Meet Up Mondays: Five Four Club

 

Some of today’s most innovative menswear brands thrive exclusively online, and Five Four Club is no exception. With 80,000 members and counting, the Los Angeles-based company makes original, quality-made menswear accessible to anyone for the affordable price of $60 a month. It even sends tips to members’ inboxes to help them learn how to get the most out of their purchases. What it doesn’t do is offer members the option to substitute items, but the reason is strategic: to help men incorporate pieces they may not have considered before into their wardrobe and to propose alternative ways of dressing. To put it another way, if you’re the type of guy who’s sought freedom from shopping due to a lack of interest or time or style, Five Four Club’s just the ticket.

Does that make the brand one of the most disruptive fashion businesses of the decade? Co-founder Andres Izquieta believes so. Originally founded in 2002, the brand Five Four had previously thrived as a casual streetwear and later contemporary-facing brand. After the recession of 2008, Izquieta and business partner Dee Murthy seized the opportunity to not only harness technology to better manage the business but also explode static relationships between designers, retailers, and consumers. Consequently Five Four Club’s model has been so successful at creating accessible, original, and exclusive fashion for young men (there is no other way of buying Five Four off-line) that Marvel Entertainment recently approached it to create a capsule collection inspired by the highly anticipated summer blockbuster, “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Beginning April 1, Five Four Club members will receive outfits from the capsule collection, personalized as before according to members’ profiles, but they will also be given the opportunity to shop items à la carte from the website. As a whole, the collection represents the most grown-up iteration of Marvel-co-branded apparel, but Izquieta and Murthy took care to leave in appropriately fun details such as Marvel comic printed inserts, expandable patch or slash chest pockets, colorful check fabrics, and Avengers insignias. We recently got a chance to preview the collection (above) at a pop-up in New York City designed exclusively for members and explore with Izquieta other secrets to Five Four Club’s success, how it’s redefining exclusivity, and how it’s potentially changing the way we’ll shop for good.

How many styles do you produce per collection?

Per month we design around 80 styles. We like to create that feeling with members that you’re in an exclusive member club and you’re getting it once and it’s not going to be made ever again.

What happens if I receive your package and I like, say, the shirt but not the pant?

You’re actually not allowed to return anything. We take the approach that we curate that package for you, so for instance when you get a package, we’ll send you an email as soon as the package is delivered to your door along with an email about how to wear that garment. So when you get a dark navy jacket with a button down, we’ll show you three ways to wear that dark navy jacket—dress to impress, business casual with, say, a shirt and tie, or a t-shirt and jeans rolled-up with sneakers. Five Four Club isn’t for everyone, but the thing with a lot of men in general is that they’re afraid to wear things because they don’t know how wear it. What we’re doing is pushing the boundaries for them from a fashion perspective, because we’re informing and educating them that this is how you can wear it and that opens their eyes to being more fashion-forward. I think the problem with mass-market American men is that compared to mass-market European guys the latter cares about style. It’s more built into the culture, whereas America’s more about t-shirt and jean culture and the idea of not caring. A lot of it is men feel it’s too difficult to figure out. They actually want to care, but it’s too difficult for them. And I think the reason why we’ve been so successful is because we tap into that market, which is the majority, and we realize that due to the lifetime value of our members these guy are fanatics. They’re so excited. If you look through their Instagrams, you’ll see pics of them three to four months prior to being a member—he’s maybe a bit sloppy-looking. Now his confidence is boosted. More importantly it makes him test something new. The idea behind Five Four Club as a whole is you’re a member on a journey and we really want to encourage the concept to enjoyment, empowerment, convenience, and curiosity. Those are the four mantras of what Five Four is built on.

What other perks are there?

We do events across the country in the major markets once or twice a year where we meet the members, but now what we’re doing is investing more time and energy into creating special things only members can access. So in the month of July we have a guest designer: Mark McNairy. Mark is designing the entire month of July and that’s exclusive only to Five Four Club, so they’re getting these things that will never hit retail ever. We’re bringing in designers that normally wouldn’t do these types of collaborations. They love this idea that they can come and design 80 styles in a month; they’re also impacting the mass market now, because 175000 pieces are going to have their branding and name on it, which exposes them to a whole new audience that might not know who, say, Mark McNairy is.

What other collaborations have you had in the past?

We did something with Esquire Network. I actually have a TV show on the Esquire Network called “Weekend Fix.” It’s a travel show where I show you how to search and discover cities in 48 hours. I’m the co-host and co-creator of the show, so we did something in the month of October where that month’s collection was inspired by my travels shooting “Weekend Fix.” Marvel is for April; we have Mark McNairy for July; Steve McQueen’s also inspired one of the collections, and then we have a few other projects that are unconfirmed but getting confirmed as we speak that will be pretty next level.

What happens in the winter? Do you offer outerwear?

We do a full collection. We make everything, so we do trench coats, wool coats, sweaters. The only thing we won’t do is make a North Face parka.

Say I’m more of a business smart customer but want to buy something else that’s been designed. Do I have the option to buy that?

Right now our ecommerce shop is pretty much only for special collaborations, but in the fall we’ll be introducing a collection every month where it’ll probably be like a 30- to 45-piece collection where we’ll make everything in small amounts just to sell out fast. So if you’re the business casual guy but want to buy a pair of joggers that we would never send to you, we’ll have that available on the shop.

What about overall influences on product design?

Consumers are basically digesting fashion on their mobile phones. They’re looking on Instagram, they’re looking on the Web, they’re going on websites. They’re seeing fashion from all over the world. Of course there’s always going to be regionalized trends because of the weather or whatever it is, but I’d say over half of fashion around the world has become one because of the way that the world consumes information. So yes, regional differences do influence us to an extent. We definitely have an LA vibe, but there’s also a lot of New York and Tokyo inspiration in the collection. I go to Tokyo twice a year. It’s my favorite city in the world, so there’s a lot of detail there and we pay a lot of attention to everything we do.

So is Five Four Club the future of menswear retail?

I don’t want to say it’s the future. You’re always going to have a retail component, but I think what makes us so successful is we’ve tapped into a concept that’s never been tapped and the idea of no choice, which psychologically is very in line with what men want. This concept wouldn’t necessarily work that well in the women’s space because women actually like to choose. They like the idea of exploration (I’m going to take this and try that.) With men it’s more simple. It’s actually the opposite. So everything we’ve done when we launched Five Four Club a few years ago is pretty contrarian to what is the norm. But that’s what makes us successful. We don’t want to follow the road that everyone travels. We’ve been in the fashion business for 13 years and we pivoted three years ago into this model because we realized that with all the problems of the clothing business we didn’t want to face them anymore. Now it’s the most fun we’ve ever had because we can design whatever we want, we curate it, and we’re actually pushing the needle and changing the perception of fashion. And we have a much bigger impact than say a lot of high-end men’s designers because we actually touch 80,000 people every month that are getting something new and are encouraging them to try on. A lot of people may make 150 of something and it goes into two stores. We’re touching 80,000 people a month and we’re getting them to try something new. If anything that’s more disruptive.