CombatGent to launch Haberdash: Founders with Versace roots are bringing fine tailoring to your doorstep

By Michael Carney , written on February 5, 2014

From The News Desk

The physical world is being Uber-ified. That is, everyday services like housekeeping, remodeling, salon styling, babysitting, and senior care are all now available on-demand at the touch of a mobile app button. The latest industry to get the startup treatment is about as old world as they come: alterations.

CombatGent, a two-year-old fine mens clothing online retailer, is preparing to launch its on-demand fine tailoring platform, Haberdash later in early Spring in San Francisco. The company has been alpha-tested in Los Angeles and Orange County, but will launch into public beta in the Bay Area. The concept for Haberdash is one emerged out of inbound demand from both CombatGent’s customers and the alterations community.

“Lots of our guys are first-time suit buyers, and they don’t know that they need to do simple alterations or don’t have anyone that they’ve used in the past,” says CombatGent co-founder and CEO Vishaal Melwani. “Our customer service chat has been buzzing with questions of where to get tailoring done since we launched.”

He added, “We’ve helped people find great tailors through Yelp, but we want to offer a better solution. The tailors have been thrilled with the business but are asking us how to make the process more seamless.”

Haberdash will work a lot like other similar services platforms. Consumers will open up an app to request a tailor to come to their home or office, typically within the hour or the same day. The users will specify the desired services, choosing from a standard menu or making bespoke requests, and will receive an estimate of anticipated costs. Tailors will complete the work in a period of several days and then either return the garments to the client or hold them for pickup at their retail location.

This is not a discount service. Haberdash will cost approximately 10 to 15 percent more than industry average prices, depending on the service, but in exchange offers the rare option to have the tailor come to you, which is typically a premium service. The company will keep a 12 to 20 percent commission on each booking. That said, Haberdash will offer the type of price transparency and standardization that is all but nonexistent in the alterations market today. Haberdash also aims to help its current and future customers identify quality professionals by vetting every tailor that joins the platform. For the uninitiated, a bad tailor is worse than no tailor at all.

It’s easy to dismiss Haberdash as a “me too” idea created by founders in the clothing business who want in on the mobile explosion. That’s anything but the case. Melwani and his co-founder (and cousin) Mo Melwani have deep ties to the garment industry. As I wrote previously:

[The Melwanis] have been in the garment business their whole lives, growing up in the back of family operated Versace boutiques, and learning about high fashion, customer service, and craftsmanship from a family of tailors and seamstresses. When the pair saw early online entrants to the men’s category like Indochino and Frank & Oak sacrifice quality and fit for ease of production and mass appeal, they recognized an opportunity and launched a professional and formal wear collection initially including suits, shirts, and ties.

The founders view Haberdash as simply the next step in their in making fine fashion accessible to everyday men, while at the same time preserving the craftsmanship and traditions of the industry that is such an integral part of their family.

“A lot of CombatGent is heritage,” Vishaal Melwani says. “We know how to develop clothing, we respect that person, that craftsman. But tailors are struggling.”

Like Uber drivers, Haberdash tailors will receive iPhones or iPads on which they can claim open service requests and manage billing through the company’s merchant platform. Haberdash also plans to issue certified tailor badges that its partners can display in the windows of their retail storefronts. The platform is meant to be a supplement, initially, to existing business. But as we’ve seen with Uber drivers, if the concept takes off and the experience proves desirable, it could easily become a full-time gig for many tailors.

“If we can make our lives easier, our customers’ lives easier, and at the same time help out a struggling mom and pop, all the better,” Melwani says.

Currently only about one in five tailors are willing to leave their retail shop and conduct fittings off-site. But even these “pioneers” have trouble generating demand for that service. This is because consumers generally aren’t familiar with the concept of “ordering a tailor” and those who are typically think of it as a luxury available only to the rich and famous, Vishaal Melwani says. Haberdash aims to change the mindset of both groups.

“It’s like an AMEX black card type of service,” he says. “But that’s our guy, that’s what he’s striving toward.”

CombatGent has raised $1.84 million in Seed funding to date and is profitable and growing quickly, according to its CEO. The Orange County, California company’s funding round was led by VegasTechFund*, with participation from MHS Capital, Greycroft Partners, Naxuri Capital, Blazer Ventures, Berlin’s Point Nine Capital, and Flint and Tinder’s Jake Bornstein. The company also added Naxuri director and former Gucci board member Enrico Beltrami as Chairman of its board.

CombatGent has already grown out of its Las Vegas manufacturing and fulfillment space and is in the process of establishing larger operations in the California desert or Kentucky. The company has plans to launch its long-promised denim line in March, alongside a revamped suiting collection. Other categories like luggage, footwear, and accessories are all under consideration.

Haberdash will operate as an offshoot of CombatGent initially. Malwani calls it the clothier’s answer to delivering an offline experience, equivalent to Warby Parker’s showrooms, Bonobos’ guide shops, and Indochino’s traveling tailors. The plan is to prove out the concept in SF and then expand the service nationwide, with an initial focus on major cities.

“We tell our customers, every guy should have a tailor,” Vishaal Milwani says. “It’s a relationship you invest in. Women have hair stylists, manicurist, waxer, etc. All a guy needs is a good tailor and he’s set.”

(*VegasTechFund founder Tony Hsieh is an investor in PandoDaily.)

[Image via TheRake]