Menswear Style Podcast

Alberto Gil, Co-Founder of Hockerty

September 10, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 83
Menswear Style Podcast
Alberto Gil, Co-Founder of Hockerty
Chapters
Menswear Style Podcast
Alberto Gil, Co-Founder of Hockerty
Sep 10, 2020 Episode 83
Menswear Style

Hockerty was created by three young entrepreneurs at their early 20s as they realised it was difficult to find affordable tailor-made clothing. Like most other startups, they started from their own bedroom with money borrowed from friends and family. As the company grew, more young and passionate professionals joined the team and helped them grow the company. Their vision was to spread comfortable, elegant and perfectly fitted clothing throughout the world. Ten years later, this dream has come true with more than 250,000 customers to date. Their team of more than 60 people are based in Zürich (Switzerland) with offices in Barcelona and Shanghai.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Hockerty Co-Founder Alberto Gil about the beginnings of his online business. The three partners were previously working within tech companies when they discovered and experienced made to measure tailoring in Shanghai, which first gave them the idea for Hockerty. Our host Peter Brooker and Alberto also discuss the obstacles of working with overseas tailors, targeting niche customers, digital innovation, body measurement technologies, overcoming competition, and how Covid-19 stopped people from buying suits and hindered production.

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

Hockerty was created by three young entrepreneurs at their early 20s as they realised it was difficult to find affordable tailor-made clothing. Like most other startups, they started from their own bedroom with money borrowed from friends and family. As the company grew, more young and passionate professionals joined the team and helped them grow the company. Their vision was to spread comfortable, elegant and perfectly fitted clothing throughout the world. Ten years later, this dream has come true with more than 250,000 customers to date. Their team of more than 60 people are based in Zürich (Switzerland) with offices in Barcelona and Shanghai.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Hockerty Co-Founder Alberto Gil about the beginnings of his online business. The three partners were previously working within tech companies when they discovered and experienced made to measure tailoring in Shanghai, which first gave them the idea for Hockerty. Our host Peter Brooker and Alberto also discuss the obstacles of working with overseas tailors, targeting niche customers, digital innovation, body measurement technologies, overcoming competition, and how Covid-19 stopped people from buying suits and hindered production.

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 men's Weststar podcast. I'm your host, Pete Walker. And this episode, I'm going to talk to Alberto Gill, co founder of haka T. And I'm going to peel off a little info from the hockey website here, which you can find by the way at hockey team.com. Founded in 2008, hockey is the e commerce leader in tailored suits and tailored shirts as we offer our customers complete freedom to design their own clothes by choosing from a wide range of styles and fabrics. So that interview about Berto to come and I really enjoyed it. Our Berto opens up about the origins of the company, how to get an e commerce site off the ground. Also what's going on right now with regards to people buying suits amidst a pandemic, you know, what is the demand like in these crazy times? I grilled him on that, and he came back with some interesting answers I think you'll find interesting, so stay tuned. And before we get to Alberto, don't forget to check out the show notes at menswear. style.co.uk and on the social app menswear style. All the latest fashion news, Craig, our editors just published an article on how to create the work from home environment. Well, you just locked a cat in the cupboard, like my girlfriend's doing right now. Just joking. That's not the answer. That's just a window into my life. Check out that article, how to create a decent work life balance and many more on menswear style. And if you want to tell us about your brand and your journey, you can email the show at info at menswear styled or co.uk. Okay. Let's get into it. This is a good one. I hope you enjoy it. Here is that interview with Alberto, co founder of hockey? Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce Alberto Gill, co founder of hockey tea. How are we doing today? Great. Thanks. Thanks for having me here. Today. Pleasure to have you on Alberto, tell me a little bit about yourself what it is that you do. So my name what you need to say my name, I'm co founder of hockey. And what I do here is that I'm in charge of one area that is the innovation innovation area. But let me explain a little bit about Hawker the first place or what we do, it's what we do made to measure garments, for men and for women to under the brand su misura. And we have been doing this for 12 years so far. And we do it the extra effort to add exclusively on online. So we don't have stores, users customers come to our websites design their own clothes, Suits, Shirts, coats, whatever. And we just produce them in 15 days made to their exact measurements. Right? How did you get the idea for this for hockey? So the story is that at 12 years ago, we were three of the co founders were working in technical accounting tech companies. And one of my partners came from trip to Shanghai. And he explained to us that there was there was a strong