By ‘basics,’ we mean basics – Mack Weldon is reinventing men’s basics, from underwear to undershirts to tee shirts to socks. By combining old-school quality with modern day technology, Mack Weldon designs, manufactures and distributes men’s basics that are engineered to promote comfort, mobility and performance – and convenience, through a simple, elegant e-commerce site that delivers a super easy customer experience and volume-based pricing.
All of which is helping to make Mack Weldon the new gold standard.
Their Silver XT2 fabric is infused with actual silver to maximize performance, yet remain soft, flexible, and anti-microbial.
Founder and CEO Brian Berger,tells us how and why going back to basics led Mack Weldon’s existing investors and RiverPark Ventures, Bridge Investments and Lyrical Partners to jump in on the Series A round. Then again, good things happen in great underwear!
Tell us about your product – and service.
The company was founded in mid-2012 by myselfand Michael Isaacman, to reinvent men’s basics. Mack Weldon turns the traditional process of buying underwear on its head by delivering products that maximize comfort and performance through a shopping experience that is easy, consistent and repeatable.
How is it different?
At our core, we are equal parts fashion and tech. I’ve spent my career driving growth at leading tech/media companies while my co-founder Michael Isaacson has 25 years in fashion and apparel. So there is real expertise on both sides.
We prefer a different point of view in our branding. Rather than selling sex and washboard abs, we focus on the fun (“good things happen in great underwear”), the aspirational (“smart underwear for smart guys”), and rationality (“the way underwear should be”).
We’re also category specialists. This is a category where performance matters, but is often overlooked. We’re okay with having a more limited assortment and doing what we do really well.
We focus on building long-term customer relationships and view these relationships as a privilege. This means less frequent, more purposeful email communications (new intros, innovations, CRM) – never contacting about sales or promotions. Many other brands in this category rely on others to sell their product; this is bad for the customer, because it results in lots of product inconsistency such as constantly needing new offerings to excite retail wholesale buyers.
What inspired you to start the company?
The process of buying underwear and socks was always something that I avoided at all costs. Having to make those annual pilgrimages to a department store or mall,then sifting through an ever-changing, over-assorted landscape of product. As a result, I had a drawer full of tattered, mismatched, worn out product. My wife actually threatened to throw it all out if I did not do something about it. There had to be a better way. On my final voyage to Bloomingdale’s, staring out at the sea of boxes featuring shirtless guys, my gaze was interrupted by the salesman’s voice, “Confused yet?” he asked. That was when I knew it was time to start this company.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
The aggregate market for our product categories is around $13-$15B, so we are talking about a huge market. Our focus area is the “mass-premium” price point, which is currently dominated by Calvin Klein.
From what you’ve experienced, which are more popular: boxers or briefs?
Boxer briefs are the most popular style, by a large margin, and even though we sell a ton of fashion colors, black rules.
What’s your business model?
We are a vertically integrated, direct to consumer, menswear brand focused on wardrobe basics. As such, we design, manufacture and distribute product and own the customer relationship. Because we do not have retail markups, we can invest more in creating product that is best in class.
What was the funding process like?
The one thing that fundraising teaches you quickly is that you must separate your emotion from the business of fundraising. Not all investors will like your business, and not every situation will go as planned. As an entrepreneur, take comfort in the fact that there are tons of funding sources, but only one amazing, innovative company like yours.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The hardest part is balancing the intensity and demands of fundraising (meetings, follow ups, networking, cycling, etc.) and running your business. Each takes a ton of mindshare, and it’s really hard to do both really well – but you must.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
I think it comes down to the credibility of the team and the customer/brand traction we’ve demonstrated. Michael and I have years of experience in both tech and fashion, so customers love our product, and the approach to our brand is very high quality.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Top of our list is a redesign of our web and mobile sites that will include brand creative refresh. We are also testing some new marketing channels (radio and podcasts) and filling some key spots on our team.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Accomplish as much as you can on a little as possible. This is important for two reasons – 1) you will be in a stronger position with new investors and 2) it teaches you to always think in a scrappy/bootstrapped manner. The latter is important no matter how much capital you have. The longer your runway the better.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We have a fantastic product pipeline for new and existing categories, and we look forward to those launches. We also intend to focus heavily on creating brand awareness in initial trials. We’ve learned that once customers try our gear, a very high percentage of them become long-term customers.
What’s your favorite bar in NYC to go and hang out with the guys?
My favorite is Temple Bar in Noho – they have awesome martinis. We also frequent the Breslin, which is across the street from our new HQ.