DNVB List: A.K., how’s it going?!
5th & Lamar (A.K. President and Cofounder): Hey Matt, going well, thanks for having me!
DNVB List: You bet, like I mentioned to you earlier, we haven’t featured a men’s apparel brand yet, so I’ve been looking forward to it!
5th & Lamar: Awesome, we love sharing our story!
DNVB List: Super, let’s get to it. First off, we love hearing about what founders were doing before they started their companies. Can you give us a little color there?
5th & Lamar: Yeah, sure. Prior to starting 5th & Lamar, we were just two guys who’d recently moved to Austin to start new consulting jobs. As consultants, our look was very important to us and we had a really hard time finding dress shirts that fit our slimmer frame.
DNVB List: I’m 5’11” 165lbs, so I’ve absolutely experienced this.
5th & Lamar: You’re not alone! We spent hundreds of dollars getting our shirts tailor fit and even then, we weren’t completely happy with the result.
DNVB List: Yep, done that too!
5th & Lamar: So, when we were out enjoying the Austin nightlife one night, we decided to go all in and start our own dress shirt company with a focus on fit and quality. We took to designing and prototyping until we had something we would proudly wear ourselves. In 2009, 5th & Lamar was introduced to the world!
DNVB List: So you were scratching your own itch basically. It’s incredible how many companies start out that way.
5th & Lamar: We realized many professionals struggled with the same problem so why not fix it.
DNVB List: Where did the name come from?
5th & Lamar: 5th & Lamar is the intersection in Austin where we called home. We wanted the company to have a local, Austin vibe, so it made sense to name it after a location in Austin. In fact, each of our designs is named after an Austin landmark!
DNVB List: Very cool. So did you guys just up and quit the consulting jobs and go for it? How did it all start?
5th & Lamar: Not quite, but close. We launched in 2009 as a small side project to help us find better fitting shirts. As word has spread over the years, we started getting fans from across the country and even abroad. The overwhelming response was a result of our community-style approach to sales. And that’s a big part of the reason you’ll never see us do anything all the big box businesses do. No celebrities, no gimmicks. Just damn good slim fitting shirts!
DNVB List: Let’s talk more about the product then. Tell us more about the shirts. What makes them so damn good?!
5th & Lamar: Our fans love the way our shirts fit right out of the box, in a design and cut they can easily wear to work and social outings.
DNVB List: I’m all about multi-purpose.
5th & Lamar: Yeah, no reason to have work shirts and going out shirts. Some shirts makers intend for their shirts to always be tucked in. More recently, shirt makers have been focusing on a cut designed to be worn untucked. We’ve always focused our efforts on a design that’s versatile and looks great worn tucked or untucked.
DNVB List: Makes sense. There’s a zillion brands for men’s shirts out there. Lots of competition. What differentiates you guys? How are you different?
5th & Lamar: From day one, it’s always been about giving our fans the best shopping experience. We don’t like to think of ourselves as a big box shirt retailer, but more of a community. That’s why we hate the word “customer” and love the word “fans”. We are all about promoting the local Austin community and just want to use our brand to help spread the word and bring a small piece of Austin into everyone’s wardrobe.
DNVB List: You know, I’ve been to Austin a few times. Once for New Year’s Eve with a group of friends probably 10 years ago, and again for work last year during SXSW. Traffic was pretty brutal, but the people and the city? Top notch!
5th & Lamar: Austin has experienced tremendous growth over the years and we love everything the city has to offer. We highly encourage everyone to visit and experience the city at least once.
DNVB List: I like the “fan” concept versus “customer”. Are there any plans to move beyond shirts?
5th & Lamar: We’ve always been focused on shirts. In the past, we’ve done undershirts and sweaters too, but feedback from our fans is to expand our line of shirts. So, we focused on that this year by launching 8 new designs in 2017. We are constantly talking to our fans, both in person and on the phone, and there’s certainly a growing interest to go beyond shirts, so we may experiment with that in the near future. At the end of the day, the most important thing for us is to build a community of fans!
DNVB List: I actually like that you’re sticking with shirts for now. Whenever I’m in a restaurant that has a giant menu with tons of different dishes, my immediate assumption is that they’re all mediocre because you can’t be an expert at every different kind of cuisine.
5th & Lamar: Totally agree.
DNVB List: I lived in California for a long time, so everyone knows In-N-Out. Super small menu and it’s all really good! It’s easier to perfect a few things and build a following around those few things. Same thing here. Make an amazing shirt that people love. Go deep on that rather than wide on a lot of things.
5th & Lamar: Couldn’t agree more.
DNVB List: So you started in 2009, it’s 2017 now, you just came out with eight new designs. Eight years running a business is substantial, that’s a heckuva lot longer than some businesses make it.
5th & Lamar: It hasn’t always been easy, that’s for sure. We started in 2009 with an awesome product but a terrible e-commerce site! In 2017, we refreshed our site to give our fans an even better shopping experience with a fan rewards program.
DNVB List: Congrats, I bet that was a big day. I think you told me when we spoke before, but the company was completely bootstrapped, right?
5th & Lamar: That’s right. 100% bootstrapped, and still is. We’ve never been about the money; it has always been about the fans. There have been so many occasions when we’ve taken a hit financially to make sure we make a decision that is in the best interest of our fans.
DNVB List: Can you speak a little bit to how you think about building the brand, not necessarily the business, but the brand?
5th & Lamar: Quite simply put, we didn’t want to take the big box retailer approach. Unlike other retailers, we love having conversations with our fans and getting to know them better. Recently, we started a new initiative called the Fan Spotlight in which we showcase a fan on our site and social media every month. Our fans are our brand!
DNVB List: That’s a cool initiative. I remember seeing it on the site. I’ll be sure to include a link to it. Is social media a good place for people to interact with the brand?
5th & Lamar: Absolutely! We’re active on Facebook and Instagram. A popular YouTube channel called Real Men Real Style that has over 1.5M subscribers did a piece on us a while back as well.
DNVB List: Cool, we’ll include those as well. We’ve spoken to some very new companies who don’t necessarily have a mission or company values just yet, but having been around for eight years, I thought I’d ask. Is that something you guys have purposefully thought about?
5th & Lamar: Definitely. Our values are really simple: treat each of our fans in the same way we’d treat our closest friends. Accordingly, our fans come before anything else.
DNVB List: You can’t go wrong there if that’s your north star. Where are most of your customers coming from?
5th & Lamar: Most of our fans find out about us through Facebook, and word of mouth. We initially thought only people in Austin would be interested, but much to our surprise, we have fans all over the country, and even some fans abroad! It’s been a fantastic experience building the community of 5th & Lamar fans!
DNVB List: 2017 is almost gone, so what’s the company’s biggest goal or goals for 2018?
5th & Lamar: 2018 is really about featuring our fans that have supported us over the years and continue to enhance the shopping experience. As always, we will be launching a new line of shirts in the Spring and Fall for our fans as well!
DNVB List: Love it, let us know when those come out and we’ll give you guys a shout out or two!
5th & Lamar: We appreciate that, thanks!
DNVB List: You bet, it was great talking with you. Let’s grab tacos next time I’m in Austin.
5th & Lamar: You had me at tacos! I’m in!
DNVB List: Sounds good, talk then!
5th & Lamar: See you later!