tradition in suit making, that you could go there and get a suit made in just hours, you know, in in 2448 hours you got you gotta make the major suit. And then we he suggested he suggested us to create something thing that mixing technology and this tradition in Shanghai, and we could offer customers all over around the world to get them proper made to measure suit in in just 15 days as we offer today. And just through our website. And yeah, and then two months later after that, we we launched Hawker to come right. Okay. So I let me tell you something, I had a similar idea much later. So you guys been going 12 years. This isn't by any means a new idea I had but I my girlfriend and I we like to go to Hawaii and at least once a year and they've got about 400 tailors in the heartland. And it was again I felt like the quality was really good. I felt the the turnaround time was fantastic. You know you put yourself into a hotel just a couple of days. You can walk out with a lot of bespoke made to measure garments. But what I did find was that there was no way that people were digitising the information. Like none of these tailors seem to have records of their customers or their clients. And so like, if you were to then go back to the UK, maybe I wanted to get an extra couple of shirts or jackets or trousers, whatnot, I couldn't find any way of communicating with the tailor and say, Hey, any chance, you can just knock me up a couple of more garments. So imagine this kind of germ that I had much later down the road was something you had about 12 years ago. So how does that process begin? Then, once you have the idea, and how, what are the first parts of implementing that plan? Yeah, I always say that. First of all, we were very, very lucky with the partner that we chose in Shanghai back in the days, and even till today, it's the same partner that we have. So this is this has been very, very important for us. But second, it was all about bringing or mindset as well, because we have an engineering mindset, right? Because we we are engineer, so we wanted to bring em these organisation, these operational processes to our the way that they were producing, and we just mix this with their vision. And then we were able to offer these, obviously, the first and the first orders that we received, they were not perfect, right? But during the day, the first month we were we optimised all the processes. And in the end, we were able to offer what you say that was difficult to offer, right? So we could offer a consistent service for every customer, right? So if you place an order to three months after your first order, your measurements were the same, and we have all your records and this kind of thing. So it's Yeah, I mean, it's not an easy an easy process. And that's why there are not hundreds of companies like us. But let me also say that we were not the only ones having the same idea. So during these 12 years, we have seen many companies launching similar ideas once are our competitors, and they're doing great and others try it and fail. And so So, I mean, there is this is because the there is really a strong tradition in Shanghai, and a very good quality in terms of manufacturing and fabrics. And that's why we are there is a bunch of us doing the same there. Right, I see, I've got to tell you, the biggest issue that I had, and I kind of pursued my own little mini project for about half a year. But the biggest problem that I couldn't get over was having people to rely on on the ground out there. So I didn't have anybody that could communicate with the tailors. I could I couldn't trust anybody. Did you have any similar issues when you're starting this up? About you know how you got on board with the tailors? Yeah, this is a problem. I mean, I'm personally do they? Well, I don't know if it today, it's even, it's even worse. But the thing is that you need to have somebody there that you can rely on. So what we did there very fast, quite fast was to create our own and logistics centre, as we call it, have people that we could rely on their travel there every month or every two months? And this is the way to do things that so that you can you can control that everything is in order. And so but again, let me stress out that we were very lucky with with our partners are I mean, they they usually then years ago, they used to say that one out of 10 businesses implying Western partners and Chinese partners used to be successful. Right. So nine out of 10 were failed. Right? And I guess that we were wanting those in those that 10% Yeah, now that I mean, that's key, isn't it? So much that hinges on that relationship? Do you did I said what was the landscape like say 12 years ago when you launched this in terms of online e commerce? I mean, I'm guessing it obviously wasn't the juggernaut that it is today. But when you first started putting the pieces into place, what was around and what was it like launching something like that then? Well, we honestly when we launched this we we learned that as a side project, right? It was not was not for a living and we started from very little. And with our first sales, we start the re investing or profits in order to keep growing and so, and we and to the till today, we are doing exactly the same reinvesting what we generate in order to keep growing. So we are what they call bootstrapped company, right. So we never needed money from others in order to keep growing. And do you do that reason we didn't I mean, we, we grow, we grew with a very solid foundation. But going back to your question about what was the ecosystem, the online ecosystem and regarding that make the measure Gammons. And back in the