Julian Eison, founder & CEO of Eison Triple Thread (ETT), built his successful fashion startup in San Francisco by combining his love of technology and fashion — two of his passions since a young age. At 7 years old, Eison built his first computer. By the time he was in high school, he capitalized on a popular fashion trend using Gucci fabric to make and sell jeans during his lunch breaks. Now, Eison’s menswear line uses technology to offer customized, tailored garments. Here’s how Eison built ETT and leveraged financial bootstrapping and working capital. He grew his online fashion business into a unique retail showroom in downtown San Francisco.
“The concept for Eison Triple Thread was born in 2013 after a previous attempt in building an enterprise software startup failed,” Eison says. “The failure of my first startup was a necessary phase that I had to go through to discover my true strength and passion.”
Eison saw a menswear market that was saturated at the far ends of the spectrum. It was either disposable low-end fashions and high-end designer goods. Eison leveraged both his passion for design and knowledge of engineering for his second startup. Realizing the opportunity for broad-appeal tailored menswear within a mid-wallet price point, ETT was born.
Eison was able to bootstrap his new startup throughout beta product releases while working full time at private equity firm.
“Once I had a product that I knew early customers were generally happy with, I raised a pre-seed round of capital funding to further build out the brand and [the] Style Gallery,” Eison says. “Next, it was simply a matter of putting my money where my mouth was.”
To build ETT, Eison next focused on hiring talent. The platform required a team with the technology skills to build the interface and expertise in fashion and luxury retail. ETT uses 3-D body modeling to map a customer’s exact sizes and dimensions and create a unique digital pattern. Not only does the customer get to virtually try on the clothes, but the 3-D model guides ETT’s tailors in customizing the final garment’s fit. The customer gets a bespoke garment without needing to visit a store or tailor.
It wasn’t long before Eison proved his digital fashion concept was something men wanted and needed. Within two years of launching the service, he was able to open the Style Gallery. It is ETT’s first physical showroom in downtown San Francisco.
“Opening our physical location wasn’t something that was urgent on our end,” Eison says. “We let the opportunity to open a store come to us organically since we were able to deploy directly to our customers online. Like all great companies in Silicon Valley, we were operating out of my garage rent free. To save extra money, we also debated [using] co-work space and even moving to a nearby city to avoid the exorbitant rent in San Francisco. To other entrepreneurs looking into the same retail-to-physical-location dream, I would say stay patient and track the real estate market before making the move.”
This transition from an online-only business to an online business with a physical location has helped ETT understand their customer even better. In their physical location, ETT has gathered intel around their customers’ lifestyle. He understands their preferences and how this translates to the desires for different textiles, utility and function in garments. Through the in-store customer experience, they’ve continued to highlight the quality and authenticity of their brand. Meanwhile they grow beyond what they could have imagined.
Eison’s Forwarding Message to Entrepreneurs
He has simple advice to other entrepreneurs looking to grow from online to a brick-and-mortar location. Pay careful attention to creating an integrated customer experience that provides value and delivers on your brand promise.
Identifying your target customers, their needs, their likes and dislikes. Interacting with them monthly via a number of different channels — not just for sales. Evaluating their social behaviors and public information to find patterns. Using that information to build brand experiences.
For example, ETT discovered their demographic enjoys wine but generally is a novice in understanding wine. So they pair wine tastings and textiles for in-person events to add value to their customer experience.
Creating an integrated customer experience, Eison says will be a process that is iterative and constantly changing. “You need to truly understand your customer and have an omni-channel plan in place before making the leap,” Eison says. “It’s one thing to have a great product, but the barriers to entry are low, and the demand for great experiences is high. It’s important to create a valuable experience for your target audience because today’s consumer is unlike any previous generation.”
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