But the market gap in between seems relatively unexplored, a hazy area of little known artisan brands at mid- to luxury-level pricepoints that deters those entrepreneurs betting on either high income or high turnover. NYC-based online men’s store Mind the Chap, co-founded by retail mavens Sapna Shah and Lisa Walters, brandishes the balls it takes to broach the unchartered territory and we’ll be forever in their debt. I caught up with Sapna to talk retail, specialist brands, and standing out…
Male-Mode: What three words describe Mind the Chap most accurately?
Mind the Chap: We have a phrase versus three individual words: Showcasing edgy emerging designer – yes, i know that’s four words but we are wordy people!
Being two female co-founders, do you feel your gender helps or hinders you in creating an online men’s store?
More than gender, we feel that our experience in retail is the key in creating an online menswear site. Lisa and I have been in retail for a combined 25 years and this is our second entrepreneurial venture (our first was a retail consultancy for Wall Street).
Given our experience, we have a unique perspective on the fashion and retail industries because we’ve been so closely involved in new retail concepts and emerging brands, as well as worked for larger retail organizations like Ann Taylor, Gap and Linens ‘n Things. After years of shopping for our husbands, brothers and friends, we’ve developed a distinct sense for unique brands and ahead-of-the-trend fashion. We’re bringing this talent to Mind the Chap customers looking for something new and fresh, and not from the usual labels.
With plenty of competition already jostling in the men’s online retail market, how does Mind the Chap carve out its own niche?
We believe Mind the Chap is unique in our approach to menswear online in a variety of ways. Our point of differentiation from other sites is to feature a selection of highly curated, fashion-forward emerging designers and brands that have extremely limited distribution (many are exclusive to Mind the Chap). Essentially, we carry the brands that you can’t find elsewhere – we are constantly seeking out new brands that are ahead of the trend and cycling out brands that get too big for our model.
We believe this approach is unique to Mind the Chap and results in great collections that you can’t find anywhere else. Mind the Chap is your wardrobe wingman, providing you with edgy, emerging brands that have novel design approaches and high quality craftsmanship – brands that only the most style-savvy insiders know about. These are not the brands your friends are wearing – they are the ones your friends will be asking you about. Seek individuality. Dress independently. These are our imperatives.
Your current brand roster ranges from sporty prep and smart casual to a style more experimental, are you appealing to a broad range of men, rather than following the more conservative model adopted by other stores, which stick to a more specific target market?
We are targeting a male customer 25-45 yrs old and we want to provide him with options for his lifestyle – whether he is more classic, casual, minimalist, or fashion forward. Our unique approach on the site is to mix and match a variety of lifestyles/brands together with outfits to create options for our shopper, so that even the more edgy brands become more approachable. This is another unique aspect of our site as most retailers and sites showcase head-to-toe branded looks.
What are the three key pieces for Fall Winter 2012?
Three pieces you must have this season are colored bottoms (a great khaki in burnt orange or red are our favorites), a great bag (leather or waxed canvas) and a standout tie (or better yet a bow tie!).
1. Will Leather Goods Howell double-zip portfolio; 2. General Knot & Co. fine charcoal chambray and black floral bow tie; 3. Sandast Italo weekender; 4. Will Leather Goods red Lennon backpack
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