety of choice that today's man has when it comes to shopping for clothes and how technology is bringing the consumer back into the retail store or showroom.
As this is written, there is a great deal of talk about a systemic shift in how we dress for work. Forthright companies seeking to take the right course of action are already matching much of the talk. I am happy to report, what's more that there are strong indications where I see consumers using their time usefully. Knot Standard is the premier, customer-driven, direct-to-consumer luxury brand reinventing the custom menswear experience. Founded in 2012 by John Ballay and Matt Mueller in New York City, Knot Standard represents the future of men's clothing, delivering superior experience through expert stylists, innovative technology and premium fabrics. Knot Standard is launched the Style Wall– a new visual technology that's used by customers and stylists to enhance the custom garment in-store experience – gives Knot Standard the ability to completely personalize an entire showroom to suit individual client appointments. It's the first-of-its-kind: a voice-activated, life-sized, digital design tool, rolling out across Knot Standard's ten U.S. showrooms this year. In fact, The Style Wall will roll out across Knot Standard's ten showrooms in 2019 in New York, Bloomingdales New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Austin, Dallas, Houston and Atlanta.
In short, tailoring methods for menswear in the U.S. have become antiquated, and Knot Standard is embarking on a mission to change that, understanding that technology ensures consistency and is the key to customer satisfaction. With more than 7,000 customizable details, each Knot Standard product is unique to the customer's personal style, aesthetic and comfort. Top fabrics and prints include technological infused fabrics from Dormeuil, bringing a modest stretch to active premium suiting. Loro Piana provides incredible cashmere for all four seasons, and the brand provides a line of Italian shirting with its own proprietary features and benefits redefining retail as we knew it. Unlike most traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, the brand's relationships with their customers begin before they have entered a showroom, giving the brand the advantage of data to inform each shopping trip. When clients arrive for appointments, the Style Wall will display content that is tailored to that particular appointment. For example, if a customer requests to view tuxedos when scheduling an appointment, the system will show photos and videos of the brand's formalwear attire upon the customer's arrival. This is seriously an answer to prayer. As you may be well aware, I often report on technological advancements in men's fashion but I have never seen the likes of something like this in full swing. I can only imagine how it will answer the questions of male consumers at the speed of light. Verily, to our surprise, a style revolution is upon us.
For new clients, Knot Standard's Style Wall serves as a source of inspiration, displaying content for customers to see the range of garments available and helping them design their first order with step-by-step customizations of each garment. For repeat clients, the Style Wall brings clients' complete "Style DNA" – their order history, customization preferences, favorite fabrics and saved online designs – visually to life. Together with their stylist, they can easily design new garments that complement what is already in their closets or create something completely unique that reflects their previous preferences (i.e. lapel sizing, pockets and embroidery). Progressively, Knot Standard uses voice technology to activate the Style Wall and is both Alexa and Siri compatible. To enable this technology, Knot Standard uses more than 30 Samsung screens per showroom, powered by built-in, third generation Echo Dots from Alexa.
I recently has the pleasure of speaking with John Ballay, CEO and co-founder of Knot Standard andMatthew Mueller, president and co-founder of Knot Standard about the brand culture tailored to a modified target audience, what makes the experience unique and a guide through the Style Wall and the custom purchasing process.
Joseph DeAcetis: Talk to Forbes about Knot Standard's history, brand DNA and true essence of the consumer experience.
John Ballay (JB): In 2008, I moved from New York to Dubai to work for one of the UAE government investment funds. At the time, the region was full of entrepreneurs, and that's where I met Matthew Mueller, my co-founder, who had spent over a decade in global business, tech startups and product launches.
During our time in Dubai, as a side hobby, we were taking visitors to the Old World tailors that had shops in the historic part of town. These tailors were generational craftsman, making beautiful custom clothing for both local and expatriate residents. We had fun with the process, taking visitors to the tailors on the first day of someone's week-long vacation, and having them pick up a suit or blazer at the end of the week, perfectly fitted to their measurements for the first time. The highlight of the whole experience was seeing the boost of confidence it gave each customer – and witnessing that small transformation that occurred when a consumer was truly proud of the way he looked. That is what really became the foundation for Knot Standard and our brand ethos, which still prevails almost 10 years later.
Through the iterations of our business model, the essence of the consumer experience has always stayed the same. We work each day to provide an experience that brings out the best in each customer, and we do that through incredible custom products, high touch service and, ultimately, advanced technology. How we provide these services has changed over the years, as we adapt to growing customer needs and our own internal advancements.
Looking at the competitive market, it became obvious that the United States had substantial opportunity. We began to attack the problem in 2012, highlighting that there was a fragmentation of old-world tailors in different US and global cities, but that's all that really existed. There was not one brand and experience that synchronized the entire process across the US, or really anywhere worldwide.
With ten showrooms in major cities across the country – including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and DC – it's easier than ever to access the experience and the product. For appointments in the showrooms, customers are usually in and out in under an hour, working through individual customization options and the measurement process with our stylists. As little as 3 weeks later, customers return to pick up custom blazers, suits, chinos, shirts, etc. – and it's an exciting process when they receive product that fits just right.
