Menswear Style Podcast

Steve Bryant, Founder of The Devout

July 21, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 73
Menswear Style Podcast
Steve Bryant, Founder of The Devout
Chapters
Menswear Style Podcast
Steve Bryant, Founder of The Devout
Jul 21, 2020 Episode 73
Menswear Style

The Devout is a new clothing experience for the UK whereby they present a unique monthly subscription service offering designer brands and vintage pieces. They’re the fashion rental revolution, reducing the volume of clothes going to landfill, providing the latest brands and current-season pieces without the impact, and helping you save money on your clothes. Customers can rent 5 pieces of their choice for just £79 a month. With premium brands available for both men and women, they deliver your box for free in sustainable packaging right to your doorstep. After you’re done The Devout will pick them up and wash them so you can then pick out your next 5 items, and if there’s a garment you particularly like, you can opt to buy it.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Steve Bryant, Founder of The Devout, and talk about what inspired him to set up a fashion rental company. He had noticed a gap in the market for everyday fashion rental after seeing the flourishing US subscription industry, and noticed it was only occasion wear being catered for here in the UK. With a successful background in marketing and eCommerce Steve set out to build the brand and rental technology a year ago. Our host Peter Brooker and Steve also chat about how brands are selected for the website, laundry and repairs, changing buyer behaviours, adapting wardrobes for a new post-lockdown lifestyle, and being more conscious about sustainability.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Show Notes Transcript

The Devout is a new clothing experience for the UK whereby they present a unique monthly subscription service offering designer brands and vintage pieces. They’re the fashion rental revolution, reducing the volume of clothes going to landfill, providing the latest brands and current-season pieces without the impact, and helping you save money on your clothes. Customers can rent 5 pieces of their choice for just £79 a month. With premium brands available for both men and women, they deliver your box for free in sustainable packaging right to your doorstep. After you’re done The Devout will pick them up and wash them so you can then pick out your next 5 items, and if there’s a garment you particularly like, you can opt to buy it.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Steve Bryant, Founder of The Devout, and talk about what inspired him to set up a fashion rental company. He had noticed a gap in the market for everyday fashion rental after seeing the flourishing US subscription industry, and noticed it was only occasion wear being catered for here in the UK. With a successful background in marketing and eCommerce Steve set out to build the brand and rental technology a year ago. Our host Peter Brooker and Steve also chat about how brands are selected for the website, laundry and repairs, changing buyer behaviours, adapting wardrobes for a new post-lockdown lifestyle, and being more conscious about sustainability.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Unknown:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the mentor style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. On this episode I'm gonna be talking to Steve Bryan, the founder of the devout the UK is first fashion rental subscription service that launched just in June 2020. So it's brand new. It's, it's a really imaginative idea where you can just rent your clothes, you pay a subscription, you don't go out and buy an entire new wardrobe that you can't afford. You get to pick and choose from a number of really great marquee name brands, Ted Baker's up there, jack Jones is up there. It's all over on the bout.com. That's the website and we'll get into how he got to start this business in a minute. But first www menswear style dot code at UK that's the place you go for all of your trend articles fashion, up to date, minute grooming tactics, skills, grooming tactics. I don't know if that's the thing. But all the show notes from this episode will put over there as well loads of other content, make sure you're following us on the social so you can stay up to date when we upload new daily articles. And if you want to get in touch for the show, if you want to tell us about your journey, it's info at mentor style.co.uk. Okay. Here is that interview with Steve Bryan, founder of the devout.com was my great pleasure to introduce Steve Bryan, founder of the devout the UK first fashion rental subscription company. How are you doing today, Steve? Yeah, well, thanks. How about yourself? I'm really well. Thanks, Steve. I'm so pleased to have you on and perhaps you can just give me a little nutshell resume of you how you started the brand, but perhaps leading up to what made you start the devout? No, for sure. Well, it's um, I like you said, so I'm Steve, I'm I founded the devout just under a month ago, which has been a year in development effectively. So rental itself, I discovered that the concept when I was in America last year, and over in America, the whole concept of renting something is so far advanced, you can rent anything for a Mercedes Benz, they've got their own subscription, through to obviously fashion, but even down to homeware furniture and pretty much anything you can think of, you can consume it on a rental subscription. And so really, I looked at what options are available in the UK. And actually is there anything there for for First of all, for men, but also for for women as well, in the same kind of market. And the only things that were available and still to this day that are available except the devout is very much occasionwear. So it's very kind of specific events, weddings, the traditional stuff, as you pretty much expected to hire, rent, but nothing down to everyday fashion