Launching a successful new brand is every entrepreneur’s dream that few manage to achieve. Defying the odds, Paisley & Gray has become a highly sought-after men’s collection, with exceptional sell-throughs at retail platforms from Macy’s to Men’s Wearhouse, from Halls Kansas City to Stitch Fix.
“I’ve been a fan of the Paisley & Gray brand from the beginning so I’m thrilled that Macy’s has added the Gold Label capsule to The Park @ Macy’s Herald Square,” says VP/Fashion Director Durand Guion. “Vince and team have contagious spirit, energy, and creativity, which forms the basis of their unique menswear collection. Congratulations to the entire team on 20 years!”
Allison Levy, menswear strategist at The Doneger Group, is another big fan. “I’ve watched this brand evolve from day one. Vince and his team recognized the need to disrupt the status quo. Based on their creative vision and consumer focus, the team developed multi-purpose wardrobing solutions with a twist. It took retailers a bit of time to appreciate this fresh perspective on lifestyle dressing but they’re getting it. Smart design and witty details are hallmarks, as are the fits, all staying within the DNA of the Paisley & Gray brand. Kudos to the team for having the conviction and perseverance to see this brand through from seed to blossom.”
A bit of history: Vince Marrone and Rich Schneider met in the early 1980s, both buyers at Alexanders, a department store chain owned by the Farkas family. “The family believed in investing in their people,” Vince recalls. “We traveled to Europe, to mills and manufacturers, learning about fashion, value, and importing. It’s the knowledge that’s stayed with us.”
The two remained close after Alexanders, collaborating on private label projects for major stores throughout the 1990s. “In 1999, I bet on myself and launched Respektwear,” says Vince. “Rich soon joined me, bringing along his strong relationships with top factories and his expertise in production, delivery, and fit.”
The business moved steadily forward until the 2008 recession. Recalls Vince, “The last thing on anyone’s mind was tailored clothing: we lost 80 percent of our volume from retailers pulling back or going under. It was time to double down or get out.”
So double down he did, investing in a garment center showroom and changing the mix to young fashion. But it wasn’t until Alison Mangaroo joined in 2013 that the vision for Paisley & Gray crystalized. A buyer at Jack Threads and Atrium with 20 years of experience and proven fashion intuition, she’s now a company principal, co-founder of the brand, and their creative force.
Says Alison, “I believed that suitings would be the next big thing for young guys. As a buyer, I had trouble finding the type of fashion I was looking for, so we created it, specializing in great-fitting tailored separates with innovative details. Our look can be trendy or conservative, depending on how the pieces are mixed and matched.”
The brand name Paisley & Gray suggests this duality. Explains Alison, “I was looking through piles of swatches, many of which were paisley, and felt the word ‘paisley’ had a nice ring to it. Vince suggested we combine it with my maiden name: the combination perfectly reflects the DNA of the brand.”
Another key hire about a year ago was brand manager Joe Cook, who heads up sales. Says Vince, “He was hired to elevate the brand based on his experience with upscale labels like Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana. He had the credibility to bring in the better stores.” Explains Joe, “I was instantly impressed with Paisley’s price points and design. Although certain retailers were at first skeptical and tested small, once they experienced the fast turn and high sell-throughs, they substantially increased their orders. Clearly, men these days are as quick as women to try fashion; it’s the buyers who can be overly cautious.”
A few key strategic moves Paisley & Gray has implemented:
*Establishing a brand DNA (tailored sportswear lifestyle) that encourages multiple sales.
*Evolving their digital platform by doing their own work inhouse: website, e-commerce, social media, influencers… “The brand was virtually born online and people took notice,” says Vince.
*Creating premium capsules for more upscale stores, including limited editions using recycled fabrics and vegan leathers.
*Offering retailers great price points and margin potential. Jackets average $225 retail; pants are $110. In the premium collections, jackets are $425 and pants, $200.
*Maintaining a consistent focus on fashion, quality, and fit.
*Targeting an 18-34 demographic, thereby attracting young guys.
*Hosting exciting in-store events for key retail accounts.
*Connecting with stylists who outfit actors, athletes, musicians, and influencers.
*Penetrating the Canadian market by partnering with Triluxe, an upscale luxury distributor.
*Enhancing the brand by starting to license key categories. Says Vince, “Our strong team, elevated product line, and newly upscale distribution make us a magnet for investment partners.”
Congrats to Vince and team on 20 years of smart moves! Or as Triluxe co-founder Rian Gardiner sums it up, “Being successful in this business is about great people and innovative product. Paisley & Gray has both, portending a very bright future for the brand.”