Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Meet Simon Cobb, Owner of Menswear Exchange

Simon Cobb is an entrepreneur who owns the UK-based business, Menswear Exchange, a men's clothing store specializing in celebrity fashion, urban streetwear, and independent brands. In September of 2014, Simon will be launching a clothing label called Three Dreams. In his store, he likes to represent up and coming independent brands and provide them with a platform for exposure. Keep up with the latest Menswear Exchange news on Facebook.

1. How did you first get involved in the fashion industry as a teenager?

I think initially when I was about 16, I started taking a heavy interest in fashion due to following Kanye West. He's been my favorite musician since I was about 13 years old when he first broke out, so as time went by I began to be more and more interested in more than just his music, particularly his fashion sense. I started to seek and buy the items that he would be wearing, and before I knew it people were commenting on my clothes and wondering where they could get it from; this was back when Bape and Billionaire Boys Club was hot.

I still remember when I was 16 and that feeling after I bought the Yellow Ice Cream Board Flip Shoes and Yellow Bape Watch that I saw Kanye wear on the Friday Night Project (UK): it felt awesome having something so unique, and I wanted to share that feeling with others. From then I started looking for similarly styled products that were more affordable from which I quickly realized that I could make a profit. It started with friends, and then quickly word spread. I realized there was a huge market out there that I wasn't exploiting, so I then decided to launch "uniquemenswearstore" on eBay, specializing in celebrity trend fashion at affordable prices.

2. What made you decide to make the shift from eBay to your own store, Menswear Exchange?

There were many factors. I was getting increasingly fed up with eBay fees, PayPal fees, unspecified selling regulations... You know, I was a Gold Top Rated Seller with over 5,000 positive feedback, and I felt I was being treated like a novice, so I started to think about investing in my own store.

Another factor was the opportunity to offer a more diverse range of products with a far better user interface and customer experience. So I started sourcing and holding meetings with several development companies before I found the right one. Before the website launched, I decided to abandon "uniquemenswearstore" and move forward with Menswear Exchange because I felt I firstly needed a refresh, to be something new; my eBay store branding was outdated, and I needed to come up with a better name with longevity. I feel Menswear Exchange definitely puts me in better stead looking forward.

3. Would you tell us a little bit about Stock Exchange and some of the other attributes that make your shop unique?

Well, the Stock Exchange is an idea that came to me in the rebranding of my store; it's a play on words with (Menswear) Stock Exchange, but also it's a concept that I've considered for a while and have brought it with me from my eBay experience. I would get a lot of offers from buyers requesting to make an offer, or make an offer of exchange or part exchange on some of my more collectible items, and it made me realize there was currently nothing else out there like it. It's not a brand new concept per se as you can part exchange in video game stores or for a car, but it's certainly not been utilized in the fashion world, and with people becoming more and more fashion-conscious together with the economy still recovering it seemed to me a perfect time to launch this concept in tandem with the full launch of Menswear Exchange last October. Myself and my team of developers worked really hard getting the concept to market, and now the store has a select range of collectible designer clothes (usually one-offs) in which you can place a number of offers on; it's so far been very well-received but unfortunately at the moment I do not have the budget to really take it forward the way I want to.

I want it to become a more reformed version of ASOS Marketplace combined with eBay where members of the Stock Exchange can buy sell and trade their clothing items; however, it will be specifically for high-end designer items and collectible garments of that nature, basically what is already featured on the Stock Exchange but other people's listings and not ours although we will most likely continue to have our featured products there as I am very interested in the culture of fashion and current designer trends.

Another unique aspect of my store is my Inspired Range which is what initially grew my business from an eBay store to where I stand today. You can pick up the latest celebrity trends and very affordable prices, and this range is very popular by far; we have many subscribers solely for our Inspired Range. Not only that but we also support Lifestyle designer brands such as Converse All Star, Polo Ralph Lauren, etc, and we're currently developing a department where we will be solely focusing on representing and promoting some very interesting up and coming independent brands; in fact I'm working on launching a clothing label called Three Dreams in September which will be part of this department.

4. Why did you decide to set up shop online rather than as a brick and mortar store?

Quite simply it's a matter of cost. Although it wasn't cheap to get the website developed and built to industry spec, it was a lot cheaper than opening a store and having to fit out to spec as well as fill it with stock. We do hold certain stock with the online store, but due to building excellent partnerships over the years, we can rely on storage at separate warehouses, etc, so a store at this stage would have been an inconvenience whilst we are still growing. After Three Dreams has launched and I've had time to develop Menswear Exchange and the Stock Exchange, I'll definitely be looking to open a brick and mortar store; just for now the timing isn't right as we need more of a presence in the market which is what I'm currently focused on building.

5. What should we expect from your forthcoming clothing line, Three Dreams?

Three Dreams is a collaboration between myself and two friends; I'm the majority equity partner with the other two holding less equity but both equally important to the future success of the brand. It will be not only a reflection of our three personalities but a reflection of our area on the South Coast, Portsmouth, and beyond. We are looking for Three Dreams to become a creative company that focuses on making our region better, and we are talking to local talent from DJs to artists, to fashion designers and even computer programmers so that we can all brainstorm and make our part of the world better and then look to take it onto the global scale: this includes parties and whatever else we can get ourselves involved with.

The clothes themselves on launch are currently in production which will include our standard logo t-shirts, printed leather jackets, leather trousers, paisley extended t-shirts, snapbacks, and hoodies as well as some very interesting all over print designs to come on launch in September. For me it's important to focus on our home city of Portsmouth; there's too many tacky brands popping up all from "London" just using the name to help sell their sub par products, and we want to actually create real designs and well-thought-out products that the market will love and in turn will increase exposure to our city and region because Portsmouth and the South Coast has just as much talent within as London: it's just nobody is representing the culture like we will right now!

Honestly, if I see another tacky brand come up copying another designer's font and just printing the same name a thousand times on different black and white t-shirts... Three Dreams is our love letter to the fashion industry to let everybody know that not all streetwear from the UK is just boring logo tees with no imagination and from "London." Some of us want to create.

Thanks, Simon!

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