down to new season new trends. There's nothing like that or was nothing until till we launched, my background is pretty much in marketing. So ever since I was 18. left school, I've been in digital marketing e commerce roles. So I kind of looked at, okay, how do you build this type of brand? And how do you build this type of technology? So I really come at it from a How do you build a piece of tech that enables you to rent clothes from an online proposition in such a way that you can pick multiple items of your choice, which is the key part, and then rent them on a subscription. So that's what's taken a long time to really perfect and refine to bring you that the service that you see now. Right, interesting. And before we get into the devout question for you, Steve, why do you think it is the UK is so behind the US in this? Well, I think they in terms of our culture is very much we like to own things. So if you think about our concept of owning houses, and buying houses, versus a lot of other places in the world, that's actually quite uncommon to physically want to own something, most, especially in Europe, and I pick Germany off the top of my head, the concept of buying is actually not necessarily desirable, they're more than happy to lease to rent to borrow rather than own but in the UK, it's very much I if I see something I like I want to just pay for it. Yeah. And so obviously, you know, as we're talking about things like sustainability as we're being a lot more conscious, especially since COVID. But over time, we've generally become more conscious about our buying habits, the different option to to consume the same things but in a different way. I your rental model or leasing model is starting to take a lot more of a centre stage. So it's really just making that as available as we can. Interesting. So my girlfriend would often talk about she's Russian but spent a long time in America, she left Russia when she was 18 and spent about 20 years and in the US. And she says, it's because the UK we we don't have any natural minerals. It's not like we have any oil underground that we can just farm out. And now we can think about enterprising and think about, you know, expanding outwards. It's all about what do we have here? Well, we have real estate, we have bricks and mortar. So whenever there's any kind of doubt in the economy, as pricing might be seeing now it's like, well, let's, let's just make sure we got our door shot, let's make sure we own our grass and our own sandpit, and we'll all be fine. So it's a very much a UK mentality thing. I digress. Moving on to moving on to the devout. Steve, can you talk us through perhaps how you managed to raise some capital to get this business going, but also, how you managed to get the brands on board as well? What were the early conversations like? Yeah, well, on the first question, in terms of raising finance, so as I mentioned separately to that about, I run a marketing agency, which has grown really well over the last five years. So up until now, two, I guess, as part of our seed round, that's all been self funded. So we put a lot of investment from our group of companies, which which I own the group. But we've we've actually taken some profit from the marketing agency, and put it into this project as we think it's a really good idea to get us to that seed level. And then when the time is right, once we've proved the concept, once it gets up and running, that's obviously when we'll look to external private equity to to really bolster our finances to move us on to that next level. In terms of the the second part of the question, which just reminder, what was the question? Oh, so brands, basically, do you select your brands? How do you how do you vet them? How do they get through the door? But yeah, so basically, when we were looking at brands to feature effectively, we were looking at, okay, what brands are going to be appealing on a rental model, what brands are every day, what brands are for occasions, and actually what brands to guys like us were on a day to day. So you know, obviously, we wanted to have a nice collection as brands that you would typically wear every day. So really nice statement fashion pieces, to brands that you potentially aspire to buy at the same time to give you some really good value for money. So we started to approach some brands and best selling, which is a group of brands, which includes selected and jack and Jones, they were one of the first partners that we brought on board. Obviously, they're the jack and Jones brand is a very good, very mainstream, but very popular menswear brand. And so they for me, on the men's side, were really key brand to get on board selected, again, has some absolutely gorgeous pieces, but predominantly for the female side. And we just had a very open conversation because, again, like we said earlier that the concept of renting clothes in the UK just doesn't really exist on a fashion level on a trend level. So it was really opening their eyes to actually look we've got you know, we've we've done our research, we know that there are thousands of customers that are looking at different ways to consume their fashion, they want a rental proposition, that's what they've told us. So we want to deliver that to them. But they don't just want a dress or a suit to to wear for an occasion they want to wear stuff for work, they want something to go out on the weekend. Does your collection, you know sort of match that and can we find some synergy there. And so as I said, particularly jack and Jones and alongside selected, they were really on board with it, they invest a hell of a lot in terms of their own material. So they're they're big on sustainable, or their sustainability credentials. So a lot of their jeans in particular made with a with organic cotton. And so they were saying that it's it matches in with our own ethos of producing responsibly sourced and ethical material materials to produce their their clothes. So they were saying that that kind of follows on