days, there was only one other company doing the same. And it was quite coincidental and quite funny, because it was like both of us had the same idea at this with several months of difference. And we learnt similar things. And then today, we are still competing. And it's it's very, it's very fun. And then they are doing a great job. And we hope that they still stay as competitor for long. But it was it was really difficult to convince people back then to go to a website, design something, insert measurements, pay 200 bucks, depending on the on the if it was dollars, euros or pounds, right, and then wait 15 days to receive the government, right. But we were lucky that there was a small audience of people that really wanted made the measurements. They are they really wanted customised products. And so we were going to that specific audience. And that is the things that allow us to to grow, right? Today we sell to more intergenic audience like I mean, people that just want a suit to go to the office because they work in a bank or people that want a suit for a wedding or this type of right. But at the beginning, very beginning, we were going to very specific niches. But you mentioned your competitors, I don't I don't want to dwell on it too much. I'll mention any names. But it must be like a double edged sword that you kind of want competition in order to accelerate what you're doing yourself and to push you. But also, you could probably do with them not being there at the same time. So I'm curious, are you in dialogue with them? Do you have to look over your shoulder? And is it like a friendly competition? I must admit that it's not that we are not that close with these guys. And so we have never, I mean, the way they do business is very different the way we do business today. So that's why we we never had the opportunity to talk to them. On the other hand with other many other competing competitors. We have fluent relationship, and we talk from time to time and so on. It's It's great. But not with, not with this specific one that I mentioned. Okay. All right, gets it out. Again, I'm gonna swing it back round to me, I'm in the process of launching a book. And I've just realised, well, I've known for a long time that somebody else is going to be launching the exact same book, the exact same title, round of edits. I'm not in contact, I don't have dialogue with the other offer. But it does feel like each time I hear noise coming from the other camp, it not it puts a spark up my ass. I'm like, right. Okay, I've got a double down get up earlier, I've got I would just make sure that my projects much better than reject. You know, I mean, so at the same time, I'm thinking Jesus Christ, just wish they'd go away. But at the same time, I'm also quite grateful for it, because it you know, it gets me to work harder. Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is this is something but another hand, you need to work your way. Right? I mean, yeah, in this case that we're talking about, we decided to take very different paths in terms of doing the same thing from the business perspective. So we are not talking here about suits are about elegance we are talking about about you know, business and they decided to go away that we don't know how to do business. So the way we know how to do business is to do sustainable business so so to to, to create that business that if I mean that, that you don't need money from others in order to continue working right so that you can reinvest the your own profits that way you do and to keep growing and to keep growing at that pace that for sure. It will always be slower than what others do, but it's sustainable. So I, fortunately for us, we chose this way, because these year we are seeing so many people suffering with this situation, people that got into too complicated projects that asked for so much money. And it's been it's been quite a disaster for many others. And it's a pity because they were doing great in terms of product and in terms of production. And so and because they went into complicated paths, maybe they will not be able to explain this, they will not be able to make it next year. Yeah. Yeah, I think a lot of people have kind of hit a brick wall. Yeah, through no fault of their own just perhaps. Either it's directly affected them what's going on right now? Or, you know, it's, it's basically taking the rug out of them. And they've got no fat on the business. They can't lean on anything. Can so you know, people have just been stripped down that site. Well, maybe let's drill down a little bit on that. How has the pandemic and COVID, etc. And how is that all affected? hockey? Or has it at all? Yeah, yeah, well, at the beginning, and so on 13 14th March, it was when all this started. And I mean, it hit us hard, right. So people, people wasn't, was in shock, right, everybody all around the world, almost all around the world, people was in shock. They were not ready, you're not willing to buy suits for the office, because they then need to attend the office, they've been know when they were going to be able to go back to the office. And then during the following weeks, they all the weddings and and special events were cancelled, right? So you can imagine if you wanted to buy a procedure for a body or for a man, or if you wanted to buy your new suit for a wedding you have to attend. You're obviously we're postponing that, right. So as many other businesses, we saw a drop during the first weeks, that was quite dramatic. And but fortunately for us, after that, I don't know if it was after four weeks or salts, sales started to recover. And we have a great team that saw opportunities in this situation, right? Because there was people that were still looking for, to buy suits and to buy metal measure products. And so so we were there when customers wanted to buy for this. And I guess that due to the fact that many local stores were closed, many some of these new customers went to search online and and deal today, we cannot complain, right? So we are in a situation that we are. We are way better than we thought we would be when all these pandemic started. But, you know, the second wave, everybody's afraid of the second way, or er, because we don't know what will happen. Right. But But yes, as it affected your supply chains or the tailors tool. They have to down tools. