Having outfitted men his entire career, Scott Kuhlman reached a pivotal conclusion: most guys don't want to shop.
A decade ago, Kuhlman created an eponymous chain of men’s stores in Minneapolis and took it nationwide. He followed that up with a men’s clothing line called scott james. Today, he launches his latest men’s fashion project for the new millennium: Lewk is a mobile men’s apparel subscription service based in Northeast Minneapolis.
Much like Birchbox for beauty or Blue Apron for gourmet meals at home, Lewk subscribers will receive a box of clothing items. But this is different from Trunk Club or Stitch Fix, two leading virtual styling services, which employ personal stylists and use survey data to select items based on the client’s preferences— and then hope they don’t return the contents of the box. Lewk subscribers don’t get to choose what’s in their box. And they can’t return the merchandise.
“Frankly, we don’t think that a guy wants to spend a bunch of time on the phone or answering emails…from a ‘Stylist,’” Kuhlman says. “They just want nice stuff. Stuff they can wear every day and look/lewk good!”
I get that, but having personally returned many items from Stitch Fix and Evereve's Trendsend deliveries, I have trouble imagining a clothing subscription without returns. Then again, if I don’t like the moisturizer in my Birchbox, it doesn’t bother me to share it with a friend. Do men feel the same about clothing?
Kuhlman and his Lewk partner Drew Pearson, a digital music and marketing exec, think so. “One stat coming out of the subscription industry: you only need to be right 50 percent of the time,” Kuhlman says. “Literally, members are prepared to give away one of two items they receive…you just need one item to be perfect—a real wow.”
Lewk is targeting 25 to 40 year olds—a group in love with the subscription model for everything from food to entertainment.
“My 22-year-old daughter has 14 subscriptions,” Kuhlman says, naming services such as Netflix and Spotify. “We believe that most consumers—young consumers in particular—want things in their life on autopilot.”
Lewk couples that mindset with men’s general distaste for shopping. “If I had $1 for every guy that said to me through the years, ‘Just send it to me,’ I would be rich,” Kuhlman says. “Because of the subscription economy, we now can do this. Because of technology, we have built a model that will just get better over. We believe that personal stylist sites like a Trunk Club have simply paved the way for subscription.”
Lewk isn’t alone in this model. Fivefourclub.com also delivers curated boxes of men’s fashion. Items can be exchanged for size, a service Lewk will offer as well.
Lewk will base its boxes on four personas. There’s William, the classic Polo wearing guy. Will is a hipster who loves his Red Wing boots. Billy is all rock n’roll—he gravitates to labels like Paul Smith and John Varvatos. And rounding out the mix is The Zuck: a Silicon Valley tech guy who pretty much only wears hoodies and t-shirts.
“That sums up just about every guy on the planet,” Kuhlman says. With analysis and customer feedback, Lewk will further refine its product assortment, he adds.
Lewk is now open for subscribers. Boxes will being shipping in January. The opening price point is $79.99 for a box that includes two items. January preview: selvedge denim and a vintage oxford, manufactured under the Lewk label. There are also $149.99 and $399.99 options which will include a mix of the Lewk brand and emerging European labels not widely available in the U.S. “The idea is to provide a ‘discover’ experience for the subscriber.”
In addition to monthly boxes, Lewk will offer an on-demand service for guys to buy a complete look featured on the site. And along with the clothing in each box, Lewk will include a few special treats—that could be music, food, or an accessory. “One of the things we have learned about subscription: subscribers want to open the box and be surprised.”