For fashion-forward women, the mobile internet is brimming with options to not only purchase what they want to wear, but to do so in as interactive a manner as they deem desirable. New, used, for sale, for rent, with the help of a stylist, guided by a chatbot, run on the back end by artificial intelligence (AI), leveraging augmented reality (AR) tools to make virtual try-ons an option — when the objective is fashion items and accessories for women, the permutations, technologies being experimented with, business models and inventory itself are incredibly varied.
Men’s clothing? Slightly different story, Grailed Co-Founder Arun Gupta noted, because men’s social relationships are not as typically oriented around fashion as women are. For the sartorially invested man, the options for collaboratively interacting with fashion items are fewer and farther between.
“Traditionally, guys don’t have a lot of friends [with whom] they can talk about style in real life,” Gupta said in an interview, noting that was an experience he’d had firsthand as a college student with a passion for fashion, albeit on a fairly constrained budget. It left him spending a lot of time on various online communities developed for style-conscious men who want to talk fashion.
And from those forums the idea for Grailed was basically born — take that social element of the online style forums and integrate it into an online marketplace where those community members could also buy and sell both high fashion and streetwear items, as well as interact and access content about both. Because while Grailed is a retail experience, he noted, the company was envisioned even at the design phase to also be more than that.
“We exist to facilitate a community of people who care about clothes and want to express themselves through clothes,” Gupta said.
And Grailed is unique in that it markets to those customers, and those customers alone — Grailed is far from a brand that is trying to be everything to everyone. Its social media accounts stand apart from other branded social media accounts to the degree, according to most reviews, that they look a lot less like a branded account and a lot more like something one might see in a non-branded general streetwear forum. The posts are described as meme-rich, jargon-heavy and inside joke-laden such that if one is not already a dedicated sneakerhead or streetwear enthusiast, a lot of what’s there will simply pass right by the average consumer.
But that, according to the firm’s ninth employee, Lawrence Schlossman, is kind of the point. Grailed is a specialty brand for a very particular type of consumer with very specific interests. Instead of trying to make their brand look exactly like everything else on Instagram in the hopes of snatching up followers, they’d rather use their social media streams as a direct conduit to their consumers. The streams, he noted, are a chance to demonstrate how well they really do understand that core customer base.
“You have to know what you’re talking about. But we’re supposed to be experts on this stuff. To joke about something, you have to know it really well. Who’s better qualified to poke fun and make self-referential jokes that people who are in this culture will get and appreciate?” Schlossman told Glossy.
The strategy was a gamble, but one that paid off. Grailed used to have an Instagram following of around 4,000 — today it has a following north of 600,000. And counting.
And while the business is best known among enthusiasts as a streetwear marketplace for men, according to its founder, that is a bit inaccurate. It is a fashion marketplace for men, with offerings broken up into specific categories: Grails for classic fashion items from luxury brands, Hype for new streetwear releases and Core for vintage and mass market releases, among others.
The business, he noted, is split largely between fashion and streetwear items — and in Gupta’s opinion that points toward a sartorial evolution in menswear of a marriage between the two.
Grailed hopes to make that marriage happen more quickly and easily — by creating a shopping channel for men that serves as a community, content hub and vast repository of all the items they’d want or need in a single, well-organized marketplace