with the mentality of prolonging the life cycle of the clothes themselves. And obviously, then making sure that we try and move away from that fast fashion mentality. So that was the original conversations we've had. And obviously since then, we brought on Farah and Penguin and Ted Baker and all sayings. So we're starting to build up a real arsenal of top quality brands, but also at the same time brands that we know and love every day. And we already were and it's just being able to then provide you the brands you love and the brands you do wear in a different way. And a brands coming to you and saying hey, can we be a part of this as well? How is the push and pull of this so far with brands? Yeah, definitely. So So before we launch, we we did a big push over to retailers, through obviously some industry press and we said, you know, look, we're launching this and you know, you're doing it all wrong, trying to sell all this stuff. And actually, you know, locked down and COVID has made us all think you know, actually we're doing a lot of damage to the planet and what can we do? Do what can we contribute to helping that, you know, helping the planet? And so, obviously with that, we took that to brands and said, Look, people want to change they want to buy, want to consume everything in a slightly more, let's just say healthier way. What are you doing to support that? And actually, can we, you know, can we assist? And can we support you with providing a platform like this, to give to, you know, to give that accessibility to more customers, so a lot of these sustainable brands, so, knowledge, cotton is a particular sustainable brand within themselves. So they've been very vocal with us and having conversations with us about, okay, what's the best way to fit so we're just working on a collection with them that's going to fit the the audience so we're going to be bringing them to you over the next couple of months. But certainly, as sustainable brands have been talking to us, and as I said, other brands, as well, I can't say too much at this data you can imagine. But but they're saying this is so new for us, you know, what, what's the what are customers actually saying, you know, and actually, let's work together on more research, let's understand what they want to buy. And let's build specific collections around around the rental proposition. So lots of exciting brands to drop over the next next few months. Interesting. And maybe you can just tell us how the model works. It's it's quite well delineated on the website, the devout.com, that's where you can find out all the information, but perhaps you can just give us a little give us the broad strokes of what people can expect. For sure. So as I as I said, it's a monthly subscription. So you can sign up to rent five pieces of your choice every month. So we've got a nice collection of products, which as I said, are being added to almost every week at the minute. So you select the five items you want from a variety of different brands, and you you rent them for a month, and at the end of the month, you effectively can choose to keep them off for longer. So you can choose to rent them all. Again, you can keep them forever by paying for them with a discount. Or you can send them all back and swap all five items. The subscription itself costs 79 pounds per month. And that includes obviously your laundry of products that you send back. And obviously then collection delivery is included as well. So it's really giving the flexibility to say, look, you can have a new wardrobe every one every month, if you want. But you can also swap as many or as little products as you want nicely. And I guess some of the questions you might get asked quite a bit what happens if the clothes are sent back and they're deteriorated so bad, that you can't then replenish them or put them into another cycle? Yeah, so we've got a really sophisticated dry cleaning and laundry operation in our warehouse. So we're really invested a lot in to make sure that not only is it eco friendly, and I could talk for hours about about the cleaning process to make sure that it is definitely a really sustainable and eco friendly way of of laundering items. But what that means is is that when it comes down to things like stains, and that's the most common type of damage that comes back in rental clothes, which is different. And looking at our own laundry service, we can pretty much get any stain out of it all the way down to rust. So most of the items, so we've obviously included accidental damage as part of the cover. So if you lose a button, if you break a zip, that's absolutely fine. So all of your mainstream damage pretty much is covered, you won't have to pay anything else, you just send it back as you would do normally, and we do the rest. The only exception is if it comes back rip to pieces that we might have station. There, there's only so much you can do and so much magic you can perform. Well, I mean, look, I mean getting into this say that the mindset of a guy that is, well I guess anyone that's given clothes or kind of rent clothes, theirs doesn't have that certain pride of ownership as if you did if you were bought buying something like you mean, I think we can all relate to the first car that we might have been gifted by our parents or something, you know, we just rag it around and treat you like crap versus the one that we get. And we slave away for and we work crap jobs, and we buy it maybe in our 20s and we shine that thing every weekend. Right? So there's always some kind of pride of ownership no matter what you have. Do you fear that or I mean, I guess Have you Is it too early to see at this stage whether, you know, people's mindsets are still in that kind of rental mode, treat their cars and rag it on the weekend type thing? Well, I think I think you're right in one sense that where we are as as a society is that we need that education to say you know, look in terms of how we absorb other things. You've got to remember videos, we used to