Everyone has a favorite boutique, one where we love to come back often to check what’s new and sometimes just hang out and take it all in. Greg Lellouche, founder and CEO of No Man Walks Alone, believes his e-comm store delivers that same unique boutique experience in a digital space.
“No Man Walks Alone is not an online mall with 600 brands of men’s apparel, and we’re not a DTC website focused on marketing a handful of products heavily,” Lellouche tells MR. “Instead, we offer a highly selective assortment of clothes and accessories with a focus on quality of make and fabric, as well as thoughtful designs. We also support smaller, typically family-owned, businesses and are always transparent about who made your clothes and how, down to the exact specs of the fabrics when we can. We believe in an informed customer, a conscious consumer. We never hide our makers behind a private label. And, we promote a community of like-minded individuals.”
When Lellouche first launched No Man Walks Alone in 2013, he initially built his business, and community, through Styleforum – an online message board left over from the internet’s earlier days when users with similar interests found each other on chat “forums.” Nowadays, Lellouche has those community-building, meaningful, and fun conversations around men’s fashion, its makers, and individual style on both Clubhouse and the store’s own Slack channel. The e-shop does very little advertising and no public relations at all. In fact, after seven years in business, No Man is still considered a bit of a “best-kept secret” for many men’s style enthusiasts.
That same community of men’s style enthusiasts came together last year when unexpected challenges hit the world. Lellouche wasted no time once the effects of COVID-19 really took hold in the U.S. “In March 2020, we started a two-month-long initiative to donate part of our revenue to Meals on Wheels and raise awareness for their mission during this health crisis that put the senior members of our communities at risk and isolated them,” Lellouche says. “There was an immediate need as their meal requests more than doubled because of COVID, so they had to scale up fast to deliver meals. We ended up donating $25,558 to Meals-on-Wheels during that period, which paid for over 4,000 meals.”
What’s more, on June 5, 2020, the week after the murder of George Floyd, No Man Walks Alone published its own thoughts on the issues plaguing the country and what initiatives it wanted to focus on. “It is worth noting that between that post (on June 5th) and the one immediately following George Floyd’s death, we lost several hundred followers on Instagram, which is probably a testament to political divisions in America in 2020,” he tells us.
Nevertheless, Lellouche marched on, developing an anti-racist agenda for his business including five main initiatives and commitments, all of which are continuing and none of which are linked to revenue. These include delivering financial support to anti-racist movements and policy changes, with monthly donations totaling $15,000 per year; a donation matching program to amplify customer’s efforts offering up to $10,000 per year (and which quickly maxed out at 10,000 after just a few weeks); supporting Black-owned brands and designers in the store through the “15% Pledge”; creating a mentoring program for new Black designers and Black-owned brands; and continuing to operate an inclusive, multi-racial, diverse work environment, with equal opportunities for all.
Indeed, Lellouche notes that the biggest lesson he learned from 2020 was how the community that surrounds the retailer could go beyond fashion and rally around empathy and human values. “It taught us to act and speak with a voice and value that is not neutral or business-focused,” he adds.
While building on the company’s great social impact initiatives last year was a highlight, Lellouche admits that business was tough. “We’ve experienced a decline in average order value since the start of the pandemic that is very noticeable,” he says. “From a profitability perspective, 2020 was very challenging as most men stopped buying outerwear or business attire almost entirely. (These categories are No Man’s bread and butter.) Plus, our loungewear and athletic offering is quite limited so we did not benefit much from the ‘work-from-home’ mentality. Still, beyond profitability, we were thankful to continue to employ everyone through the pandemic, pay our makers, and find our greater purpose.”
As far as what men are buying post-pandemic, Lellouche admits that a lot of his customers have shifted their style, become more open-minded to trying new shapes and colors, and generally speaking, are more in the “driver’s seat” when it comes to defining and refining their own personal style – something that he fully supports. “No Man Walks Alone does not aim to have a prescriptive approach to style and we make sure not to convey a monolithic ‘look.’ We prefer to choose wonderful pieces and provide the tools and community that will allow every man to build his own style.”