Dan Trepanier, ‘09CC, started The Style Blogger during his senior year at Columbia with the intention of making fashion accessible and relatable for “real guys”. When Trepanier was named “America’s Best Dressed Man” by Esquire Magazine later that year, he saw an opportunity to accomplish that mission. The blog has since transformed from a content-only platform into Articles of Style, an ecommerce brand and all-around menswear destination that helps guys plan and design their ideal wardrobes while avoiding the pitfalls of fast fashion.
The journey from blog to online tailoring shop was not without its twists and turns, however. Trepanier describes the timing of his blog’s launch as something of a perfect storm, noting that his large initial audience was growing at the same time that much of the cultural stigma surrounding men’s fashion was beginning to fade.
At first, The Style Blogger generated revenue by leveraging on-site advertisements to monetize its readership of 100,000+ monthly visitors. But as the efficacy of banner ads began to diminish, Trepanier was pressured into publishing sponsored content in order to keep the business afloat. “We went from being the unbiased, guy’s guy voice of fashion, to another ‘brought to you by Kenneth Cole’ blog,” Trepanier explains. “It was undermining the principles at the core of our brand and killing our creativity.”
Trepanier, who studied menswear design at FIT after his time at Columbia, decided it was time to rethink his business model. This is when Will Howe, ‘10CC, entered the picture, fresh off of several years on Google’s Global Business Strategy Team and in search of a new adventure.
Together, they began toying with the idea of making the blog shoppable and experimenting with better methods to offer quality bespoke menswear online. The “a-ha moment,” according to Trepanier, came when they were analyzing the fitting methods used by traditional bespoke tailors, and comparing them to what online made-to-measure clothing brands offer.
After years of market testing, it became clear that the “experience of having a trained expert design and cut great clothes for you” is invaluable to delivering a quality product (as opposed to ‘self-measuring’ or algorithmic-driven fits, which were dominating the ecommerce industry). From there, the team spent a year refining their fitting process and sampling with different manufacturers, before officially launching Articles of Style in October of 2015.
Part of what differentiates Articles of Style from its competitors is its tailoring process, which is designed to simulate an in-person bespoke appointment, with the at-home convenience of ecommerce. Every first-time customer enters basic physical information and any common fit problems to their Articles account. This information is used to create a custom “basted fitting” garment, which the customer receives in the mail and tries-on at home. While wearing the fitting garment, the customer takes and uploads a series of simple photos and open feedback about the fit, which is carefully reviewed by Trepanier and his team of experienced tailors. The tailoring team then makes full bespoke adjustments to the customer’s pattern to iron out any fit issues before the final garment is made. This, Trepanier says, is “without a doubt the most accurate way to deliver a well fitting, high-quality garment, anywhere in the world”. Once a customer’s pattern is locked, future re-orders are seamless, giving customers access to “one-click bespoke” shopping.
This feedback-intensive and detail-oriented process eliminates wasteful re-cutting and redesign, thereby allowing Articles of Style to use premium fabrics from the finest mills in the world. In addition to combatting the wastefulness of fast fashion, the Columbia duo wants to make sure their clothing is made responsibly and with a level of craftsmanship that matches the attention to detail that goes into their fittings. Articles of Style found this partner in a century-old menswear manufacturer in Massachusetts, whose employee working conditions and clothing quality are both a cut above anything else they’d come across during their search. “From a quality and ethics standpoint, we’ve locked on a business model that is better for everybody involved and is something we can really stand behind. We’re very proud and excited to be a ‘Made in America’ brand building on so much history.” says Howe.
Looking ahead, Trepanier and Howe hope to establish a healthy blend of content and commerce. “We want to be there to inspire and educate everyday guys to carry themselves like gentlemen, in addition to tailoring world-class clothing for them,” says Howe. The team aims to provide not only clothing, but also personalized style advice in order to be help guys think of their wardrobes, and their style, as an investment.
If you’re interested in quality custom-made menswear that you can wear for years, you can visit the Articles of Style shop to get started — and if you’re just looking to peruse, the company’s still-thriving blog should be more than enough to keep your attention and deliver a few tips.