Formal corporate fashion is dead. With tech whiz-kids in hoodies and jeans and the very real possibility of your boss strolling into the office in a short suit, we’ve come a long way since the days when the CEO uniform was a wide tie and wing-tips.
But despite this invasion of business casual, there’s still a market for conventional executive fashion. Some retailers are doubling down on tradition, opening upmarket menswear stores and expanding the colour palette for formal duds beyond the usual black. Pochetti, a Toronto-based e-commerce company, is looking to ride the re-formalization wave by focusing on a niche market: pocket squares.
“I noticed that whenever somebody wore a suit they’d wear the suit, pants, tie, shirt, socks, shoes, belt, but they were always missing the pocket square,” explains Vatche Pirjanian, founder of Pochetti. “We believe your outfit isn’t complete without the pocket square.” After a year of selling individual accessories online, Pochetti is launching a subscription service today in which customers can sign up to receive a pocket square in the mail every month. The company hopes its “Squarescription” will tap into the same market for having personal care products delivered to the door that has proved so profitable for the likes of Dollar Shave Club.
Pirjanian discussed his company’s recent successes and plans for the future.
How many pocket squares have you sold so far?
Customer-wise we’ve had close to 1,500 unique customers and we’ve gone through about 8,000 orders so far, which is pretty good in a year. Our average items per order is about three-and-a-half. In Canada we offer free shipping, but a lot of our customers from the U.S. are seeing the value in placing multiple unit orders so they just pay for shipping one time. A lot of our clients are very happy with our turnaround and shipping time. If we get an order today, it ships the same day and usually arrives within the Toronto area the next day or elsewhere in Canada within two days.
What’s a “Squarescription?”
It’s something that we’ve wanted to do since the first day we started, but we’ve been working out the pricing, timing and logistics of shipping on a monthly basis to our customers. It’s like a magazine subscription. If a client wants to receive a pocket square every month, that’s fine. If they want one every two months, that’s fine as well. The options will be every month, two months, three months and six months.
What we’re going to do with the subscription product is have a questionnaire asking clients what styles and colours they like and hate, what colour suits they usually wear, if they wear them casually or at the office, what colour their shirts and ties are etcetera. We have a staff team of designers and wardrobe consultants to whom we’ll give those answers to help us pick the right kind of pocket square to go with the clients’ answers. As with all our products, if we send a customer a pocket square and they don’t like it, they can always send it back. If somebody doesn’t want to do the random thing, we’ll let them pick which ones they want to receive. There’s going to be a lot of choice involved with the Squarescription.
What’s the size of the market for this service?
I haven’t crunched the numbers, but in our mind it’s anybody that wears a suit essentially. We’re trying to make pocket squares a more relevant product, make it very mainstream and not only what the stuffy white-shirt guys would wear. We’re even going after women now. We have a big push online where we’re trying to get women to wear pocket squares as well, so we’ve taken some advertising shots of women wearing pocket squares with their blazers. That’s worked out quite well for us because we’ve got quite a high number of women clients who are not only buying for their significant others as gifts but they’re also buying them for themselves as well.
A lot of these subscription services are run out of bigger retail brands, or they’re collectives like Fancy. Are you looking to partner with someone bigger?
Part of our five-year plan was to spend the first year getting our brand up and running, to make a name for the Pochetti brand, but eventually we’d like to make Pochetti the place to go for pocket squares of any brand. We’d like to partner up with the Hugo Bosses and Armanis of the world and approach them with the proposition that if somebody is looking for a pocket square, we’re the place to go. People don’t call tissues ‘tissues,’ they call them ‘Kleenex.’ What we’re trying to instil in people is: it’s not a ‘pocket square,’ it’s a ‘Pochetti.’