Call it “elbow room:” Some entrepreneurs wade into the most crowded spaces and still succeed.
Meet TAYLRD, a menswear brand founded by Austinite Tom Dwyer. Relocated to New York, Grit Daily’s fine staff met up with Tom at a future of fashion summit to catch the latest on why and where he’s making his mark with the TAYLRD brand.
Tom Dwyer: TAYLRD is a menswear brand. We’re focused on casual clothes for twenty-something aged guys. Really focused on good fit, affordability, and fitting our customer’s lifestyle with a great e-commerce solution and a strong brand.
Grit Daily: Tom you’re TAYLRD’s founder and CEO. For those who don’t know about the brand and the backstory, there’s always a why. Why start a menswear brand with so many out there already?
Tom Dwyer: Yes, my background is in logistics — in commerce logistics. I owned a company that focused on a lot of bigger brands going international delivery stations and one day it just hit me that, I wanted to really try something on the brand side but I also felt like there was a gap in the market for guys my age who wanted good clothes. Clothes that fit well but didn’t necessarily break the bank.
I felt like there was a market that was open but also an opportunity for me to change things up. So I went with it that day. I started working on it and about a year later launched it. We focused on better fitting pants, we’ve expanded a bit since then but that’s still our core. Just getting that guy our age, into better fitting pants while also fitting your lifestyle and fitting your budget. So really focused on versatility, fit, and comfort.
Grit Daily: There are some design elements to TAYLRD’s clothing lines. You just talked about fit and touched on those. We could certainly go on for hours about trends — for example you know the 90’s and the 80’s baggy clothing, and we’re so glad that trend is over — but who is helping you figure out what’s going to sell?
Tom Dwyer: Well that was really the big investment we made as a business. We built a strong design team and supply chain, so that we could come out of the gates with a good product. Some of our designers and fabric sourcing people right now are ex Calvin Klein and have a lot of experience in the industry.
It was really important to me to make sure that the product was good from day one because be needed that legitimacy out of the gate. So that’s why it took a year as well.
We try to not over-expend but try to stay current with either, iterations of the same product or products that compliment that versatile lifestyle of the guy who is wearing more casual clothes to work, who is wearing his clothes from the office out afterwards. We’re always keeping that in mind.
Grit Daily: There are often regional differences in clothing and I’m wondering if you witnessed those, too? Do you still find that the tastes here in New York differ greatly from what you see in the rest of the country?
Tom Dwyer: Absolutely, yes. I think one of the good things that I learned — since I used to live in Austin, Texas — and I think that really shaped the brand in away because I saw the differences of how people shop and also the customers.
Also they are fussy and there’s nobody I’ve met in Austin who would pay a $150 for designer pants. They still want to look good and they still want to present themselves well. They’re still going to bars, still going on dates, and it’s a way to build that value in quality clothes but at prices that are affordable and attainable to them.
From the consumer, that’s definitely something I’ve seen differently. Not necessarily just aesthetic but also just what they value and what they’re willing to spend on and things like that.
Grit Daily: Let’s talk a little bit about the business side. Often this is pretty capital intensive. You must have some backer. There’s funding somewhere?
Tom Dwyer: I don’t, no. (Tom chuckles.)
It’s totally bootstrapped right now. I don’t know what’s bigger than a boot but that’s what it is.
You know, it was a little scary at first but that’s why we wanted to take that time to make sure the product was right. It was our one shot. It was a farm bet, so to speak. First of all we bet the farm on making it work and luckily we’ve seen a good connection with customers and we’re growing 100 percent year-over-year right now. We’re trying to really just stay lean operationally and brand wise but really get brand loyalists to really help us spread the brand without over-investing in capital.
Grit Daily: We’re here at a future of retail panel in New York. You’re going to be on the panel. Apparently you are the future of retail. What are you going to talk about?
Tom Dwyer: I think for me, what I can bring to the table, is the great whale that hangs over all of this, you know, Amazon and all these goliaths. Amazon, Walmart.
Grit Daily: What do you mean by that?
Tom Dwyer: I think it was something like 60 percent of online sales for Black Friday went through Amazon last year. The monopoly is here and what I want to hopefully show is how a smaller brand, that is self funded, that is bootstrapped — can survive and hopefully grow in the world.
I think for me that’s about really just focusing on specific niches, in terms of product, not looking to over expend and try to just grow along side that while building a brand that is accessible in that world.
I don’t think people view Amazon as a brand for fashion and I thinks that’s something where we can coexist with them, but I think the most important thing is to just try to do what you do, better than they do what you do. If that makes sense?
Grit Daily: It does.
Tom Dwyer: And that’s the goal for us.
Grit Daily: Spoken like a true Texan.