WHO // Lawrence Schlossman & Jacob Metzger
WHERE // New York
WHAT DO THEY DO // Lawrence is the brand director and Jacob is the marketing director for Grailed.
Located on the fourth floor of a loft in Soho, Grailed is a curated online community marketplace for men's clothing. The headquarters is a creative open space with a full photography studio, a stocked drink fridge, only a handful of computers, and racks on racks of rare finds from Raf Simons to Undercover and more. Since their launch in 2013, Arun Gupta built Grailed in three months with no prior coding experience. The goal was to make valuable pieces affordable and available to everyone while also standing as an information source to like-minded fashion-conscious individuals. Their presence in the industry attracts fashion-enthusiasts such as A$AP Rocky and Lil Uzi Vert, amongst many others. Lawrence and Jacob, two impeccably dressed men-in-black behind the happenings at Grailed, allowed me a moment to pick their brains on blogging and how they established their authority in men's fashion. Both guys had similar beginnings, studying econ in college, but different goals with their blog, and eventually came together at Grailed. Here are some of the main points from our chat and how they got to where they are today:
No matter what your background, look at what you're spending your free time doing. It may be your next career path.
L: I went to school for economics in North Carolina, Wake Forest, thinking I’d want to go into banking and taking internships on Wall Street. It'll be cool, I’ll make a lot of money, it'll be dope... and it sucked. It just wasn’t fulfilling creatively. I had a job in finance right out of school and quickly realized I was spending most of my time at that job thinking about other stuff--it was men's fashion. So I started blogging as a creative outlet and as a place to escape and enjoy my professional life because I was basically at work shooking my responsibilities. Eventually through a lot of networking and stuff, I was able to shift it to a full time thing.
J: I have a sort of a similar background as Lawrence in the sense that I studied economics as well. I graduated in ’09 and for three years I went into political risk consulting and what I was doing at that job was interesting but personally not fulfilling. So from '09 to '12, I was working but also blogging on the side. At first I was saving images to an excel file on the computer that I thought was cool and that was related to men's fashion and lifestyle. One of my coworkers said I should put them on a Tumblr as a place to store these images. Soon I was building up a small audience and then after a few years of my actual job, now it was time to transition into doing something more full time.
Major key: Networking. Everyone started out on ground zero.
L: Connecting with other people in the same space, whether it's the blog of someone I really like, like the Editor-in-Chief of GQ, or some dude sitting in his apartment blogging about men's fashion in his free time, it's connecting with those people because if you can find validation and respect from your peers, it is positive reinforcement. It wasn’t one of those things where I waited for them to come to me and pat me on the back like, “Oh you have a great blog”, but I was reaching out and asking people questions. Trying to connect with as many people as you can and hope you find people with a similar mindset to give you constructive criticism and positive reinforcement.
J: I remember Lawrence being one of the first people I reached out to in the cold and I wasn’t expecting an email back. I was just reaching out to people I respected in the business and he immediately responds, "Yo I'd love to talk about whatever you want. Happy to lend my perspective to you for whatever it's worth".
L: It's even more positive when it's between enthusiasts and hobbyists, because you have this blog that's almost like your child since it's an extension of you. You meet someone else like that and there's so many positive things that can happen because they are invested and care are exponentially more than just someone you meet networking at a job fair. It is still networking but it's almost like--and I don’t want to sound metaphysical or weird-- but it's a connection because those people are going through the same thing and they’re wondering if, "damn is anyone reading this thing I’m pouring my whole life into?" Whether they have another job they can fall back on or they're out in the world living paycheck to paycheck like, "Hey this is my thing". We'd never admit this back then as younger dudes, but to ultimately do cool stuff in men's clothing, it is brave to go to an event by yourself and a store where you don't know anyone and try to meet someone.
J: You’re literally going in with nothing, no ammunition, just a nobody and you’re trying to talk to somebody that IS somebody. "How am i going to show value to this person? What is my role here?" But people are really nice, and the greatest thing, at least for the mens fashion space, is that everyone is really receptive and nice and welcoming within this small world. Everyone starts somewhere, so everyone has that perspective from the biggest blogger to the smallest.
Knowing your goal. Professional, hobbiest, or professional hobbiest?
L: One of the things I think is important when you begin an endeavor like this is to think of the ultimate goal and what your motivations are. My thing was, when I started blogging, it wasn’t to necessarily work for myself and be someone who just gets paid to be themselves and thats how they find their revenue stream. No, I wanted my foot in the door of the actual industry and work in men's fashion proper.
I was doing enough freelance work that impressed enough people at this one PR firm and they offered me a job. It wasn’t a great job, it was entry level, and I took a huge pay cut, but knowing my goal, if I had just been blogging for the fuck of it, I don’t think I would have gotten on the track that has led me to this point, right here, where I'm talking to you and I have this amazing job at an amazing company with amazing people and I get to do exciting things every day.
J: I think the contrast is me. I started blogging and no idea where I wanted to end up with it. I just did it because I enjoyed it, and I was into the stuff I was blogging about. Because of my taste level, people started asking me questions and using me as a resource and that's the point I realized I could capitalize on this and turn it into something else. I think that's why I stayed in my professional career for longer than Lawrence. He had a plan essentially, and I was just doing it.