buy them and then we started to rent them and then we started to stream them. Remember CDs as well they were a thing and we used to pop that that. Absolutely we used to pop down to the Sharpies to buy our are now 57 I think was the first one I bought And then we take it out and we play it. But now we stream it. So we don't actually own any music. We don't actually buy any music, we just stream it. So the concept is, is that it's saying, okay, you're not owning it, but what you're actually getting is a constant stream of new stuff. And that's what we're really focusing on here is the, okay, you might not own it. But do you really care about owning a pair of jeans? You know? Or do you really care about actually owning a jacket, when the next Monday, you could have a new jacket. So every time you go through different seasons, every time you want to go to different events, you've got a different jacket, you've got a new outfit to wear. So you're always getting that impulse of something new, you're always looking sharp and fresh. And actually, that's probably worth more than owning a five year old jacket that you kind of like, yeah, that's interesting. And you've also got women's collections on there as well. How is it swinging for you men versus women? Well, I think if we look at the comparable services that are available, the minute like I said, they're mostly occasionwear, but they are all catering exclusively to women. And that's because females generally they're a lot more used to swapping borrowing, yeah, you know, buying vintage and so on. This way, there is very much female focus. So and that's pretty much the same for us. So we have around a 70% split at the minute, two females two guys. That's pretty much what we expected from the start. So we've always predicted a female focus to begin with. And obviously what we're doing at the minute is educating guys, I'll actually let you go from probably does this. And actually, she does that. And actually, here's what you can get for the for the same. So there's obviously a lot more education to guys, and there is two girls about this. But at the end of the day, it still gives you a huge value proposition on both sexes. Yeah, well, we're all we're all slowly turning into chicks. Anyway. The amount of time I see guys spending in front of the mirror these days, like I say, honestly, every day, the amount of skincare and creams I get offered on Facebook, where amazing, I just want to go to go to the beauty counter at some department store and spend the day. It's It's incredible. And it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that guys are also thinking of, I guess how I don't sound too misogynist, or whatever the word is. But how guys would normally think like a woman would think like how I can't go out in this outfit, because somebody at the same party might have seen me wear this at the last party that was a couple of weeks ago. So you know, they always gonna need to replenish and refresh their wardrobe. But we are slowly I think, all starting to funnel into the same way of thinking when it comes to fashion, especially with social media and how people take pictures of everything all the time. You know, I go to quite a few influencer events, you know, maybe not so much in the last few months, obviously. But before that I would, and I'd be on zoom calls. And I'd be doing interviews over Skype. be thinking, Oh, I spoke to this guy a couple of weeks ago, and I will wear this shirt. So I have to go back to the wardrobe now quickly and put something else on. So I don't know, I think guys, I think guys are slowly becoming more more oriented, how they come across and what they dress how they dress. Yeah, definitely, you hit the nail on the head, it's social media, isn't it, it's the same kind of Instagram vibe, as same for on the girl side as well, like I cannot be seen twice in the same dress, you know, the guy that ends and that the idea of being seen the same thing as all four. And so this, the guys are slowly picking up on the same thing. And they want to go and get an outfit that looks really good. They might pick up a new shirt, they might pick up some some good rip jeans or something. And so that the vibe is definitely, you know, really seeping in to say, I have to wear something new, you know, especially as you go on date nights, and so on. And obviously, we're at home a lot more now. So actually, they want something new to wear something different to wear as they're, you know, hanging out in the living room or in the garden or whatever, they want something fresh and new in their life. Because at the moment everybody everything's I guess a bit stagnant, isn't it? We're kind of in the middle of everything. I hadn't actually thought of it that way before. But now that we'll well we're very much contained. The days of blurring you know, it's like 40 days in the desert. But the one way that we can distinguish our days is by what we choose to wear. You know, I suppose everyone has the philosophy of well, I just wear my pyjamas I can just sit through the whole day wearing my pyjamas but I know that I've actually manicured my wardrobe quite well over the last few days have thrown out a lot of stuff or put them aside for charity etc. And I've really taken time to actually sort out what I wear. And I actually enjoy it a little bit more now as well because I can actually go Oh, this is something that I've actually selected. And somewhere along the process. I've gone Yeah, this actually works for me today. No, yeah, definitely. Well, but but that's the thing, though, isn't it? I mean, as you said, I mean, can you believe it's it's getting towards the end of July now. And I still think it's March. And so it's the same kind of vibe. I mean, obviously I know that people tend to buy fashion because they're going out or they're going to do so. Something and they're buying it for a reason, rather than just a set home. But as you said, as we're working from home now, we still got all these zoom calls to go to. So we're