Menswear Style Podcast

Matt Bird, Founder of The Shirt Society

October 12, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 86
Menswear Style Podcast
Matt Bird, Founder of The Shirt Society
Chapters
Menswear Style Podcast
Matt Bird, Founder of The Shirt Society
Oct 12, 2020 Episode 86
Menswear Style

The Shirt Society, founded by Matt Bird, brings you the highest quality men's wardrobe essentials, delivered only when you need them. With a subscription service model, they aim to deliver the best shirts, polos and tees every month. Customers can easily skip or cancel at any time. Plus, for a limited time - your first shirt's on them.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview The Shirt Society Founder Matt Bird about the brand tagline of 'life without the shopping', and targeting customers who like to look good but hate shopping. It was 2 years ago when Matt spoke to the loyal customers of his previous menswear venture which brought him to the idea for this new concept. He then reached out to his LinkedIn contacts to promote it and to capture early sign ups which helped to fund the first stock purchase. Our host Peter Brooker and Matt also chat about angel investors, how a clothing subscription model works, the process of designing the garments, and what a typical day is like for a startup founder.

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 Shirt Society, founded by Matt Bird, brings you the highest quality men's wardrobe essentials, delivered only when you need them. With a subscription service model, they aim to deliver the best shirts, polos and tees every month. Customers can easily skip or cancel at any time. Plus, for a limited time - your first shirt's on them.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview The Shirt Society Founder Matt Bird about the brand tagline of 'life without the shopping', and targeting customers who like to look good but hate shopping. It was 2 years ago when Matt spoke to the loyal customers of his previous menswear venture which brought him to the idea for this new concept. He then reached out to his LinkedIn contacts to promote it and to capture early sign ups which helped to fund the first stock purchase. Our host Peter Brooker and Matt also chat about angel investors, how a clothing subscription model works, the process of designing the garments, and what a typical day is like for a startup founder.

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:

Welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. On this episode, I'm going to talk to Matt bird. He is the founder of the shirt society shirts without the shopping shirt subscription service, you can order yours now at the shirt society.co.uk first month, you get half price at 1495. Then after that you get to tailor your order what you want, you get to pick and choose a little bit more. And if you want to skip a month, that's no problem head over to the shirt society, Cote UK and find out more what's going on there. So that interview with Matt to come and I really enjoyed it and for for any budding entrepreneurs out there. You have an idea but you don't necessarily have the capital. Well, Matt has a capital idea to get his business off the ground. He uses LinkedIn. And I think you'll be interested to hear that so stay tuned. Before we get to Matt, don't forget to check out the show notes at menswear style Koto, UK and on the social app menswear style. All the latest fashion news editor Craig has just posted an article on seven of the most versatile clothes for a man's wardrobe. He writes fast forward to 2020. And it's claimed that men have never had it so good when it comes to fashion. The UK men's clothing market is now worth 15 billion a year. Wow. That's a massive number. Coming at you as a science people check that article out and more over at menswear. style.co.uk. And if you want to tell us about your brand, and you want to come on the show and tell us your journey, you can email us at info at menswear style. uk. Okay. Let's get to it. That's a weird one. This is a good one, though. Hope you enjoy it. Here is that interview with Matt bird, founder of the shared society. Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce Matt Byrd, founder of the shirt society. How are you doing today, man? I'm very well. Thank you. Oh, yeah, yeah, really good. Thanks, pal. Matt, please just give us a nutshell resume view. Yeah, so as you mentioned, I'm the founder of the shirt. citee, which is essentially our tagline is life without shopping. So we're a men's wear curated menswear subscription service at the minute so we deliver kind of really, really premium quality shirts, t shirts, polo shirts, on currently a monthly basis to the guy that likes to look good, but ah, shopping, which finding more and more of these days, which is good news for us. Yeah. And, and slightly harder to do these days as well in crazy times. So yeah, how old is the brand, please. So the I've had the idea for this for probably two years. So previously to this, I had another man's web business that I ran for seven years, that was kind of focused on casual shirting towards its latest stages. But naturally, a lot of our customers in that business, we're, like young professionals are wearing suits and smarter attire on a daily basis. And, you know, we always struggle with that business to