JD: In your words, what makes your consumer experience unique?
Matthew Mueller (MM): Before launching the Style Wall, Knot Standard had already modernized the custom menswear experience, using expert in-person stylists, national showrooms, and supporting technology to help clients access the highest quality products with a guided service.
We are known for the best-fitting and highest-quality custom clothing available. With unmatched quality and fit, and access to some of the best materials in the world, we make products to align with your personal style and preference.The Style Wall was born out of a problem that affects all retail, even in this age of personalization.We realized that every client has two completely disconnected experiences, regardless of where they shop. Online, they will search through products, sign up, and add products to their shopping cart. The next day, when the same customer ultimately walks into the store, a store that has been merchandised for the masses, of course nobody knows what was in your online shopping cart. We created the Style Wall to knock down that barrier between digital shopping and in-person retail. Imagine a department store where you walk in, and only see things that will fit you perfectly, and are designed to look great on you.Walking through one our 10 nationwide showrooms now feels more like exploring an art gallery than shopping – one where the art on the walls changes instantly for each and every client that enters.Dozens of digital displays – each fed by data from a Style DNA platform we build for each client, shows different garments, customization options, and outfit pairings just for that client. Our stylists then help the customers explore, changing the digital wall in real time to show new options and designs.
This will revolutionize retail the same way that e-commerce revolutionized the Internet – personalizing an entire store instantly, for an individual client. It is more than just a screen and a process. It is an immersive shopping experience unmatched by any other in-person experience today.
JD: How do you feel that you are addressing today's menswear needs?
JB: Today's menswear landscape is incredibly dynamic, with the launch of so many direct-to-consumer brands, men are becoming more conscious about the brands with which they choose to associate. Consumers are looking for brands that are fresh and new, and they're looking for more value in each individual purchase. In that context, Knot Standard holds a few key advantages. First, the majority of the incumbent suiting/custom brands in our specific industry space are decades (even centuries) old, meaning there has been hardly any innovation in the space for the last 100 years. Relative to these brands, Knot Standard provides an incredibly in-style offering that can be flexible to each customer's needs. And second, we can over-deliver to customers on product quality, through our proprietary direct relationships with the premium Italian mills such as Loro Piana, Zegna, and Dormeuil, along with our digital measurement technology to drive an unprecedented custom fit. We offer exclusive, premium custom fabrics and products at great value.
We also have been thoughtful to provide options to enhance and facilitate the shopping experience across the current menswear market. Our showrooms help provide customers with their first touchpoint with the Knot Standard brand and product; from here, our digitally stored patterns mean that customers can reorder online, over email, or via text – truly differentiating our model.
JD: What are men coming to you for with respect to style?
JB: We offer a range of custom products, from wedding tuxes, suits, shirts, blazers and all the way through more casual items such as custom polos, the field jacket, and even premium t-shirts. We have found that men first come to us with a core product need in mind, whether its event-based or a need for individual work attire. From here, the needs and wants expand into our other categories, as we provide incredible travel attire, great casualwear, and custom shirting for any occasion. It is a delicate balance with each customer, and we are reactive to the needs of each individual. Many customers already have a strong idea and sense of style, while others ask for more guidance. Our hands-on stylist service ensures we are never overbearing, but instead provide balanced guidance as needed.
JD: Guide Forbes through the Style Wall and custom purchasing process.
MM: Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, our relationships with most customers begin before they have entered a showroom. Over 98% of our customers start their Knot Standard experience online, so they begin with a strong understanding of our brand and offering ahead of their first showroom visit.
Upon deciding to visit a showroom or book an appointment, the Style Wall acts as an extension of the digital experience right when the customer walks into the showroom. So much of shopping is browsing – trying to find what you want to wear.
For new clients who haven't shopped with us, the Style Wall takes away all of the guesswork. It's a complete source of inspiration – curated content that helps in that first moment, and the stylist can update it instantly through creating their first order.However, we really built this for our repeat clients. They are the foundation of Knot Standard – the majority of our new clients order again in the first year to become repeats, and referrals are our largest source of new clients.
We wanted to provide the best experience for them. To do that, we built what we call "Style DNA" into this wall – what is in your current wardrobe, how it has changed over the seasons, and what do you want next. Instead of "customers like you also bought," your stylists can show you exactly how to wear that blazer that is hanging in your closet with a new pair of casual chinos and linen shirt. All of this is built on top of a customer experience that was already extremely personal, where every client's garment is being made for the first time specifically for them. This experience seamlessly carries through the customer's future orders and throughout his lifetime as a customer, driving the digital experience after the appointment and allowing confidence on future orders through the website, all guided by his stylist.
JD: How has technology aided your brand and what would you like to see develop to facilitate your business in the near future?
MM: On the product front, the launch of Knot Standard was initially entirely linked to technology in the production process. The initial replacement of Old World tailors with our digital pattern and cutting process is an integral part of our model, giving us the ability to scale quality product around the world with extreme precision. Our product has always over-indexed on quality and fit, mainly because we are able to create a digital pattern that allows incredible flexibility to different body types. This also allows us to produce an identical suit every time – in contrast to the constant tweaks needed when the suits are made the old-fashioned method.
