From a digitally-native gold rush to an impending bloodbath

From a digitally-native gold rush to an impending bloodbath

Will any digitally-native brands out-scale and outlast the 20th century heritage brands that came before them? This is the most pressing question for the digitally-native gold rush, which has led investors to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into fledgeling brands. To answer it, one has to evaluate both brand cohorts against a number of vectors: their funding, retail growth, sales milestones, profitability and financial troubles.

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Short Shorts and Long Attention Spans — with Kyle Hency of Chubbies

On the 42nd episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy, I talk with Kyle Hency, a co-founder of Chubbies, a brand that started bringing back the short short that’s now trying to own the weekend. Kyle started the brand with three friends from Stanford, after admiring the short shorts their dads were wearing in the 80s.

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Why invest in Supreme when its secondary market is more valuable?

Why invest in Supreme when its secondary market is more valuable?

This week the Carlyle Group, a big private equity firm, bought a stake in the one-of-a-kind brand Supreme for $500 million, valuing it at over $1 billion, making it the most valuable privately-held streetwear brand. Industry sources say Supreme has around $100 million EBITA, and while its revenue is unknown, it could be anywhere from $150-300 million. One must take these numbers with a grain of salt, since there have been different ones trickling out over the past week and Supreme, as a super secretive company, has no interest in proactively disclosing this info. Some say the silence is out of fear that it will continue losing its cool as it grows.

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Waking Up the Home — with Andres Modak of Snowe

Waking Up the Home — with Andres Modak of Snowe

On the 41st episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the intersection of consumer, retail and commerce, I talk with Andres Modak, a co-founder of Snowe, a company reinventing home essentials at a more affordable price point. Andreas and his co-founder and wife Rachel started the company after realizing the fragmentation and expense of setting up a home from scratch. There was little brand recognition, tons of discoverability problems, and it was easy to break the bank.  

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Direct to consumer brands vs commodities: who will prevail?

Direct to consumer brands vs commodities: who will prevail?

A few weeks ago, Dave Ambrose tweeted out the above image showing an Away suitcase and an Amazon Basics replica side-by-side. The Away bag costs $295 and the Amazon Basics one is $89.99. Away is one of the current darlings of the direct to consumer boom, and Amazon is, well, Amazon. There are many consumer goods categories that are commodity driven. This happens if 1) the products themselves are commodities; or 2) if no brand "owns" the space as a result of fragmentation and price pressure. Socks, underwear, luggage, bedding, razors and many other products existed in categories where price drove many purchasing decisions.

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Democratizing the Swimsuit — with Moshe Laniado of Swimsuits For All

Democratizing the Swimsuit — with Moshe Laniado of Swimsuits For All

Moshe Laniado got into the swimsuit business to earn a little beer money. Eight years later, Laniado is the founder of Swimsuits for All, a company that focuses on swimwear for women of all different sizes. He discussed his company’s unique marketing campaign and business growth on the 40th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast.

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Amazon and Absolutism

Amazon and Absolutism

I've always been fascinated and perplexed by the rhetoric that brands use when talking about Amazon. It's usually a combination of uncertainty, confusion and absolutism. Most of this, understandably, comes from fear. As every day passes, the saying "Amazon can't get into this" or "Amazon won't get into this" becomes increasingly perilous and false. The world has never seen a company like Amazon before—it's unlike any conglomerate ever created, something I will expand upon soon—and anyone that claims to objectively know what the company will and will not do is lying.

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Angularity and Optionality — with Jeff Johnson of The Arrivals

Angularity and Optionality — with Jeff Johnson of The Arrivals

Jeff Johnson specializes in outerwear, but 2017 will see The Arrivals co-founder tackle a sometimes-intimidating frontier for online-first brands. The offline world. Johnson talked about the direction of his brand and how an architectural background informs his career in fashion on the 39th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast. Alongside co-founder Kal Vepuri, already a successful investor, Johnson began developing The Arrivals in late 2013.

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Loose Threads Intel: The next chapter of Loose Threads

Loose Threads Intel: The next chapter of Loose Threads

Today we're launching a new company called Loose Threads Intel. Our membership gives you the ultimate toolkit to get ahead in the new consumer economy—going beyond the daily drumbeat of news, hype and noise. We take a liberal arts approach, analyzing the intersection of fashion, apparel, beauty, CPG and hospitality. For brands and retailers, we deliver the operational insights and market intelligence you need to drive long-lasting growth. For investors, we ensure you focus on what matters most, find the right deals, and give your portfolio companies the operating edge they need to reach their intended outcomes. Our single focus is helping you discover, digest and harness all of the chaos and uncertainty in the consumer economy so your business can reach its full potential. Learn more.

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For Your Eyes Only — with Eric Varady of Topology Eyewear

For Your Eyes Only — with Eric Varady of Topology Eyewear

Eric Varady wants to make glasses for everyone. It doesn’t sound like such a grand idea, until you realize—as Varady did—that eyewear stores have spent years making glasses for people who aren’t real. “It’s kind of crazy that a store that might have 50 pairs of eyewear is somehow going to cater to anyone who walks in the door,” he said. “It’s kind of like stock eyewear is designed for some mythical person that doesn’t exist and never fits anyone correctly.”  