get repeat custom getting people to buy more than kind of one shirt every six months. And, you know, I think looking back, we probably price ourselves too high for where we wanted to be. So those customers actually gave me the feedback and almost helped me build this concept into, you know, a viable business plan, essentially. So yeah, about two years ago, I spoke to maybe 400 of those customers that I had said, What can we be doing better? What is your shirt and requirement? Where are you buying them from? How much you paying? What type of shirt Are you buying? How often are you buying them? And what can we do that betters the experience for you? And yeah, we spoke about product a lot. But one of the running themes was these guys that, you know, more and more people these days are time poor, they haven't got time to kind of buy the things that they need on a daily basis. So just saying if you can do anything to get me out of the shop, or if you can do anything to stop me spending my lunch break running down, you know, city centres to get a new white workshop or new for 400 deal from one of those retailers. I'm in and so yeah, so it came to probably no, no, September 2019 where I was like, right, okay, let's let's try and get this off the ground. So I literally went on my LinkedIn profile, and, like posted about this concept and this idea that I had. So I was like, This is the idea. You know, we'll we'll do all the legwork for you, we'll take the hassle out of shopping, we'll deliver a great product and it will cost you 40 quid a month to be part of this membership subscription service. I said sweeten the deal, if you sign up right now, I'll give it to you for 20 pound a month for life. And so that was kind of my way of proving that this concept had legs, that we could get customers on board early. And so within the first three days of me doing that post, we had 750, people sign up to this email database that I was gathering, wow, anyone did a lot better than I thought. And, and so the week after that, I converted 250 out of those 750 people into paying members. So what that allowed me to do was, you know, they paid up front. So that, you know, at this point, I had nothing, I had no product, I had no real website, I had a logo that I created with my girlfriend in a pub garden. And this like landing page that just said, here's what we're gonna do enter your email address yet. So they paid up front, either they signed up for 20 pound a month for three months, or they paid 60 pound for that three months in advance. But that allowed me to then go off and buy stock that they needed. So I can I kind of funded the first order of stock with with their money, which was perfect. And so yeah, it gave us an opportunity to kind of learn and test the operation test the production qualities project, test the kind of fabrics that I wanted to use test the styling that we wanted to use to get the fit, right, and see how it kind of it kind of took off from there really, and it's, it's been quite quick journey ever since. So yeah, we've just probably about a year old, right? Yeah, it's no time at all, was it quite scary for you at the start when you had the money in the capital, and then it's like, right, now you got to follow through on this 100% and it only kind of gets gets more because the more kind of you get into it, the more months go by the more ideas that you have and the more kind of promises that you make to your customer as well. So you're right, I've really got to make this thing sticky. And I got to make people want to stay with this for as long as possible. And luckily now you know, 12 months on we probably retain 90% of those original customers, which is amazing too. So they haven't gone anywhere. But ya know, so we obviously the customers kind of funded that first round of stop but quite quickly afterwards we I was approached by two kind of high net worth angel investors as well which is ideal that are both located in like the Northwest. And yeah, did a deal with one of them before Christmas. So then we had a bit of growth capital as well for the next kind of phase of our journey. So yeah, the last 12 months has been about you know, delivering the promise to customers but then also delivering on the plans to investors. So it's been it's been hectic to say the least but yeah, it's all going very well actually. Nice. Well, I should say that you guys were kind enough to send me a share and the presentation is really really cool. Got the box you open it up you get a free gift as soon as you open the box so I was like added these guys now I needed moisturiser we kind of want to do that we want to we want to add something in that was like an unexpected treat, I suppose. So you know, you're 20 pounds or 30 pound a month, whatever it is, now, you get your shirt, then, you know, we throw something in for good measure, whether that's moisturiser or a pair of socks or like a beard oil or, you know, we've done a few things over the last kind of couple of months. But yeah, it's trying to give our members all the stuff that they need. But don't necessarily like shopping for you know, while we started, we can't make our own moisturiser. So partner was really cool brands and deliver it that way. Yeah, no, it's almost like Christmas. I'm like, well, I've got the space share. But now also like, my art is just