As we look forward where technology will become a bigger component, it is now a driver within the consumer-facing experience. Rather than just having incredibly advanced backend operations, the Style Wall technology provides our customers with an unmatched experience. The goal was to make the shopping process easier for clients, providing each customer with an easier process to visualize products. We are confident that the Style Wall does that and more.
We tried other tools, such as a webcam that helps with sizing and 3D designing software, but it did not solve the true customer ask on product visualization. The Style Wall is by far the most user-friendly and most seamless system we have ever built, and it effectively assists our clients in the custom creation process. The in-store experience is so important to our business, and we plan on continuing to invest heavily in making the Style Wall as useful and innovative as possible.
JD: What are both of your day-to-day responsibilities?
JB: We are lucky now to have a great team around us. Individual experts that specialize in product development and sales management, individual silos that we used to have to manage A to Z as founders. I have the opportunity each day to work closely with the sales team and build out our future growth, helping to ensure we are adding team members that buy into our internal culture and ultimate mission. I also have a strong say in the product development part of the business, and although I am far from an expert in any of the process, I act as a strong consumer eye for how our customers would evaluate a new product.
MM: As we expand, I am fortunate to continue to spend time daily on the technology, marketing, and infrastructure of the business. In working internally with our developers and liaising with our front line staff, I am able to have an insightful lens on where were can drive the most value to our business through added technology. This process also gives me insights to help improve communications with our clients and grow our brand, making sure that we provide the luxury experience our clients demand.
JD: If you could have one celebrity of your choice come in and experience the Knot Standard culture; which would it by and why?
JB: I think Ryan Reynolds is a great Knot Standard guy. He takes his career seriously, dedicates time to family, but never takes himself too seriously (and is never short of jokes on his social media). I also think he spends quite a bit of time in New York City, so if he reads this and would like to come by afterwards, all the better.
MM: We had Jon Hamm come in last year, which was my previous #1, so I would say from an athlete perspective, Roger Federer. He has an indomitable will and a drive to be the best. He chooses to put in the 100,000 hours of hard work to be the best in the world and would identify with what it took to create the Knot Standard experience. He has impeccable style and taste and would be impressed by the amazing quality and feeling one gets when slipping on their first custom Knot Standard garment
JD: Who is your demographic?
JB: We see a range of gentlemen in our showrooms. Across our ten different locations, we see an array of client demographics. We have a great clientele in the younger thirties to mid-forties age range, who are incredibly ambitious and highly driven to continually grow their individual careers. We also have an older, more established customer base in the older forties – early fifties, who understand the premium nature of what we sell and appreciate the ease of the experience.
JD: What has been your biggest risk operating this business?
JB: Launching the initial concept of finding a scalable solution to the Old World hand cutting tailoring process via a digital solution was by far the biggest risk. Without success in the product front with great value, all of the follow-on points become nearly impossible.
MM: Quantifying initial demand was a risk we had in launching the business. We knew that we had a concept that was a no-brainer for people after they had experienced it, but we had to tell the story ahead of them visiting Knot Standard to give them confidence and conviction to try us. From there, listening to our clients has never steered us wrong.
JD: If you could advise our viewers right now as to why they should come and experience your service and business model, what would you have to say to them here?
JB: We started this company because it truly provided a product and experience that helped change people's lives for the better. To walk around being proud of the way you look has a positive domino effect that touches many other parts of your life. Over the years, we have seen everything behind the curtain – we have seen the traditional methods and fabric makers, and everything in between. And with all that in mind, we truly believe we have the best product, experience, and team to support your needs, more than anyone in the world.
JD: What do you consider a well-dressed man?
JB: A well-dressed man is all about confidence – confident that his outfit is appropriate for his occasion. The deliberations from there are limitless, so we keep it simple.
JD: What has been your greatest achievement with respect to this brand?
MM: We set out to modernize a very manual, opaque, and inconsistent industry. In less than 10 years, not only did we succeed where others have failed by inventing solutions to problems that have existed for over 100 years, we have created a new way for men to shop with unmatched product quality, client service, and ease of communication. In the process, we helped launch a revolution in men's fashion, and we look forward to leading as innovators for years to come.
JD: What is your 5-year growth strategy?
JB: We work tirelessly to make Knot Standard accessible for anyone in any US city. Over the next five years, a heavy showroom expansion rollout with a well-supported digital strategy will be top priority. The big picture is of course made up of countless small victories that we will tally up over the years, and in tandem with new showroom openings and Style Wall launches, we are exploring more partnerships with like-minded brands to expand our reach at a local and national level.
This fall, we are working with Loro Piana to provide an incredible curation of their fabrics to our customers via a Knot Standard x Loro Piana co-branded offering. More locally, we are partnering with brands like Atlanta United FC to dress their players, coaches and staff in custom Knot Standard pre-game and travel apparel, in conjunction with our Atlanta showroom opening.
To learn more about the brand, visit www.knotstandard.com.
|You are subscribed to email updates from "small business ideas for men" - Google News. |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States|