If eBay had a Gen Z son, it would be Grailed.
As the world’s largest community-driven marketplace for men’s fashion, New York City-based Grailed is making elevated apparel accessible to everyone.
At the WWD Men’s Style event in New York City Thursday, Grailed founder Arun Gupta shared how the marketplace has become the online hub for resale and content built around men’s high fashion and streetwear.
“We exist to facilitate a community of people who care about clothes and want to express themselves through clothes,” Gupta said.
And the increasingly savvy men’s fashion consumer expects highly curated assortments and in-depth coverage on trends and brands—even in resale. “You can’t just do something because its popular. It has to resonate with your ethos because otherwise it won’t feel real,” Gupta said. “We really have to be avid consumers of the industry.”
Grailed was born out of Gupta’s own passion for high-end fashion, albeit, on a college student budget. He was inspired by the various online communities like Style Forum and Reddit, which served as platforms for style-conscious men to talk fashion.
“Traditionally, guys don’t have a lot of friends who they can talk about style in real life,” Gupta said, adding that these forums allowed men to trade opinions about the latest drops or share news about upcoming collections and designers to watch.
And in each of these communities were classified sections where men could resell their unwanted streetwear and designer threads.
Grailed launch in 2013 when men’s fashion was in a raw denim and workwear cycle. At the time, Gupta said, the community fawned over duck chinos, jeans by Pure Blue Japan, and Self Edge was the holy grail of stores. However, as the marketplace grew, its selection diversified.
“If you’re a marketplace, and especially if you want to scale, you want to be everything to everyone, but in some cases, that means you’re nothing to no one,” he said.
Gupta sidestepped this problem by curating the marketplace into categories. “Grails” is for coveted items from well-known luxury labels like Saint Laurent and Raf Simons. “Hype” is for new streetwear releases from brands like Supreme and Yeezy. High-end, classic items from Tom Ford and Alden live in the “Sartorial” category, while mass market and vintage clothing makes up Grailed’s “Core” collection.
“Being a marketplace is great because you can cater toward all of these different styles and archetypes in different parts of your website,” he said.
Grailed is often described as a marketplace for streetwear—a label that Gupta says is “mildly inaccurate.”
“Supreme got very popular and now Virgil [Abloh] is at Louis Vuitton. All of this stuff is spreading out,” he said. “And I think that is what a lot of people’s first exposure is when they take a look at men’s clothing—that it’s all streetwear.”
However, the company’s business is split between streetwear and fashion. While men’s clothing today is tightly intertwined with streetwear, Gupta says Grailed is part of a larger movement that has been building for the past 10 years in men’s wear, starting with metrosexuals and ending, he believes, with the marriage between luxury and streetwear.
While streetwear is just part of Grailed’s story, its proving to be an authentic U.S. fashion story. A few years ago, Gupta said two-thirds of all transactions crossed borders mostly to or from Europe, Australia or Canada. Today, 70 percent of Grailed’s transactions are U.S. to U.S. “It’s a huge shift and I think that’s attributable to the rise of streetwear,” he said.
In terms of what’s selling in men’s wear, Gupta says Grailed is a “pretty close reflection of what the market is.”
And like the traditional retail market, there are two notable types of consumers: those who buy it to wear it, and others who want to flip it. While men who buy Spring ’19 Celine will likely wear it until fall, Gupta said an online drop from a brand like Supreme is almost instantly available on Grailed.
Purchasing for resale has become prevalent in sneakers and streetwear. “It’s lasted in sneakers for a very long time, but we’ll see how long it lasts in streetwear because it’s hard to maintain that without a diversity of brands,” he said. “With Supreme driving most of it in streetwear, it may be hard to maintain.”
Virgil Abloh has boosted the profile of Louis Vuitton on Grailed. “That stuff is incredible,” Gupta said. “What it’s doing for the industry is amazing.”
However, buzz around other designers from the luxury space, like Kim Jones for Dior Homme and Hedi Slimane for Celine, remains to be seen. Louis Vuitton outpaces the other labels, which Gupta attributes to Abloh’s streetwear roots.
Meanwhile, resale for street-meets-luxury label Vetements is cooling off. With designer Demna Gvasalia pulling double-duty at Vetements and Balenciaga, Gupta said the recent Vetements collection has lacked focus, and the secondary market—which is based on resale value—is reacting.
“The resale of Vetements is not nearly as high as it was in the first couple of seasons,” he said.