San Francisco-based men’s denim startup Gustin changed the way dudes buy jeans, by creating a fully crowdfunded model for determining which jeans it makes. That cuts out a lot of costs, making high-quality denim affordable. Now it wants to help dress men in stylish button-down shirts that follow the same model.
Gustin got its start on Kickstarter, becoming one of the first fashion companies to do so. It raised nearly $450,000 from more than 4,000 backers to shift its high-quality denim brand from the traditional retail model to a fully online, direct-to-consumer and crowdfunded model.
In doing so, Gustin has turned the business on its head. Rather than producing a bunch of jeans it hopes people will want to buy, it makes sure they do before it even orders the materials. Each new type of fabric is put up as a crowdfunding campaign, essentially testing whether or not customers will want those jeans.
Once a campaign is funded and closed, the startup orders the denim and starts production. All jeans are produced locally, at a factory in downtown San Francisco, just about a block from the live-work “office” that Gustin calls home in Mint Plaza. And all fulfillment is done right here, too. While cutting down on inventory cuts down on costs, it does take a little longer to get product: customers can usually expect their orders to ship about 4-6 weeks after a campaign is closed.
By aligning supply and demand for each new set of jeans it produces, it’s cut out a huge amount of waste in the system. There’s no inventory overhead, no unsold product, no distribution middleman taking a cut. And so Gustin can offer its high-quality jeans at a significant discount to what people would pay in a traditional department store or boutique. The company’s jeans are priced between $81 and $99, which is much lower than what they would go for when the same guys were selling the same product to high-end retail outlets.
Since launching its crowdfunding platform at weargustin.com, the company has put up 96 campaigns — mostly for jeans, but also for a few leather products like belts and wallets. While its customers get to pick and choose what gets produced and what doesn’t, all but one of its campaigns has been funded so far.
Now that it’s tackled the denim market, the company is looking to go after another men’s staple: button-down shirts. Gustin will begin selling classically styled Oxford button-downs in a variety of patterns, all made from Japanese cotton. Like its jeans, customers will decide which of the shirts get made, voting with their pocket books. Shirts will be priced between $69 and $99, for shirts that would usually retail for $175 or up.