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In Conversation with Ben Farren of SPOKE

SPOKE is a vertically integrated online menswear brand. They use an eCommerce model to give men exactly what they're looking for: properly made clothes that really fit, without the luxury mark-up. Their clothes are cut in more sizes, from the very best fabric and trim - then sold direct to the consumer, at a great price. SPOKE'S wishlist wasn't big. They just wanted clothes that fit, felt, and looked great. They didn't need to stay obsessively on trend and didn't need an endless carousel of changing styles. Most of all, they didn't need to buy them in an over-decorated retail palace teeming with other people and annoying shop assistants.

In a recent episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interviewed Ben Farren, Founder of SPOKE about the founding story and ethos behind his menswear brand. With a focus on shape and fitting, the brand offers over 400 sizing variations within their trousers category. Our host Peter Brooker and Ben talked about financing and raising capital, the benefits of product marketing through social media, selling through the direct mail channel, and the problems with standard garment sizing.

“The genius of eCommerce lies in the opportunity for digital arbitrage. So, cutting out the middleman and cutting out the retail overheads to offer you a better product at a better price. That's how people often think of direct-to-consumer brands, and I suppose my position on that is that it's largely bollocks. It's just not true. Everything that I save in rent I have to give back in the form of the rent I pay to Facebook and Google. I live in fear of tumbleweeds spinning across my website and I pay extensively to make sure that people visit. I can use the reach of the web to go after one customer with real singularity of purpose and vision, and send them a stream of products and messages that really resonate. And in that lies some really strong economics - if you do that, you're able to acquire customers at a lower price - and you're often able to inspire more loyalty through that very direct and focused connection that you're making with them."

"I think that is a large part of the genius of eCommerce, the opportunity to focus. But additionally, I can solve the trouser fit problem that men struggle with. I'm able to gather all of my inventory in one place, rather than spreading it thin, and I can run through dramatically more sizes. Rather than offering the usual 20 to 30 sizes in trousers, which is where we've made most of our business over the last six or seven years, we're able to offer 600 size and silhouette variations. If you look at an app from almost any brand or retailer, you know that the trousers tend to be in fifth or sixth slot. They're an afterthought and yet they are half of the outfit. We all know the purgatory of shopping for trousers, walking into a dimly lit changing room with a small pile of them and stumbling around as you as you try them on, and then doing that awkward dance in front of the communal mirror outside. It’s a really terrible experience.”

This is a shortened transcribed edit of episode 120 of the MenswearStyle Podcast with Ben Farren, Founder of spoke-london.com. You can listen to the full version below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast player.

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