We’d like to introduce you to Combat Gent, a Los Angeles based startup in the fashion tech industry who uses Spree for their e-commerce site. Combat Gent is an online menswear brand that offers affordable suits, shirts, pants, shorts, ties, and accessories. They skip the wholesale middleman and deliver products directly to consumers. This direct access approach allows them to offer high quality products at very low prices. We sat down with Daniel James, a developer at Combat Gent, to learn more about their business model and how they leverage Spree to target their customers’ needs.
Where did the idea for Combat Gent come from?
Combat Gent was started by Vishaal Melwani, Mohit Melwani, and Tracy Kuroye. Vishaal’s family ran Versace franchises in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for 25 years. Vishaal also worked at a clothing production company for a small streetwear brand after graduating college. These experiences provided him a behind the scenes look at the clothing manufacturing process. He witnessed the large markups that occurred between products being manufactured in China and then eventually being sold in boutiques in L.A. This inspired Vishaal to start Combat Gent. He saw an opportunity to leverage his connections and knowledge of the fashion industry to create an affordable, high quality menswear fashion line. Vishaal pulled his cousin Mohit into the business to lead the marketing strategy and his friend Tracy to handle all of the backend logistics related to inventory and budgeting.
What does the name “Combat Gent” stand for?
“Combat Gent” stands for Combatant Gentleman. We wanted to express how the modern guy views himself in today’s ultra competitive workplace — ready for battle each day to fight their way to the top. We get really great feedback from our customers about the name. They say it’s exactly how they feel going into work each day.
What sets Combat Gent apart from your competitors?
It really comes down to our production approach, our previous experience in the fashion industry, and the quality of the product we deliver. Because of our existing relationships with the clothing factories we don’t have to work through a third party manufacturer to get our clothing produced. This helps eliminate a layer of markups. We also do a lot of the work in-house. We create our own patterns and cut and sew our own original samples. Having the factory create a prototype can be very expensive, so it saves us a lot of money by doing things in-house.
We also understand our demographic really well. We target guys who are just starting their careers or have been working for a few years and are looking for an affordable clothing option to appear professional and fashionable. These guys are struggling to get ahead and need clothes that are multi-purpose that they can get multiple wears out of. This means our clothing needs to be almost indestructible so we pre-shrink all of our clothing prior to cutting each piece so that if the item is thrown into the laundry instead of taken to the dry-cleaners that it will come out looking ok.
How do you market your products?
We’re a startup so we don’t have a lot of money for advertising. We’ve focused on utilizing social media and our blog to promote the Combat Gent brand and it’s going really well. We ran a really successful campaign on Facebook last fall. We offered the chance to win a free suit to anyone who “Liked” our Facebook page. We got over 10,000 new likes in less than three months.
What do you like most about the Spree platform?
It was really easy to get our Spree store up and running. The GitHub readme was straightforward which made things very simple to get started. I had a prototype version of our store running in only three to four hours. Besides all of the core features needed to create an e-commerce site, Spree also enables you to quickly incorporate additional features through the use of extensions. For example, I recently installed a gift card feature and had it working on our site in less than two hours.
I also love how Spree keeps up to date with the latest Rails patches. Whenever there is a security update I am notified immediately in my Spree app and the Spree team already has a fix for it. I’ll I have to do is update my Gemfile, run “bundle install”, then run the test to make sure nothing breaks and thats it! I am amazed at how easy it is to stay up to date with the latest patches.
And last but not least I love the Spree community. They are an active, knowledgeable, responsive, and so so so helpful group. Whether I receive a response from someone on the core team or just another helpful community member I know there is always someone there to help me.
How did you customize Spree for Combat Gent’s online store?
We created a matching feature for Combat Gent merchandise. If you find a shirt that you like on our site you can click “match” and we’ll show you ties and pants that go with it. You can then save these items together as an outfit in your account so if you only buy one of them now you can go back later and purchase the whole look. We also created a “wish list” feature that allows you to put items in your virtual Combat Gent closet and see what they look like together.
What’s next for Combat Gent?
We are planning to expand our target market and marketing efforts to business schools and colleges. We also want to expand to a premium denim line similar to 7 For All Mankind or Lucky Brand that would sell for under $50 per pair. The jeans would be designed and manufactured in Los Angeles and display a “Made in U.S.A.” tag.