Celebrating 15 years of ever-evolving business, Robert Graham is one of few menswear companies in recent decades that has succeeded in creating, from nothing, a thriving luxury lifestyle brand. What’s more, in a menswear market dominated by sameness, they’ve fashioned a look that’s truly unique and recognizable, despite 15 years of being knocked-off. Not just another engineered patterned shirt company, they’ve proven themselves to be a true design house, developing their own complex textiles and innovative garment-making techniques. The details, trims, embroideries, colors, textures and clever motifs intrinsic to Robert Graham designs simply cannot be duplicated, despite the efforts of copycats to do so.
Nor can the passion of Robert Graham founder Robert Stock. A true menswear icon who started his career working with Ralph Lauren and who has won many fashion industry awards over the years, Stock says he’s “as excited about the business today as when he first started out.” Showing us around their stunning Time Warner Center store in midtown Manhattan, Stock graciously shared some success secrets. Among them:
- Offering unique product that’s well made and fairly priced, in sizes up to 4XL.
- Partnering with their factory in India and designing 98 percent of their own fabrics.
- Considering all their customers “collectors” and in 2014 creating a Collector’s Club loyalty program that rewards shoppers with “brand experiences” as they move through the tiers.
- Obsessing over creative details, not just in product but also in store design. At the 750-sq-ft Time Warner Center store, for example, you’ll find fixtures made from Vuitton trunks, tables made from hoods of old cars, couches covered in Indian wedding sari fabrics, painted ceilings that channel Grand Central Station, a hand-beaded portrait of Andy Warhol, a 1940s Victrola, a 1920s ladies’ swimsuit and more fascinating stuff that keeps shoppers intrigued (and in-store) for hours.
- Maintaining a balanced distribution. Online represents about 10 percent of sales (in more than a dozen countries); brick & mortar breaks down to 60 percent conventional stores, 40 percent company-owned stores (16 regular-priced, 11 outlets). Women’s generates about 10 percent to total volume.
- Gradually adding categories, most recently tailored clothing and loungewear/underwear. Says CEO Michael Buckley, “We’re focused on growing categories with all the Robert Graham details endemic to the brand.” (Shirts still represent about half the business; most retail from $178-$500.)
- Staying close to their consumers, with more than 100 in-store shops in major stores such as Neiman Marcus, a loyal account for all 15 years. “I believe our product makes people feel happy about themselves,” sums up Stock, who still does regular in-store appearances around the country. “More than anything else, that should be my legacy.”