The Menswear Style Podcast

Sebastian Adams & Alexander Adams, Co-Founders of Varsity Headwear

December 17, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 105
The Menswear Style Podcast
Sebastian Adams & Alexander Adams, Co-Founders of Varsity Headwear
Chapters
The Menswear Style Podcast
Sebastian Adams & Alexander Adams, Co-Founders of Varsity Headwear
Dec 17, 2020 Episode 105
Menswear Style

Varsity Headwear was founded by two brothers from Norway, Alex and Seb, with the goal of creating the perfect cap. From the beginning they have focused on perfecting the fit, feel and fabrics of their caps. Relentless in the pursuit of their mission, they have developed beautifully made, quality caps to withstand the test of time. The co-founders share a love for classic baseball caps but could never find one with the quality and shape they desired. In 2013, Oslo became home to the brand's first shop, selling mostly to friends and family who served as test pilot customers. They work closely with their suppliers and partners to bring you the most premium and cutting edge fabrics sourced from some of the world’s most luxurious and sustainable mills. 

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Sebastian Adams and Alexander Adams, Co-Founders of Varsity Headwear about their careers and the founding story of their brand. They found a gap in the market after being unable to purchase a baseball cap that didn't feature brand logos and sports team badges. Our host Peter Brooker also talks to the brothers about their love for baseball caps, how they source high quality fabrics, how the global pandemic impacted the business, and the Vicuña cap which is so exclusive it doesn't have a price tag. 

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

Varsity Headwear was founded by two brothers from Norway, Alex and Seb, with the goal of creating the perfect cap. From the beginning they have focused on perfecting the fit, feel and fabrics of their caps. Relentless in the pursuit of their mission, they have developed beautifully made, quality caps to withstand the test of time. The co-founders share a love for classic baseball caps but could never find one with the quality and shape they desired. In 2013, Oslo became home to the brand's first shop, selling mostly to friends and family who served as test pilot customers. They work closely with their suppliers and partners to bring you the most premium and cutting edge fabrics sourced from some of the world’s most luxurious and sustainable mills. 

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Sebastian Adams and Alexander Adams, Co-Founders of Varsity Headwear about their careers and the founding story of their brand. They found a gap in the market after being unable to purchase a baseball cap that didn't feature brand logos and sports team badges. Our host Peter Brooker also talks to the brothers about their love for baseball caps, how they source high quality fabrics, how the global pandemic impacted the business, and the Vicuña cap which is so exclusive it doesn't have a price tag. 

