The Idle Man founder says his etailer takes the hard work out of staying on trend for fashion-conscious young men.
Former Asos.com head of menswear Oliver Tezcan set up etailer The Idle Man in April 2014 after identifying a gap in the market for a fully rounded, affordable menswear offer. Starting with £350,000 of backing from the Regional Growth Fund, Tezcan secured a further £1.2m from regional private-equity investment firm Foresight Nottingham Fund in October.
Why did you set up your own business?
When I joined Asos in 2006 it still had essentially the feel of a startup and was incredibly exciting. There were about 50 of us in the office, and [founder and chief executive] Nick Robertson would think nothing of closing up on a Friday afternoon and putting his card behind the bar in our local pub. As the company became bigger we realised that probably wasn’t best practice, but I was hooked on the buzz of starting something new. The seed was planted that I would one day launch my own business.
What is the concept?
It’s the first dedicated pure-play etailer for young men’s fashion. Menswear online is served well at the luxury and premium end by the likes of Mr Porter, [Newcastle indie] End and [Swedish-based] Très Bien, which are all very well for guys in their 30s and 40s with high disposable incomes. For the younger market there are women’s etailers that do menswear as a bit of an add-on - I speak as an ex-Asos employee - and bricks-and-mortar stores that do online as an add-on. The Idle Man is here to better serve that huge customer base.
Did it feel risky in the current climate?
Any new business is risky, but I felt comfortable that I had the knowledge and contact book to make it work. There’s never a right time to start a business. There’s a proverb which roughly goes: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.’
How do the brands you’re stocking work together?
One of our core values is curation. Men don’t want choice for choice’s sake, they want to be guided towards the right choice for them. We don’t expect we will ever carry more than about 100 brands - the idea is that you could almost fill your basket at random and have an outfit that fits together. [Our brands like] Nudie, Vans and Herschel complement each other.
What’s your biggest gripe about the way men dress?
Lack of effort. Any man can stick to a simple, well-fitted wardrobe in black, navy and grey, and look pretty good with minimum effort. It’s a shame that for so many men the main goals seem to be warmth and not being naked.
What will be the major menswear trends for 2015?
Sportswear is still there, but it will be less technical and more terrace-inspired [such as retro sports brands like Umbro and Ellesse]. I loved the Matthew Miller show from autumn 14 - no beards and plenty of skinheads.
Are there any trends you wish would disappear?
Bucket hats. Our buyer, Thom Scherdel [one of Drapers’ 30 Under 30 up-and-coming talents for 2014], insists on wearing one into the office most days. It’s lost on me.
Where did the name The Idle Man come from?
Originally from the Smiths song What Difference Does It Make?, [with the lyrics] ‘The devil will make work for idle hands to do’. I quite liked the name Idle Hands, but realised it could be misconstrued, so we settled on The Idle Man.
You’ve said before that menswear is getting less brand loyal. How do you counteract this?
When I started in menswear buying in 2002 at River Island it was fairly simple - as long as you had G-Star and Superdry you were pretty much OK, because men trusted those logos. But over the last decade men have become more conscious of how they look. We select our brands around trends and outfits rather than just brand equity.
Before Asos you were an assistant buyer at River Island. What did you learn from those roles?
River Island was very established and supremely well run with a lot of processes, while at Asos we flew by the seat of our pants and had a really can-do attitude. To be successful in business you need a bit of both.
Will you be replicating Asos’s early Friday finishes during the summer?
Ha! The Idle Man team can leave whenever they want as long as their work is done. However, I doubt that’s going to be 3pm too often.
What do you most enjoy about buying?
The product. It’s what I got into it for in the first place. My attitude is that if the product is right everything else takes care of itself.
Who is your personal style inspiration?
Prince Charles. Who else could rock a white double-breasted jacket, cravat and cane without a hint of irony, and pull it off?
Is the future of fashion online?
It’s a combination of online and physical stores. The Amazon, Asos and Zalando model of just having loads of stuff is being outmanoeuvred by specialised etailers that form an emotional bond with the customer and offer more of a service than just shipping units.