CEO and co-founder Luke Grana tells us that Grana is not a fashion brand. And we have to agree. The Hong Kong-based brand sells quality essential clothing (read: pieces a regular person actually wears), and Grana, as we learnt, is going beyond the traps of mass consumption.
Since its establishment in 2014, Grana’s lean business model has not only allowed it to cut costs but also ensure that its inventory is not overwhelming. The brand sells its clothing solely through its own ecommerce website. No sales are, or can be made, anywhere else. If you’ve popped by it’s permanent physical “fitting room” concept space in Hong Kong, you’d notice that the pieces on display are only for customers to try on. Purchases can then be made online in the store, or at your own convenience.
Grana’s fitting room concept is not entirely new in the retail industry. US-based online menswear brand Bonobos has 48 “guideshops” in the US that provide the same try-offline-and-buy-online concept. Multi-label ecommerce portal Zalora has held several pop-up activations in the region with a similar approach. However, what sets Grana apart is its niche product offering and a relatively consistent fit throughout all categories—there’s less need for repeated fittings once you’ve got your size down pat.
But of course, there is a drawback.
“We’re always asking customers for feedback. Generally, 80 percent of the customers are ok with the concept, but 20 percent aren’t, and sort of walks out. So you know, we lose 20 percent of sales but I think the whole purpose is to show that we have a main business online,” explained Luke Grana, when asked if there are customers who are disappointed with the existence of a pop-up that has nothing for them to immediately purchase.
Luke stands firm on the brand’s approach. In fact, he hopes that a couple more permanent fitting room spaces will be in place by 2020. “I think Grana could exist purely online but I think that it would be much harder for us to grow,” he explains. He went on to say that the offline approach is important and enables the brand to “integrate into the community”. To date, the brand has done about 20 pop-ups spanning three countries.
It’s this idea of integration that has enabled Grana to be socially aware. From the idea of the business to its marketing processes, it’s quite clear that the brand is as close to a millennial-led utopia as a brand can get. Take a quick scroll through its Instagram feed and you’ll notice the diverse cast of models and personalities in Grana. And we’re not just talking about race representation—shapes, sizes and sexual preferences too. For Valentine’s Day, Grana featured two same-sex couples as part of a photo series that looked at love in various forms.
Next on its social agenda is sustainability. With inventory focused solely for online retail, Grana is already reducing the risk of overflowing inventory. Luke is now looking at the manufacturing processes and evaluating how the current practices are impacting the environment.
“We’re looking at a lot of organic cottons and organic merino wools, making sure our dyes are plant-based and also looking at all the pesticides that are used in farming our products. I think it’s actually going to be really exciting for us to be able to make a really big push into sustainability as a whole,” he elaborated. It’s something that people care about too; as we all should. At a speaking event last week at 1880, questions were thrown regarding Grana’s sustainability practices. And as Luke puts it, “being more sustainable is actually good for business”, citing brands such as Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and Stella McCartney as prime examples.
At the heart of it all though, Grana is about the quality of its fabrics—Peruvian pima cotton, Chinese silk, Japanese denim, Mongolian cashmere and Irish linen—and its honest pricing and processes. Luke understands that they’re not the cheapest in the market (a Grana pima cotton T-shirt goes for $25) but at that level of quality, they’re “the lowest and fairest”. Add to that its socially-conscious approach, one can't help but wonder: if a young start-up can do it, why can’t the big boys?
Grana’s pop-up in Singapore will run from 4 March – 20 April 2018 at 59 Eng Hoon Street #01-65, Singapore 160059.