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 menswear style podcast. I'm your host, Peter Drucker. On this episode I'm going to talk to Sebastian and Alex cofounders of varsity headwear. And I'm going to pull a short clip from the website which you can find by the way at varsity headwear.com. Alex and Sarah both share a love for classic baseball caps, but could never find one with the quality and shape they desired. The goal was simple to create a timeless baseball cap made from quality materials with a premium fit with Alex, his background in business and finance and Sebastian's in product design and entrepreneurship, the to set out to develop the perfect cap. So that interview of Alex and set to come and I really enjoy talking to these guys. They designed a $10,000 baseball cap made out of akuna finger beauty, and they did a great video on making that cap, which you can catch on their website. But before we get to Alex and said Don't forget to check out the show notes at www. menswear. style.co.uk and we're on the social app Men's westoe. And if you want to tell us about your brand and your journey, you can email us here at info at Men's style.co.uk Okay. Let's get to it. This is a good one and I hope you enjoy it. Here is that interview with Sebastian and Alex cofounders of vasti Welcome back to another episode of menswear sto My name is Pete Brooker and with me today I'm joined by co founder Sebastian and Alexander cofounders of varsity headwear. How are we doing today, gentlemen? Well, thank you. Hello. Good morning meeting to start off with so everything's set for a great week now. Fantastic. How you doing, Alexander? Oh, good. Thank you hectic period. So yeah, we're all excited and ready to go. Fantastic. Well is pleased to have you both on Sebastian, perhaps you can tell us how you two met? And how you both came up with the idea the origin story, if you will, vastly headway? Yeah. And so we were actually brothers. So we met quite? Well, hold on. I don't know if I read that on the website. Maybe I missed that bit. Nevermind. So, so. So you know, you know, we weren't we brothers, we always been interested in kind of, you know, products and qualities. And we also simultaneously always been interested in kind of entrepreneurship. So we've always had ideas and kind of challenged each other with some new ideas and, and play the bit around with them. But I studied design, and Alex studied business, both in London. And then we kind of went off in each other directions. I kind of started the tried to kind of start our careers and different ends. And then we have always been interested in baseball caps, you know, we always use them throughout our kind of childhood. And I think during some of these discussions, when when we were just kind of playing around with ideas and challenging each other, we started talking about baseball caps, and why it was so difficult to be able to find one that doesn't have like a brand or team. Yeah, and one that's made of kind of higher quality. So, and hopefully, like a good fit. So so we kind of just played around with that idea. And then we, it just became clear to us that there was a gap in the market hair, you know, if we were struggling so much to find what we were looking for. And surely there was someone else somewhere that probably had the same need. And we really liked the idea because it was kind of so close, kind of so simple. But with such an interesting reach. And I think it's in both our kind of personalities to really kind of like the idea of kind of specialising in something. Now to be able to kind of reach a kind of a high level, I think is a part of my motivation. So if you choose kind of one area to focus on, the chances are bigger that you can kind of create something that's that stands out. Yeah, I think that was the kind of that was the starting point of the idea. Okay, and it's really interesting, you say that it's quite hard for people to find baseball caps without any big logos on it, because that's something that really puts me off I am a huge hat wear keeps my head warm, you know, and but I normally can't find a baseball cap that doesn't it's not emblazoned with Nike or you know, huge kind of Great logo graphics and it, or the novelty caps, you know, like you say, like your football team caps, which is Yeah, all very well and good, but you don't really want to wear your colours on your sleeve all the time. So having something that kind of slides into maybe a lifestyle element for us, and it kind of symbolises also what else you're wearing on your body, rather than just having something that you throw on your head as an after for us. That's, that's really interesting. It's kind of one of these things where you think, well, Surely it's been done before, or someone's already looked at this and made a run of it. Did you find that there was a completely empty area in this field? There was like, no one else was doing it. I we didn't really find anyone, you know, we did, because we did some kind of extensive research over the years online just to try to see what could we buy for our needs. And, and it was so difficult to find that so. So we couldn't really find any good alternatives that took it seriously, both in terms of quality and design, but also in terms of fit and sizing. Right. So tell me a little bit about the materials because I'm guessing this is really what separates you or kind of ameliorates your brand is the exclusive materials and maybe Alexandra first one to you. How do you source these materials? And and what is it what is so special about these materials that goes on with vasty headwear? Oh, I'm kind of our secret is we're making it a cap. So the consumption of fabric is not that high, compared to a coat or anything. So I think that really gives us a lot of freedom to go crazy high on quality. So that gives us the freedom to visit some of the best, best best factories, and really select the top qualities. Sebastien is actually the one that has been travelling around really sourcing most of it. So right and you can maybe feel fill them in on how you go about that. Yeah, so. So as as Alex was saying, you know, it's, it's all about quality, I think our products, that's a big part of it, that's not all of what we're doing. But but because we're using only, you know, that the consumption is quite low per product, we can then use, you know, the highest quality, so we travel around, kind of, especially Europe, visiting a lot of the the bigger trade fairs, and also the mills themselves, trying to look for qualities and textiles, and, and, and kind of compositions that that do what we want to do. And because we're so specialised, you know, we can spend a lot of time just kind of even going down to the kind of the fibres and the quality and the colour of the fibres that go into the material that we're going to weave. So, so you know, being a specialist and being kind of product nerds, it's just, it's very motivating to be able to kind of dig into the details. Interesting, and are some fabrics and fibres harder to manipulate into headwear than others, like for example, cloth and wool, I imagine is perhaps easier than doing something out of leather. Were there things that were just not doable for you guys? Yeah, we haven't