giving me an extra bit of links in the post. Yeah. It was nice. No, thanks, man. It was really cool. So talk to me about the model for the people that don't know about the subscription. So you the first one is half price, like you say, and then from then on, how does the process work? So yeah, you sign up. And currently we position it. So you kind of start a trial, which is half price element, it's 1495. So you pay 1495 choose your shirt, choose your fit and your size of the shirt that you think you know that you are, we send out to you. And we offer you know, unlimited free exchanges. You know, just so you can, if you feel that you can send that shirt back and get another size if you need to. Once you're fully happy with that size that you've got, you then enter, you know the subscription you get billed 2995 every 30 days. But within between those orders, you actually get to choose what you want in that subscription. So a lot of subscription services work in the way that you get the same fixed products delivered on a kind of fixed cycle. We wanted to give you the choice of what what you had in inventory. scription So yeah, you've got kind of 28 days in between orders to come into the platform, choose the shirt, polo shirt t shirt that you want delivered, then that comes within your next order. And then yeah, you've kind of repeat that every every 30 days. But you know, we're fully aware that not everyone needs 12 shirts in their wardrobe a year. So we, you know, obviously included t shirts and polo shirts now as well. But we've also built a function to skip. And not just, you're not just getting stuff for the sake of getting it because, you know, we don't, that's no good for any of us if you're just getting shirts that you're not wearing. So yeah, you've got the functionality just to skip a month, you don't need anything as well, which is, which is good, mate. I think that's when I was on the site earlier, I thought that was one of the most persuadable factors about Yeah, because whenever you do subscribe to stuff, no matter how much you feel like you need it at the time, there's, I mean, everything gym, you know, sock subscription, beer subscription, you always end up with excess, don't use just the way of life. So not locked into anything, I think it's a huge bonus is easier than like this as least restrictive as possible. I think part of the perception of subscription is that you are tied in. And yeah, we don't want that. So it's, it's skipped as many months as you need cancel anytime. But we're also working on kind of additional subscription levels, so you can sign up to get a product every other month or every 90 days, you know, and make it really flexible to what you want. And the only thing that remains the same, you know, is the price. And so you know, if you're on a 90 day plan, you get you get billed that 30 quid every 90 days. And so you know, what we're also doing is, the quality of our products, as I'm sure while I hope you'll agree is is a lot better than 30 quid, that we can easily sell the shirts for 6570 quid, and part of the draw is that you get in really premium quality for for for a really good price as well. And so what is life like for you now on a day to day? Is this your main gig? Is it day to day in the business? Yeah, maybe took me for a day in the life belief. Oh, God, it depends what day you want. Very, it's very, very, I think, in startups the best way it should be. So I kind of I fluttered the minute of days of working on the business, but then also, I'm still quite involved in, in the business stuff as well. And so there's a, there's a kind of a core team of five of us now there's nine in total, including some other people that we use. So yeah, it's, it's, it's a balance of, you know, getting the right people in the right place at the right time. But and also, you know, making sure that everything gets done, you know, in between it. So yeah, my days, usually start by literally opening up the bank account and see how much money is in there, and, or how little money's in there. And just, yeah, it's really hard to give you a typical day, because they are so varied. It goes through, you know, times where it's a lot of just dealing with, you know, marketing stuff, or projects to do to drivers, more customers or dealing with the platform, how we're going to build the platform, when it's going to be finished what we should do to kind of launch the platform, then there's other periods where we could be spent on, you know, investors and how we're going to find new investors to grow the business and, you know, different strategic levels of stuff. But then, you know, like, the other day, for example, the this is, this should give you a clear idea of the variation of my day. So I had a big kind of product strategy call about what's the product going to look like over the next 12 months, where we're going to source it from, you know, these global sourcing strategies and all this kind of stuff. And I ended the zoom call on how to run out onto the streets, unload 5000 boxes off the back of a lorry you know, talking about really ambitious and long term and high level things to literally lugging in loads of cardboard off the back of a lorry, that's just a ride from Poland. So that for me was like the typical start up there. You can you can go You have to do both. And I've had