Not every luxury fashion brand is able to gain global success without investment from outside, yet this is exactly what the pocket square manufacturer Sebastian Cruz Couture has achieved. The brand specialises in not only pocket squares but shoes, jackets, and accessories too. It was founded by Cesar Cruz and his wife Natasha, who are keen to share tips and advice with other would-be fashion entrepreneurs. It was first launched back in 2013 when seven pocket squares were first created.
Outside investment not required
One of the main reasons why the brand never needed to ask for outside investment was because the original pocket squares were so successful. The success of these pocket squares enabled the duo to retain complete control over their brand. The company has a vast social media following, including 400,000 Instagram fans. A key moment in the story of the brand was the creation of a bespoke machine for the pocket squares. This machine allowed the company to start producing 25 pocket squares with crochet borders an hour after they were previously only able to create one every 40 minutes or so.
An internet-only venture
Many people have asked the pair why they operate on an online-only basis. There are several reasons for this. The couple found that the costs associated with bricks and mortar shops were rising all the time, and decided that the work involved in running physical stores would take much of the fun out of the operation. Sebastian says his customers generally prefer online shopping and that “digital real estate” allowed the team to showcase their products just as effectively as a physical shop would.
Sebastian Cruz Couture franchises
Sebastian Cruz Couture franchises were in operation for a short period of time. However, the couple soon decided not to renew the contracts once they expired. They said many of the franchise owners were unable to deliver the work required to make their ventures successful and that only a few were able to generate five-figure sums each week. All the work related to the brand is now completed in-house, and it doesn’t seem that franchise opportunities will be offered out again.
How the brand expanded
The company branched out into other products after they had started to generate substantial cash from the pocket squares. Before long, they were also manufacturing and selling items including bow and neckties, belts, jackets and scarfs, with all of these being made by hand. According to Cesar, the fashion industry is “one of the most difficult markets to penetrate”. The brand co-founder encourages potential fashion entrepreneurs to think very hard about the products they wish to sell, who their intended audience is and how they should market their products.
Building brand engagement
Cesar says luxury fashion brands tend to have the most loyal audiences, with customers remaining with them for decades or even a lifetime. Those that offer low-cost garments may be able to make substantial cash initially but are more likely to see their fortunes slip quickly once new rivals emerge. According to Cesar, luxury fashion companies should place less focus on competitive pricing and should work hard to create products of great distinction that demand attention and leave consumers feeling “great”. Consistent messaging is also essential, as is looking closely at the mistakes being made by competitors. Cesar says far too many luxury fashion companies are failing to interact with their customers and therefore missing out on brand loyalty and engagement.
The need for re-investment
Cesar has also encouraged fashion entrepreneurs to re-invest sufficient cash back into their businesses and to expand into other products once they can afford to do so. This approach enabled Sebastian Cruz Couture to start designing and supplying not only pocket squares but the many other products they are now known for. Cesar also needed to visit the mills of Italy on several occasions to source the right materials for his products, which suggests that long-haul travel might also be necessary if standards and customer expectations are to be met.
Presentation is key
In Cesar’s eyes, fashion brands should spend more time focussing on presentation and less time telling others about what makes their products so great. The stories companies tell should resonate with customers before “they even give you the product”. Products are regarded as the “excuse you will create to build a relationship with the people that will buy from you”. Entrepreneurs should also have a great deal of confidence in their brands and know them inside out before they attempt to raise finance. “Pay attention to everything, and only then will you be set up to raise cash”.
Giving consumers “the love they want”
Cesar says that customers continue to be “traumatized” by the way companies they buy thousands of dollars of products fail to engage with them effectively. He encourages brands to give consumers “the love they want”. “The luxury market is more about the uniqueness of what they are buying but even greater the love you give them.” It seems the brand is well set to grow its customer network further over the coming years.