still going to look fresh. And again, you know that the idea of a workwear collection to work from home is actually just as relevant as if you were going to the office. And so you know, you've got to think as well, you know, the spring summer collections from brands will usually come out about April May time, but obviously, in April, May, we weren't going out. So we didn't buy it. And that's obviously where brands themselves retailers are having such a terrible time trying to get rid of their their spring summer stock. Because nobody went out. So now we've got everybody who's still got their winter wardrobes. And I've got a couple of old t shirts last summer, that they're sort of bringing out the wardrobe, and they've not really updated their their collection. So we're just seeing a lot of people going, Oh, well, I do need to update. And actually, let's let's fit a wardrobe around the life I currently live, which is lots of time at home, maybe a short trip out to the bar and whatever. But I'm not really going on mad nights out at the minute. And so so it's really just trying to adapt to wardrobe. And then when you apply that to something like a rental proposition, it fits really well because like, Well, right now, I'm not really going out. But as restrictions lift as there's a bit more freedom that we've got, might start going out more as next month you can get a box, that means that you're going to go out more or that it means you're gonna go back to the office. And the month after that things might change again, so you can change your wardrobe to suit your lifestyle. Steve question for you, as this. Again, I'm kind of just throwing spaghetti at the wall here. But has this pandemic in any way served, you played into your hand a little bit, like has a brands, for example, got like a stockpile of clothes, like you mentioned that they can't shift, they can't put on discount, because that's not really their gig. But they now can augment their outreach by handling having someone like you put it on the platform and have their name put out there. So in a way has this helped you. It's helped us in the in the sense that the conversation about sustainability, the conversation about being we call it conscious shopping, has really taken centre stage. So a lot of what we've been talking about over the last few weeks has really been focused on a different way to two workloads. And that's really, if you think about, you know, going back to march and as everybody went and stayed at home, how much pollution was cleared from the air. And you know, how the planet started to look normal again, and a lot of different ways. I mean, I don't know if you if you remember seeing the rivers of Venice, because actually just thinking that yeah. Yeah, it's that image that just sticks with me every day, because it's like, literally, we can all go home and stop polluting. And that's what happens, everything starts to look healthy, again, from the planet's point of view. And that image, you know, for a lot of people, it sticks in their head going, you know what, actually, that's what I want to see, I don't want to see dirty water, I don't want to see all this pollution. So what kind of what, what can I do personally to contribute to that. So it certainly raised awareness of alternative fashion, sustainable fashion, slow fashion as well. And obviously, we fit as part of a hybrid of that. But in terms of brands mean, don't get me wrong, I think brands are having a tough time of it. In particular, you know, we've launched just after everything has gone wrong. So obviously, we've kind of dodged a bullet there. I think we launched six months early, we may be having a the same kind of problems, but but certainly for brands. Yes, I do want to offload start. But I think at the same time, we don't want to ruin our own proposition just by trying to get rid of products. That's not really what we're about. We want to provide a really good quality service with a nice, clean range of clothes. Rather than being like, Oh, we have to discount the hell out of it, because we've got too much stock. But yeah, so certainly in terms of the topical nature of it is really, really played into us. And as I said, it's highlighted our cause and what we're here for. Interesting, Steve, thanks so much for jumping on. I mean, the website is actually a really fun place to go checking out all the brands, there's also some, some great informational blogs on there. You can find out all about the well how we're filling up our landfill I think 350 Ks, tonnes worth of clothing we're throwing up there every every year and you know that also the divide between women and men going to the charity shops, I think, is it like one in 10 guys do it compared to women? Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that's just nuts. Why is that? Why do you guys so afraid of the charity shops? I think they just prefer to throw it in the bin. Yeah, it's just easy enough. God, we need to we need to get it together, don't we as agendas. Well, thanks so much for your time, Steven, best of luck. And I guess it's very early days for you, but the website's very comprehensive. The idea is very new. And I wish you all the best of it. The devout.com is the place to go. Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot. Thanks for your time. Steve Brian there. Thank you, sir, for coming on. And by the way, we spoke for about another 2030 minutes. After we turned the mics off. He's a really nice guy gave up a lot of time. And you should really be checking this out because I think it will be a game changer in the industry. That's it for this week. So I hope you enjoyed this one. Make sure you're leaving reviews if you can, if you've got time if you're diggin the free content, leave us a review on iTunes. Let us know what you think. Head over to menswear style at codit. UK once again, that's where we put the Show Notes for this episode. And in the meantime, remember it's only fashion people and you're never fully dressed without a smile.