to do both as well, which I think is quite difficult. But yeah, you know, I love I love all of them equally at the minute. What is the design process? Like? or What was it like to start with? So you had to you had to get the product on board, you had the feedback from your customers initially? Where do you take it from, say, con design to place in your market? Yeah, so luckily, with product design, I kind of established a supply that we could use for the shirts and you know, my previous business so the design process now, up until now has always been quite quick and probably quicker than it should be. Because I've had a knowledge of what fabrics are gonna work. I had a kind of a knowledge of how to, you know what components I needed to bring that shirt to life. So I could literally just go to the factory And so right on this fabric, these trims bottle and you place the order within a week essentially. Because I'd already been through the rigorous kind of sampling phases and creating our blocks and creating our, you know, colour lengths and all that kind of technicality stuff I'd already done in a previous business. So yeah, that's it been quite Yeah, it could be quite reactive with it. And you could leave things a little bit later and don't have to go through the three phases of sampling and trying new fabrics and stuff. But as we grow, now, we're, you know, we've moved, we've got a few different suppliers, and we're doing a few different products that I'm not necessarily having as much kind of experience or skill in. So we've created this little product team now where we have a designer, we have kind of a technical assistant, and kind of product development director leads that that team. And so now Yeah, we start in the design process for like autumn winter next year, which my mind is, it just, it just blows my mind that we have to be so far in advance. But you know, with lead times, and different kind of design processes, and fabric sourcing, you've really always got to be ahead of the game. And so yeah, we were kind of just getting working on that, that stuff now and doing stuff in a lot more granular detail than what I'm used to. So that's it, you know, I know that our product is of great quality. And now it's about maintaining it and making sure everything else, you know, alongside it works the best possible way as well. And so it's really exciting. It's probably one of my favourite favourite periods of going, right, what what do you want to do? Let's come up with some really cool ideas and then whittling it down. So at the minute, we're designing, like three to one. So designing three options to one that we will go forward with, right? And yeah, testing it against not testing it, but benchmarking against what our customer wants when they want it. What is the market saying? What is the trend been for the last six months? Or what's it going to be for the next six months? And then trying to fit it in there? So it's not, it's not all just about creating a nice product. Now it's about like you said, Where does it fit in the market? And what time does it fit into the market? And it's developed a lot more than it was 12 months ago, when I was just like, pink, blue and white one more slot. So looking at more data, we're looking at more insight from our kind of core and target demographic to inform those decisions. So yeah, it's, it's really cool, really interesting. How much discipline does it take? Because I imagine if I was in your shoes, and I was looking at options, design options, fabrics, like well, it will all be a sefer cotton will have my celibate front, and I want me cocktail cuffs and I won't because like Roger Moore, and I want everyone to like what I like. Yeah, how much of you is kind of in the design? And how much of you do you have to subtract? It's a bit of both. Like, I think I do that I'm like, I really want to do this type of show. I really want to do this kind of style. And the good thing that Steven Paula did it now is that right? That's a good idea. Probably won't work until November next year. Right. And so I think for me, you know, ticks the box, I still kind of get the design I want but they've rationalised it and said it doesn't something to work for someone that I work for kind of autumn winter. And so you know, what we're doing now is just focusing on hundred percent cost. And we want to be the best in arcs like kind of certain fabrication. And I think you can get lost in trying to do too much at once and too much too quickly. So what we've done is almost slowed it down a little bit and said, right, let's just focus on 100% cotton, let's listen to, you know, the market, let's listen to what kind of colours are doing well, what designs do well, how do we make that work with our fabrication. And so the good thing about guys, and especially our target customer, and the offering that we're doing is that it's not necessarily design LED, it's not, you know, we don't have to come up with wild prints and different types of button placements. It's all about kind of giving our customer what they need when they need it. And so a lot of guys, you know, our stuff is quite simple. It's more quality driven. And like I said, trend and style driven. But we just do very few things, we're doing very, very well. We had attention to detail where we can see if you noticed on your shirt, the