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, we? Yeah, I was not thinking about that. I almost forgot that. So that they when the pandemic impacted Europe and America and impacted the sales hard, right, but that the beginning of the year, it impacted us on the production side, right, because China was on lockdown. So we our tailors, were not being able to attend. They do the work, right. So we were not able to produce and we had some delays. But on the other hand, I mean, it was an opportunity for us to grow, to discover. So we were we had the opportunity to create new partnerships with a new tailors. And yeah, it was, I mean, we, it made us better, it made us better because we we found new ways to produce in new factories or tailors. And in the end, we had a bigger capacity of production. And then the pandemic came to Europe. And we didn't need to have that that huge capacity that we had. Right. But yes, it impacted us, but it was not as dramatic as when impacted Europe. curious about how often do you get to Shanghai, you kind of get hands on with that part of the operation? No, I'm not that involved. So my partners are involved more on the on the part of the operation. I'm more involved on the on anything related to technology and to marketing. What is your day to day look like when you know as co founder of pockety. What was your normal operations? So yeah, it's quite difficult to find them but the US in the innovation area, what we do is We look for technologies or new developments that could improve any area aspect of our company, such as launching a new product, or our sell in new artists of the wall, or even implement technologies such as improvements in chatbot. For example, this is a project that we launched several months or years ago. And, and things such as the M mesh, or you know that we have a system that is able to predict your measurements based on certain pilot parameters of your body, right. So, tell me about that. I mean, I'm fascinated about that. So the thing is that when one of the keys in having success in a company that sells made to measure Gammons, to customers that you cannot put your hands on, is to be able to apply some technology in order to help the customers to get measured, right. So there are many companies during these years, many companies have developed different systems that use different technologies. But the easier to understand is, for example, if you take a picture of yourself, and the picture is able to estimate your measurements, right. But this is not the approximation that we took, it is not the system that we took we we use a system in which based on your hate weight and different body parameters that you can you have Dallas, basically, you have to tell us if you're, you're strong, or you have a belly. And we can basically estimate your measurements with that. So these allows you to when you're when you get measured, right, when you're measuring your chest or your or your arm length ignore. It helps you to tell Oh, yes, this is this is my measurement, because basically, our estimation works so well that we don't even know people to get measured at least 80% of the population body types, we are able to predict their measurements, right. And that's based on just giving a description of your measurements as opposed to taking a photo of me and my undies, and just sending it on to an unknown number, which actually happened on whatever site, it was a very strange process, but it was a Hey, you know, you need we need your measurements, we need a photo of you. But we need you to strip down to your under crackers and send it to us about I know, I'm not gonna I'm not gonna impart that pain on anyone else. Why? But that is precisely why we went deeper than we tried that road. So because we know, or we thought that people would be unwilling to take a picture of themselves in underpants and sending it out over the internet. And then no, where does picture goes and if it gets stored or whatever. So that's why we went through our very clean process. That is, sometimes it's hard to believe sounds like magic, right? But if I tell you that we I mean, nowadays with machine learning is much better, much easier to understand that that what used to go on, but the system gets learning all the time with every new customer the system learns. So if the system predicts measurements, we do the garments based on those predictions. If the customer says oh, I needed to bring it to the tailor to to shorten this leave one centimetre. Okay, so the system learns the system, say, okay, for that these customer, my prediction was not Okay, next time, and we'll do it a bit shorter for them for them. So, um, but doesn't that depend on what how people can? I mean, so like, for example, if I had made to measure suit, and I did all the measurements to the best of my ability, but it might be a centimetre short on the sleeve, but that's how do you differ it? Let me let me rephrase is how do you gauge