What does one call a website that sells shirts, suits, pants — and as of this week, shoes — to an aspirational class of men?
A technology company.
That's the attitude of Irvine, California–based Combatant Gentlemen, an emerging menswear brand that uses algorithms and other data-driven techniques to provide clothes, sartorial guidance and accessories to men — particularly millennials.
The company's curated approach to selling menswear has invited comparisons to Netflix, Amazon and on-demand applications that generate user recommendations based on individual preferences. This week, Combatant began selling footwear priced between $65 and $130, which sold out within hours, to go along with one of its signature items: Italian wool suits that start at only $160.
Combatant Gentlemen is part of a growing club of internet retailers that cater to upwardly mobile men, and includes names like Trunk Club, Bonobos, Fashion Stork and Bombfell (which employs its own technology that recommends clothes based on body shape, height, weight and fashion tastes). As the menswear market gets larger—Euromonitor International estimates men's clothing is worth $400 billion in global sales—how does Combatant Gentlemen expect to distinguish itself from the competition?
In a recent interview, Combatant Gentlemen CEO and founder Vishaal Melwani described the company as focusing on how to offer clothes that are accessible, affordable and higher quality than what can be found on the rack. Melwani uses the phrase "baller on a budget" to describe the type of man that would be interested in buying Combatant's clothing: young, at the cusp of their career, but not having enough money to shop at higher end places.
Those men have an "innate need … to try and make money and still live a 'baller-esque' lifestyle," Melwani told CNBC. Combatant "tries to master fit and understand the guy from a data set," he said. Hence why the company sees itself as "technology first and fashion second," said the 31-year-old University of California, Irvine graduate, the son of tailors who worked for Versace.
In particular, Combatant has a wide following at Goldman Sachs, Melwani told CNBC, which illustrates what the company considers its target demographic. He added that the average shopper visits the site at least five times a year.
Imran Rahman, Combatant's COO, said, "These guys are working regular hours at 9 to 5 jobs and look great in a suit."
For Combatant, "the sweet spot is [a male in his] mid 20s, and it's the working guy who's living in the big city and is broke, has a lot of debt and doesn't have a lot of money to go around but he's got to wear something to work, got to look good and feel good," he said.
Enter the company, with all its algorithms and data to create a look that's both affordable and eye-catching. "What we always say is we're not in the fashion business, we're in the problem-solving business," Rahman added.