Fashion is cyclical, and right now, skinny is in — for ties, at least. But what’s a guy to do if he’s stuck with a bunch of otherwise fantastic fatter neckties?
Enter Skinnyfatties, a Brooklyn-based startup that takes wider ties and slims them down. Prices start at $30 a tie, with discounts available for mass orders. The two-person company operates entirely online; customers ship their ties to Skinnyfatties and get them back in slimmed-down form five days later. So far, Skinnyfatties has tailored over 4,000 ties for 800 customers in 12 countries around the world, including Japan, Italy, Australia and China.
Joshua Adam Brueckner founded Skinnyfatties (pronounced “skinny-fat-ties”) in 2012 after he found himself out of work and thinking about what he could do with the old ties collecting dust in the back of his closet, he tells Fortune. Eventually, he taught himself to sew and got to work turning his accessories into modern-style skinny ties that he turned around and sold. But Brueckner quickly realized people were less interested in buying his old remastered ties and more keen on getting their own ties resized.
Brueckner says the first moment he started really believing in the business was when Time Out New York featured Skinnyfatties in an October 2012 article. “I think it really validated this idea, because it’s never really been done before,” he says. “It gave me confidence that it’s something people actually want.”
While Brueckner says he originally expected “hipster, cool young guys” to be the company’s main clientele, he’s found that older, luxury-oriented customers have been his bread and butter. Skinnyfatties’ customers tend to be between 30 and 60 years old, resizing ties that cost anywhere from $100 to $500 from the likes of Brooks Brothers, Louis Vuitton and Hermes. The company’s website, meanwhile, trumpets it as a “luxury service for the modern man.”
Skinnyfatties is just one example of a new business model popping up around men’s fashion recently, according to Tom Julian of fashion consultancy firm Doneger Group. “In today’s market, menswear continues to find a lot of white space and new territory thanks to online models as well as burgeoning categories like accessories,” Julian says.
But Brueckner says he doesn’t see a lot of competition out there. He does consider neighborhood tailors a potential threat, but he says they haven’t mirrored his craft — yet. There’s also another company in New York City that performs alterations called Tie Crafters, but Brueckner says their ordering process is more cumbersome and not internationally friendly.
Skinnyfatties has a philanthropic angle as well. Drawing inspiration from Tom’s, the shoe company that donates a pair of kicks for each pair sold, Skinnyfatties sends about $1,000 a year of its proceeds to Career Gear, an initiative that provides low-income men with workplace wear. Skinnyfatties also volunteers time with the organization, with plans to up the monetary contributions as the company grows.
“It really is full circle with how I lost my job and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Brueckner says. “I wanted to give back to people in that situation. The cause really means a lot to me.”
Eventually, Brueckner hopes to partner with retailers to “integrate our tie tailoring into the checkout process.” But he says it’s “hard to tell” what’s next for the company, because “we’re doing something that’s really new and somewhat innovative.”
“There’s so much out there and it’s exciting to explore,” he explains. “We’ll just see where this goes.”
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