third button down the thread is orange, that kind of stuff, and all that kind of stuff. So I think that's probably me in the shirt. You know, it's the attention to detail. It's the tiny little touches that just finish it off. That's why I'm I'm all about that. And so yeah, it's a lot more so now a mix of kind of commercial. And, you know, what I want to put into a product essentially. Yeah, yeah, it's also I think you touched upon it earlier, the convenience factor as well, especially when it comes to shirts, because, you know, I think guys kind of have a carousel of shirts. If they're anything like me, well, I'll just go for them and go well, I can't wear that again today, but so it's Sue becomes like, you know, there's kind of endless, where your date is Monday to Friday. And at the end of it, it just becomes so routine that the joy is almost sucked out of it. If you see what I mean, yeah, well, that's it, that's what I find with shirts, you need to like, close it, you need to wear more like every single day, they're not actually enjoyable to buy, like I just did. But you want if if you need a really nice suit for a wedding or so that's actually really enjoyable to go and buy it. Because it's an occasional piece, it's something you probably invest more money in. And you just probably take a little bit more pride in it. Whereas the stuff that you actually fundamentally need every single day just just a bit boring. So we're trying to take that hassle out of that inconvenience of you having to go and buy them, and just deliver now on a lot more easy, more fun kind of basis. I'm so glad you said that. Because when I worked in a tailors ensure that for a short while, I was begging the owner for me to come in early and open the shop up early before nine o'clock. You know, I mean, like in bangko sentral. I'm in the gentrified section of Shoreditch. And he goes No, no, no, just come in and open up at 10. And, you know, if they want their shirts, they'll just come in on their lunch break. And no one no one wants to do this. No one wants to give up their spare time to come in and buy a shirt. It's insane. So it was weird. It was like for the first time in my life. I'm asking to work early. And I'm being told not. Yeah, it's strange is so true. Like people don't want to spend their limited time the day doing warm, you know, they they don't want to and what you find with these types of shirts as well, they're always positioned in locations where these guys are spending their working hours. And weekend, they don't want to come back to work to go and get and get a shirt. So it's like unlimited in options. Really? Yeah, no, it's not so overwhelming as well. So you can walk into any shirt store on the high street and be met with the left wall is full of white shirts. The right wall is full of blue shirts, and the waterfront is full of pink shirts. And you're like, I just want the shirt that I had last month. And it's hard to find that consistent shirt in the sea of noise. And, you know, that was kind of, you know, consensus from our customer, obviously. And what you find now is, even online shopping is overwhelming. There's a lot more brands online now. And so you know, they all she wanted was nice black t shirts, but because there was so many options on she left with nothing. So she spent half an hour trying to find the brand that she wanted to buy all because there was so much choice, it just becomes again, an inconvenient process. And so she exactly, exactly the same with shower gel. And I tell them this is all the time. We are all out of problems. If I'm choosing between passionfruit shower gel and citrus with like, I'm like, Who the hell cares? Really? Just give me the carbolic soap. Let me let me get on with my life. need someone that does the job? Yeah. Matt, listen at connections getting a little bit fuzzy, but want to be also respectful of your time. The shirt society.co UK is a place that you can go You can also follow Matt on the shirt society, underscore on Instagram and have a look at the products firsthand. And I was gonna say also the website What I really like about the website is that it's streamlined. There's no you know, I didn't have to get lost down a rabbit hole of choosing different things and then going off Crikey, I just didn't really need to go down there or click on that. So I think when you go to the website, you'll find it very user friendly. And you'll pretty much get what you need because there is a really good streamlined choice. So it's all about making these these things simpler. Like we said, we're taking the hassle out of shopping so easy. We can make it better. Yeah, and Yep, congrats. I think you've got a great product on your hands. And well take care and, and best of luck. Thanks very much switches in. Okay, how about that, Matt? What a nice guy. Like I said, he sent me a shirt. I love it. Everyone needs to trust the white shirt. And also, he must have been under the breakfast table this morning when I was telling Anastasia that I needed more moisturiser in my life, because that was a godsend, finding that anyway, make sure you're supporting the good guys and head over to the shirt society.co. UK treat yourself or your loved one. And in the meantime, thanks for tuning in. If you like what you're hearing, leave a review it does help our egos and until next time