previously made some leather products. But eventually we change over to like a synthetic suede instead, because it it gave some other advantages that real leather couldn't do because headwear is it's it's quite exposed to the elements. So you have to make sure that you design it for its purpose, you know, it has to work for what you're trying to get it to do. So. So that was one example where we kind of we, we changed it from leather to a synthetic one instead. But usually, we were able to, to find fibres and materials that do what we want, because we have the time and the ability to kind of just we look until we find what we're looking for. Right. Interesting. And you've got a great video on your website, by the way, the one that you made out of akuna Yeah, the special 10 grand happ Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about that was Was that fun video to do? And was it an interesting project? It was, you know, really interesting, again, because being kind of product oriented and a bit nerdy on our details, it was fun to kind of dive in. And so this project was all about quality and trying to kind of explore to what level could we kind of push ourselves to achieve the highest quality. So we found one of the most kind of exclusive fabrics you can get. So they're the kunia it comes from South America, from the Andes Mountains. It's a special type of animal that always Naturally sheds, it's for once a year, and they live in the mountains. So you actually have to go up in the mountains and find them and then kind of collected. Oh, it's in terms of price, it's one of the most expensive materials you can get. And the quality is, you know, the touch, and the feel of the fabric is absolutely amazing. We combine that with solid gold details. So we went to a foundry, just outside of Oslo, and kind of designed and actually cost the gold while we were there, which was, you know, just a fantastic experience to see how they do that. Everything is kind of hand polished and finished there. And then we, we, we kind of crafted the cap ourselves in our workshop and also from scratch. And we you know, we kind of built a custom made box for it out of box. So we basically kind of just, we just went all in and just tried to see how far can we push it. And then, for us, it was a fantastic, it's a learning experience and a fantastic project to do. But the message, you know, we wanted to kind of communicate was about quality. Now we are where we are, you know, we are a product specialist we and quality is that is the centre of everything we do. And there's been so much focus on price for many, many years. So, and the challenge when people focus on price is that the quality just goes out the window, you know, it's just about what it costs. But since we started, we've always been focusing on the quality. So for us, this was a way to kind of get people to think about the quality. Yes, this was a really expensive one. But think about you know, what you're getting for the money. You're, you're paying, think about when you consume goods, you know, it's not just about price, it's about price in terms of quality. How long can you use something, you know, if you're spending 100 pounds, how long will that last compared to if you spend 50 pounds, you know, can on any type of kind of garment or anything. So for us it was this was a fun and interesting project to talk about something that's much more important. Yeah. And I guess it's, it's, it's like the equivalent of Ferrari going into Oman. Right. They, they're not interested in selling the lamancha after the race is done, but they need to know what the technology can do and how far they can push themselves and also, like an exemplar of what they can say they've done. So where's the cap now? Is it in the Design Museum? Or is it I know, I wish I wish they still haven't done a little vault in our office locked away. You know, this year, of course, has has been different than anyone was anticipating we were hoping to, to showcase it in our store in the south of France, maybe this summer, but you know, the this COVID-19 being what it was it, we kind of just postponed it. So we want to do something with it. But we just don't know when and where yet. But we're gonna hopefully kind of showcase it more and see what we can do. Okay. Alexander, I want you to dial back a little bit about how the business got started. How did you manage? I guess, because you came in it from the business angle, your business background? Was this something that had to be crowdfunded? Or did you seek investment? Can you talk a little bit about how you got it off the ground financially? Yeah, so we started just by buying some some ads, so having our first production and we actually started by having a small physical store in the side street of about so Hoku I guess it's the old kind of friends, family and fools startup. Kind of, yeah, journey. So yeah, we just started by having a limited amount of hats and getting all our friends in and tried to convince them to buy so it's serving couple of berries always helps. So we tried to make kind of a nice community around that and slowly but surely, it grew from there. And that's kind of how we built our business ever since. So we have never had kind of had any external investors. We've just built stone by stone and just making sure that we are kind of a solid running business from day one. And we also like that challenge and it also makes us sleep better during night. You know, that kind of we don't know anyone else any money. So yeah. That's how we built the business. Yeah, good place to be. Do you imagine yourself expanding outside of headwear? I mean, that Ralph Lauren started in a necktie where and pretty much just dominated his neck tie market, but then realised, you know, I've got a lot more to give other than tires enough, you know, I want to incorporate more lifestyle elements and, you know, pair things with other things. Have you looked that far down the road yet? Or do you feel like, right, this is our niche, we're near nailing our niche. And we'll just stick with this for the time being. Now, so that's probably the question we get asked the most from our customers as well. But we really believe kind of, on focusing on one product, and we do think that will be more and more even more important in the future, because now you can buy most things from anywhere in the world. And we really want to be the best within our category. And yeah, and I think there's still a lot to do there and more people to reach around the world. So. So we have a kind of also sports background. And if you really want to win that Olympic gold, you wouldn't compete in a lot of different types of sports here, you have to focus. Yeah. Interesting. And what's the dynamic like now that I mean, you, you guys are brothers? Now you're in business together? Do you? Have you always got along? Or is there things where you lock horns over? What Sebastian offered to you first? What was it? Like? What did you prefer? It's fantastic. And it's really amazing to share this kind of journey and experience and all the challenges together. But we've always been very honest about kind of how it is to work with family. You know, it's, it definitely has its advantages and challenges, I