L: It's important to think about, "Is this a hobby?" or is this something I ultimately want to lead into a professional place. I wouldn’t expect someone to know this right off the bat, but this is definitely something that after 6 months of doing my own thing I realized, "Oh shit. I think I'd be super happy doing men's fashion in some capacity in whatever that was. PR, or maybe sales, maybe social media, whatever". Realizing what would be a good next point definitely helps, especially when it comes to networking and knowing who you want to talk to.
Another major key: knowledge. Because the world doesn't need another Kanye carbon copy.
L: What I’ve seen is a return to actual knowledge. The reason why we got to where we are and the people we know who actually studied up and knew their shit. I think that it could apply to anything like a food blogger or a sports blogger, knowing what the fuck you’re talking about. As things shifted to Tumblr, things became more visually based and eventually to Instagram, things became solely visually based than about the person themselves. I’ve seen the shift away from younger guys putting in the work to study and learn what the fuck they're talking about to being like, "Look at how good I look. Look at how handsome I am. I have a lot of money and I can wear a lot of clothes". Now what I’ve seen in the realm that we exist in, with expensive archive pieces, is that it's swinging back to the guys that matter are the guys that have the actual knowledge. Not the guy that's a pretty face.
J: Originally the hustle and the grind came from us nerding out and learning as much as possible. Like, I was in the weaves on the internet, learning as much as possible and soaking up as much as possible. Now I have a better foundation and understanding on how this stuff all kind of works. Lawrence did the same on his blog, Sartorilly Inc., basically he was reading about stuff and educating himself and others.
L: "This is how I feel, what do you think? Let's have a discussion. I'll comment on your shit, you comment on mine". Things eventually and totally swayed completely to the other spectrum where there is almost no information being shared and just like, a good looking dude in a nice suit featured on Instagram. Or people become corporate shills where Zara pays them x-amount of money...and that's great but what we are seeing, at least in our world, is that it is almost going back to this idea that the coolest thing is knowing the most.
J: And I think it's due to the fact that the industry is moving more towards fast fashion and replicate-a-look type style where all these guys are looking at images online, on Instagram, and saying, "Hey, I want to look like that guy for as cheap as possible. I’m going to go to Zara and or H&M who are copying all these other designers and I’m just going to look like this dude". There's a backlash to that now because there are so many carbon copies, and now you walk along the street and every single kid looks the same. Now people want to learn more about this stuff on a deeper level and maybe dress a little more distinctly so that they can have their own personal style, right? Because they’re using clothing to express themselves. What's cool has changed.
L: Right now, the coolest guy is the guy who has the most amount of money and can buy all this stuff that's the most “trendy”, and now it's almost like the coolest guy is the kid who has that knowledge base and that is something priceless.
J: And this knowledge base leads to this guy who’s not buying all this fast fashion. He’s saving up to buy that one piece that no one else has. That archived, rare old piece and he's thinking, "This is what I’m flexing because I know the reason behind this piece and why it's cool." The cool thing now is showing that you have a distinct style and a distinct taste as opposed to being like, "Oh my taste level is really the same as everyone else."
L: Having the knowledge to put together an outfit different from the 500 kids that roam around Soho that look like Kanye -- they’re all completely interchangeable in their outfits.
J: We’ve seen this from the highest level to the lowest. We have rappers that come in here and want to look like the trendiest dude, and then we have those that come in here and want to look distinct and want to have something else that no one else has. They want us to help them provide some insight, give a little history, and tell them why this thing that's older than they are is worth $5,000. Some guys wanna know, and some guys are like, "I don’t care".
Final advice to aspiring bloggers or those trying to get into men's fashion:
L: Just do it and believe in your taste level. If you really think you have something to offer that's not just every other kid who is trying the same thing.
J: You can’t be overwhelmed, thinking it's this is an overcrowded space now. As long as you have a distinctive angle or a specific taste level, and willing to put in the hustle, you really just got to grind. Nothing is going to be handed to you. We know this kid, Jackson, he started his blog much later in the men's wear blogging world.
L: No one is really creating as far as in our world. That wave very much crested 2 years ago, and yet you have this kid who is grinding away.
J: and he’s kind of inspiring to me. He didn’t really see the challenges in front of him, he just wanted to do his own thing and he’s putting in the time and putting in the effort with no immediate sense of reward except for maybe coming here to do professional stuff with us. To be complete fair, when we first saw this guy's stuff and met him, we thought, "man, he is gunna struggle". We just didn’t know anything about him, like he wasn’t on our radar at all. But after meeting him, getting to interact with him, seeing him come and do these things with us, you get more and more respect. He came in with a whole crew to do a documentary on us and he had all the equipment...he did the full thing. I give the guy props and I respect him a lot more if he’s going to take the time to do things and do them well.
L: and that only happens when you think, "I don’t care what else is happening in this space. I don’t care that the window maybe has closed. Fuck it, full speed ahead". If you asked him if he’s enjoying the things he’s doing, I’m sure he would say things are absolutely working out. I don’t know what his end goal is but he seems to be farther along than other kids we meet every day that want to be in this world but they aren’t doing anything about it. And that's why we like working with him. Who knows, maybe down the road we are going to make a marketing hire, and we are going to think of this kid who worked with us, did all this stuff, and who we are already friends with, versus some of these other kids.