COMBATANT GENTLEMEN ADDS SHOE LINE, BRICK-AND-MORTAR STORE

by Brian Lipton
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Millennials, along with men of all ages on a tight budget, have found dressing up in tailored clothing to be a whole lot simpler since the debut of Combatant Gentlemen, the direct-to-consumer menswear brand and online retailer co-founded by Vishaal Melwani, Scott Raio, and Mohit Melwani.

With 100 percent Italian wool suits starting at $160 and sizes from 34 short to 54 long, guys interviewing for their first job or going to their first wedding have found the site an invaluable resource, with some consumers now buying two to three suits at one time, say Melwani and COO Imran Rahman.

A successful series of “pop-in” shops at Nordstrom stores in San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago (engineered by Olivia Kim) earlier this year not only expanded the brand’s visibility, but resulted in strong sales. “The response was really incredible,” says Melwani. “Some of our product literally sold out in hours.”

As is often the case, success breeds expansion. On Thursday, May 12, Combatant Gentlemen will make its official footwear debut with Toecap, the brand’s first-ever shoe line. Toecap will initially feature oxfords, monk straps and Chelsea boots with European leather uppers and outsoles, at prices ranging from $65 to $80. “It took two years to get this right,” says Melwani.

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Next month, the company will expand into the world of brick-and-mortar, opening a 3,200-square-foot store in Santa Monica, California that will carry the company’s full line of offerings, which includes shirts, pants, outerwear, ties, and other furnishings — as well as on-the-spot measuring and tailoring.

“We knew online expansion would be our next step,” says Melwani. “We definitely have a following of guys, especially in California, who really want to be able to buy what we have immediately. There is a clear need for this store or we wouldn’t be doing it. If it works, I imagine New York is the next most likely location for us. Over a third of our customer base is there.”

The pair says that they are also focusing on servicing the burgeoning “wedding side” of their business, with grooms often arranging for their entire party to be outfitted through the company.

And their made-to-measure business is booming, with those suits starting at just $450. Fittings are done in their headquarters in Irvine, California, and tailors are also on the road visiting many major U.S. cities. “For many of our customers, they’re still testing the sartorial waters, so they won’t spend $2,000 on custom or made-to-measure,” says Rahman. “We’ve made it even more affordable than some ready-to-wear suits.”