think the most kind of regular challenge is that when you family, we usually have a more direct tone with each other, you know, you don't kind of you're not afraid of saying what you feel mean. So, so I think, when we started, you know, because it was the two of us for a couple of years before we hired our first kind of employee. And then we noticed quite quickly that, you know, this was a bit strange working environments, because we were so honest, and so direct, so it breaks some challenges. And people, you know, now we know that it's not that normal. So we got to warn people, before they start working with us, that we have that kind of direct tone. So I think it creates a slightly different and working moment, then many other people are used to, but the advantage is that you never kind of go home, kind of you know, with some thoughts or some feedback that you didn't give, you know, it's sometimes that means that, you know, you kind of lock horns, and we annoy each other. And we kind of take that discussion, discussion there. And then but you know, when we go home, in the evenings, and, you know, look back, it's, we don't ever really kind of hold a grudge for very long, so. So yeah, that's, that's a great advantage. And also, by being kind of equal partners. It creates a company where decisions are made through discussion. And what's great with that is that there's, you know, of course, two people, at least two people that have a saying in what's happening. So that's a kind of a safety mechanism there. But in addition, when there are two people that kind of aren't charged, it opens the floor up for the rest of the team, because there is a discussion already. So there's room for the rest of the team to come in and participate in that discussion. So I really feel that that's been a great advantage for us that, that working together and the kind of the dynamic that we have has, I think, led us to where we are today. Great. Yeah, I imagine it cuts through a lot of like, I think people can be very sensitive at times in business and you have to kind of skirt around people's feelings. I've noticed this in a certain project that I'm doing but I have to leave comments on a document and you leave it in there a little word document at first as being very bullish and shorthand saying no, crap, crap, good. Good. Yeah. But then I realised that actually, I'm perhaps I'm being a bit of a decade and I need to just buffer it by going I like what you did here, but it's not quite right. Maybe we can try something and you give this real verbose answer whereas perhaps being brothers and having that bloodline you can afford the luxury of being more direct without hurting each other's feelings. Yeah, I think definitely. And but we all you know, often get asked this question and and, and I think the most important part of the answer isn't what it is, isn't what I started with. It is what I will say now and that's that we comp like we're different people with different skills and skill sets and personalities and we complement each other. You know, we are two very Different people, but together, we have, we cover a kind of a wide range of skills and thoughts. So I think it creates a really good dynamic. So. So the most important thing isn't that we are brothers, it's that we were a good team. I think that's good to know. So I was gonna ask about, we mentioned earlier about the pandemic, company avoid it, because it's kind of the topic of everyone at the moment. How is the company dealing with this? How is it come out? Hopefully, you'll come out the other side of it. Maybe you can talk about how it's affected the business. Yeah, so yeah. Alexander. So yeah, she's up to you. So thank you. I know it was the first I think in the in Norway in particular to the 12th of March was kind of that the day where everything just froze and stopped up. So for we had to close our, our physical store here in Oslo, and, and also had to furlough dollar all our team members, because then certainty was was extremely high, obviously. But also, March is our toughest cashflow month during the year. So we've, we've tend to author entire summer collection and paid for it. And we're, we just sent it out to all our customers, and it wasn't looking very promising to get to getting getting anything paid anytime soon. So so the worst time of year for for it to happen as well. But we were really lucky. Because obviously, with the lockdown and everything the cap kind of fits well into that new normal, with clothes, hairdressers, and everything. So some quite quickly, our online sales Rose, Rose rapidly, and we could slowly bring in more and more of our team members back. Okay, that's good news. And you've got bricks and mortars everywhere. I noticed when I when I checked out the website, so you're in London you're in. So I write it down the cats on it at the moment. So ya know, these are stores that wholesale stores. So we have to, to have our own brick and mortar stores. So we have one in Oslo in part of our kind of offices here. And also we have one in in central pay in during most of the year actually. Okay, interesting. But if people wanted to see the hats physically, they could check out the store finder on your on your website. Is that how it works? For sure. So in London, yeah, we're in Selfridges, and then we're in the cool new store store called pantechnicon. That's the one that's got all the the different Nordic designs, Japanese designs in there, it's kind of exclusive to that area that's in Knightsbridge, by the way for London listeners, but it's super, super cool. I think they're still open as well, though. Great. Yeah, no, I'll definitely be checking that out. And so let me just dislodge the cat. I don't know if you've seen that diagram that goes around of how to prepare for zoom meetings, and you've just sellotape the cat to the wall. That's so fun tip. Everyone. Oh, Sebastian Alexander. Thanks so much for jumping on the website, varsity headwear.com. I really recommend people can go down and check out the the really cool different hats that you've got there and that we're all the different fibres as well. So when I was scrolling, what I really did enjoy was I was expecting to just find maybe a capsule collection, maybe 1215. And it was just like it just the page just kept on going and I thought oh, wow, this is really cool. You can, you can find pretty much wherever Look, you're going for over on the website and also follow their journey on Instagram that Basti headwear, I believe over on Instagram. And thank you very much, gentlemen. Great, thank you. Thanks. Bye bye. Well, how about that, as you could appreciate, I could have talked to Sebastian and Alex for hours, mainly about lemons and Ferrari and even for dresses Ferrari, Matt Damon and Christian Bale. And beyond that the 24 hour war documentary on Netflix, which also covers the Ford versus Ferrari battle in the late 60s. But another time another place. In the meantime, make sure you're supporting the good guys head over to vasti headwear.com. Treat yourself or your loved one some awesome high quality headway. And that's it for my end. Thanks for tuning in. If you like what you're hearing, do leave us a review on your smartphones there. It helps our egos and until next time