whether that's just somebody's personal taste that they wanted it? To send me as opposed to Well, actually, we gave you the right fit, it's just you, you want to crazy little, you want to crazy, something else going on with it? Does that make sense? Yeah, yeah, it makes sense. makes total sense. I mean, we have certain parameters that we ask you in the website like this lynfit right for the trousers and fur jacket, you wanted slim or normally, but for the sleeve length, for example, right that some people prefer shorter and show more shirt cuff than others, right. This is personal taste and honestly, this goes on average for every country. So if in the UK people prefers to, to wear them shorter, so the system will learn that in the UK, we need to have them and to make them shorter that In Germany or running the US, ah, that is fascinating. So it's a demographic by country as well. So like, if you can, is nuts. So what's the what is the, the general vibe of English? Or, you know what what are we into right now? You're the guy to go to for this? No. It is not. I mean, there is no specific trout that comes to me from from the English customers I have other other I mean, there is others that are very obvious that Italians always one than slimmer. Right. But from from England, there is no specific thing that we are all the time that we're receiving requests on the time. Okay, so let me go off the grass a little bit. I've just finished watching a film called limitless with Bradley Cooper. Have you seen the film? I think I started, I watch one minute and then I stopped. That was enough. I don't know why. Okay, it's on Netflix, I recommend you watch it. If only for this scene. He's at the tailors. And he has to stash like his, what's called NZT. It's a drug that makes him think quicker. He gets to use every part of his brain. And for this, so he will, you know, he needs to keep his pills very, very close to him. And he's asked the Taylor, look, can you create an imperceptible pocket in this jacket? To which the Taylor goes, yes. And I just thought, Oh, that's so cool. Having some like little sneaky pocket that you can access? You know, bits and bobs in? Can people have anything like that through hockey? Can they make anything bespoke in that way? Yeah, for sure. I mean, we have done thousands of things like this during the years. I mean, there are special requests coming all the time. So people asked for, I remember, pockets on the back of the jacket, you know, this would be kind of that, right? Because if you want to put something very thin back there, nobody would tell that there is a pocket back there. Yeah. And even suits that look like this film of whatever, you know, I mean, yeah. So despite on the website, you can design tonnes of things, you have millions of combinations, there is always something that is not that. And you can you can request and then most popular ones, in the end, go to the website. Right? Right. I see. That's, and by the way, I'm on the website right now. It's super fast. So I can recommend everyone going to hockey.com. And just going to the, you know, the Select fabric and design your own style, you have little swatches that you can click on, and then you see the suit on the right hand side of the screen instantly change to that that fabric style. But it happens in a blink of an eye, you must be really happy with the speed of the website. Yeah, we have a very good IT team, that it's always looking for doing things faster and more convenient for users. I mean, this is we don't have storage, right? So we need to really excel on applying the latest technology advances here in order to make the website more usable faster. And that that makes you feel that you are kind of touching your new government, right? Yeah. No, I like it. Congrats, mate, you got a really, really cool, very, very slick, very fast website. I'm very, very jealous of you. How does a blog work? So you have also I mean, you got 30 pages of articles that help people decide their style tips on style, fashion, screen icons, etc. How does that process work? If you have a team of writers? Yeah, so we have I mean, our marketing team usually writes about concepts that we think they and that can be useful for, for our customers, right? And sometimes they are, to me, very, very simple, but and sometimes they are very, very specific. But yeah, we would wish to have more resources to write even more and better content and on their blog. So if there's anybody out there that wants to collaborate with us, writing content, I mean, we are more than happy. Because we want I mean, we would love to share all the knowledge that we have about about men's men's wear and elegance and so but we have a limited amount of time right to do. Yeah, right Gundam and that's why we we have less content that we would love to have. Well, it's a it's a huge reservoir of information and People can pretty much find whatever they need or whatever they're looking for over@hockey.com about Oh, thanks so much for your time. Thank you. Thank you for again for having me. It's been a pleasure. Wow, how about that Alberto hasn't seen limitless. I've thought everyone seemed limitless. While it's on Netflix, everyone can brush over and said, Alberto, he's too busy. He's creating you busy creating a great platform for you to design your own suit. So make sure you're supporting the good guys and head over to hockey calm and treat yourself or your loved one to a suit at your personal tastes in perceptible pockets. And anyway, in the meantime, thanks for tuning in. If you like what you're hearing, leave a review. It helps our egos If nothing else, and until next time