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The Evolution of Influence — with Melissa Duren Conner of JBC

The Evolution of Influence  — with Melissa Duren Conner of JBC

Melissa Duren Conner is well versed in the language of PR, but one word she mentions more than almost any other is “learning.” “When we work with a brand it’s a partnership,” she said. “There’s a trust level in our expertise and what we know, but then the things we don’t know and are learning from our clients everyday.” Duren Conner talked about navigating the world of startups and e-commerce and identifying brands with stories to tell on the 37th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast.

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Feet First — with Alexa Buckley of Margaux

Feet First — with Alexa Buckley of Margaux

Alexa Buckley won’t be joining the ranks of Mark Zuckerberg or Matt Damon. After all, she neglected the path of these Harvard dropouts and actually graduated from the school. However, Buckley turned down a corporate position just a few days after commencement and began to work on the shoe company Margaux with co-founder Sarah Pierson, which Buckley discussed on the 36th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast.

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Back to Basics — with Brian Berger of Mack Weldon

Back to Basics — with Brian Berger of Mack Weldon

In the confusing world of men’s underwear and socks, Brian Berger would like to be your guide. “It all came to a head when my wife threw out all of my tattered underwear and socks, and I had to go to a department store,” Berger said on the 35th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast. “When the sales guy said to me ‘Are you confused yet?’  I realized now was really the time when I needed to do this.”

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Modernizing the Hidden World of Ecommerce Imaging — with James Ingram of Splashlight

Modernizing the Hidden World of Ecommerce Imaging — with James Ingram of Splashlight

James Ingram is not in the restaurant business. But as the CEO of Splashlight, an innovative photography and video provider, Ingram talked about the importance of “setting the table” on 34th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast. “When you think of what a creative really has to go through, the less they have to focus on all the logistics or basically setting the table…you allow the creative to relax and to focus,” Ingram said. “It’s an obscure thought to be a hospitality-driven business but it’s served us well.

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Pivoting the Pro Shop — with Nik Bando of Bogeybox

Pivoting the Pro Shop — with Nik Bando of Bogeybox

There are a few different places you could kick off the Bogeybox story. Sure, it makes sense to start on the golf course, where founder Nik Bando fell in love with a sport closely associated with fashion, even though it doesn’t require a specific uniform. But a more appropriate place might be under Bando’s desk at the marketing and advertising firm where he worked in 2015. It was here, Bando explained on the 33rd episode of the Loose Threads podcast, that his subscription box service for golfers began.

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Reinventing Plus Size from the Ground Up — with Nadia Boujarwah of Dia&Co 

Reinventing Plus Size from the Ground Up — with Nadia Boujarwah of Dia&Co 

Nadia Boujarwah co-founded the styling service Dia&Co in 2014, but the idea for the company began with an experience Boujarwah had while growing up. "I have distinct and formative memories of what it felt like to shop in larger sizes. I think the plus-size industry overall has been anchored in a more mature customer for a long time. So shopping in that category as a young adult was particularly difficult,” she said. “What I realized was that I had has these experiences that felt so personal to me, but in reality, they were identical experiences [to] women around the world.”

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Could localized manufacturing be the solution to endless markdowns?

Could localized manufacturing be the solution to endless markdowns?

Today, two seemingly different questions are top of mind for many physical goods brands: 1) How do we end the catastrophic parade of endless sales and markdowns?; and 2) Is there a way to bring back domestic manufacturing in some capacity? But are these two questions linked? 

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Leather, Data and Grit — with Evan Fript of Paul Evans

Leather, Data and Grit — with Evan Fript of Paul Evans

For Evan Fript, creating Paul Evans was a carefully planned escape from the world of finance. Always doing capital markets-focused work and equity capital markets… I hated working in banking and finance,” Fript said on the 31st episode of the Loose Threads Podcast. "I saw the success of Bonobos, Warby Parker and the direct-to-consumer business model and started doing some research about the footwear industry.”

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Word of mouth without a network effect is not a competitive advantage

Word of mouth without a network effect is not a competitive advantage

In Building Bulletproof Brands, a Loose Threads series about how the internet destroyed traditional moats for physical goods brands but also created new ones, I wrote about how the power of word of mouth is not what many think. As new physical goods startups launch and raise money every week, many are keen to mention a company’s “unparalleled growth via word of mouth” or "IRL virality" as evidence that the company has some special sauce. Many also see word of mouth as a substitution for paid customer acquisition, at least early on.  

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Renting Out Your Underutilized Clothing — with Lona Alia of Style Lend

Renting Out Your Underutilized Clothing — with Lona Alia of Style Lend

After traveling to a base camp on the slopes of Mount Everest, Lona Alia had an epiphany about how the fundamentals of the fashion industry.  “I traveled with only one piece of luggage, which was very small, for four months,” Alia said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I was able to rent something in these places I went to because I was going from one climate to the next and one continent to the next.” A former model, Alia has spent a career immersed in the industry she’s now changing. She is now the founder of Style Lend, a peer-to-peer online marketplace for women to rent high-end clothing, which she discussed on the 30th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast.

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