New York entrepreneurs Gage Mersereau and Matt Harpalani set out to create an online experience that removed the biggest hassles that inhibited guys from buying custom shirts online. Meet ShirtCycle, which delivers a package of three curated custom shirts monthly along with an innovative and mostly painless onboarding process for new customers.
From corporate finance to custom shirting
Gage and Matt met while working at Deutsche Bank, clicked, and realized that there was more to life than high finance. Matt already had one foot in the clothing industry running the well-regarded Imparali.com, a custom tailoring business he took over from his father in 2007.
The two helped grow Imparali significantly, overhauling the web platform and scaling operations to reach a more geographically diverse set of customers online. (They note that global markets are important, but “New York is the market we want to own.”)
In developing ShirtCycle, Gage says, “we took everything we learned about the pain points with online custom tailors – like getting alterations done locally and waiting for reimbursement, like have to measure yourself or go to a popup – and fixed it.”
A hassle-free intake process
Onboarding for new customers is refreshingly easy. Create an account, input a couple of off-the-rack markers such as sleeve length and neck circumference, answer a few basic questions about your personality and lifestyle, upload a photo of yourself, and ShirtCycle generates a measurement profile that is surprisingly accurate.
Technology is eliminating the need for customers to take their own measurements at home, which removes a significant hurdle to ordering custom clothing online.
After a customer uploads a photograph, “we use algorithms that calibrate for off-the-rack sizes, height, weight and distance” to create an initial reference point, says Gage. “Matt looks at each picture to set the measurements, so there is also a human element. He’s measured over 10,000 guys and has tons of experience to infer the sizes.”
Once ShirtCycle sets the profile, Gage and Matt send out a free basic shirt to verify the fit before confirming a subscription.
Curated subscription shirting
The main ShirtCycle offering is a monthly subscription of three dress shirts for $250.
“We hand pick each shirt and fabric to match our clients look and lifestyle,” says Gage.
The company also recently launched a premium line using Thomas Mason fabrics, which runs $450 for three shirts monthly, and has also developed “sets” that include curated ties and socks.
Returns and customer service
Their website claims to get the fit exactly right two-thirds of the time, but Gage says that is trending towards three-quarters of the time as they learn and tweak the system.
“If it’s not correct,” he adds, “there is a prepaid label in the box and we personally handle the alterations in less than 48 hours and send it back. So there’s no need to find a local tailor and wait to be reimbursed like most online custom clothiers.”
ShirtCycle provided a one-month subscription to Modern Fellows at no cost. While the test shirt did not fit exactly right the first time, it was very close. The shoulders, chest, midsection, sleeve and cuff width and collar were spot on, though the sleeve length was too short. The company delivered a new shirt quickly, and then followed up online to suggest three shirts to begin the subscription.
But how’s the quality?
Each month, customers receive an email – “your curated styles from Shirtcycle” – proposing three new shirts for shipment. Subscribers can swap fabrics and details for any or all of the shirts before confirming the order for the month.
As for the shirts themselves, they are hand made by a factory Matt’s family has been using for over forty years.
The collar and cuffs are remarkably well-balanced – sturdy and able to stand up to all-day wear without curling yet easy to button and not overly rigid or plastic. The fabric quality of the standard line is a great value for the price point, and the fabric quality of the premium line is – well, it’s Thomas Mason.
In particular, their entry level white shirt is tremendously appealing – a softer and slightly heavier version than most. It’s boardroom material.
Where you get beyond the basic whites and blues, website functionality could be improved slightly. One challenge in selecting shirts each month is that the fabric swatches and modeling online are not as large or detailed as they could be, making it a little difficult to get a good up-close view of your future garment.
Overall, though, the shirts are stellar, and Gage and Matt are betting that happy customers will spread the word.
“I needed ShirtCycle back when I was in the Deutsche Bank bullpen,” observes Gage, “and we know a lot of guys in the same jobs share the same need.” The company is launching a give $25, get $25 referral program to incentivize subscribers to share the love.
For men who want to look good but hate to shop
The biggest consideration for potential customers is how much they value a shirt subscription service. The traction of subscription offerings like Trunk Club and Birchbox signals demand exists for high-quality menswear and accessories.
Gage and Matt are positioning their company as “an online service that is perfect for men who hate to shop.” ShirtCycle combines the convenience and quality of Trunk Club with a custom fit at a lower price point, but not every guy is going to fork over $250 per month for a continuous supply of shirts, no matter how good a deal it is or how easy it is to postpone or cancel shipments.
For those that decide they would prefer to pick out their own fabrics on their own timetable, Gage and Matt have a great option for you – Check out Imparali.com.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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