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Grover: Creating the “Delight Factor”

Grover is a menswear company based out of the Arts District in downtown that sells locally made mens basics. The company first came to our attention at the Hammer’s ArtsReSTORE LA project that took place in Westwood last November. They were one of the many occupants of an empty storefront on the corner of Westwood Blvd. and Weyburn Avenue. Even though the line is designed for men, I really liked their Henley on display, and almost bought it, then regretted not doing so on arriving home and decided to look them up online. I then found out it is a bit complicated to buy just one item of clothing from Grover.

It turns out their products are sold almost exclusively as a subscription service (aside from a few outside vendors who sell a handful of their products)– meaning you give them your size, and they decide the rest. Every month is a surprise in a box. It’s safe to assume you’ll receive one of their T-shirts (they have regular T-shirts pocket tees, henleys, tanks, and v-necks) in each box but as far as other items go, one month you might get skincare products, the next month you may get a rain coat or even a wallet.

This weekend I received two ‘Grover and Friends‘ boxes. Opening these boxes is exhilarating, because of the surprise factor. The first thing you see when open the box is a note that explains what each item is, why they chose to include it, and where it came from– assuring you that they personally know the farmer that grew the cotton in your new items.

Then you begin sorting through the items one by one as if they were Christmas gifts from a thoughtful, fashionable stranger. They included a couple of their signature pocket T-shirts, a raglan (long sleeved shirt/sweater), boxers, skin care products from Ursa Major, and a wallet from Clark & Madison. Grover functions as both a designer of their own line and curator of products it considers fit their brand.

Because it is a service geared specifically for males, I was surprised to see that most of their items were appealing to me. Who doesn’t want a couple of well-made pocket tees, or a comfy long sleeved shirt? The boxers even make for great pajama bottoms. I’ve agreed to share all of the clothes with my boyfriend, who also appreciates the fine craft, yet simple aesthetic behind their clothes. But he can just have the men’s shaving cream.

The Grover design and marketing concept begs a number of questions: Who are their customers and why would they choose to buy clothes sight-unseen? Is this clever design or clever marketing, packaging clothing as an “experience?” We spoke to Matt Jung, CEO/Creative director of Grover, who told DnA, “We want to have the delight factor. We want to send our customers what they need for this month, and this moment.”

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Matt Jung, CEO/Creative Director of Grover at Local PopUp Shop (for Wellen) in Venice, CA

Matt Jung: Grover came about in an interesting way, because I had a lot of experience in surf clothing, I was working on a window at American Rag for a month.

We kept on having a hard time finding specific colors of T-shirts. T shirt brands are constantly changing their colors. For instance, I had a really hard time finding a navy blue T-shirt. We just felt like if we created a brand built on a great body, and really consistent colors, it would be a really good sell.

We build items that you always want to wear. We do a really cool henley, and it’s a good staple. You grab your favorite pair of jeans, and it’s like I want to wear my Grover T-shirt and my grover boxers because they are just really well made.

CC: Why the subscription service model? 

MJ: There are so many other basics lines, and one of the things we started to see were these subscription boxes popping up. At the same time we were really annoyed about having to go to the store to buy boxers every time we needed them, so we thought let’s create a box that guys like myself would subscribe to, that isn’t cheap and isn’t exorbitant.

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CC: Describe the process of curating these boxes. 

MJ: Our idea is, let’s design for today, and for what we want to wear today. We also want to use these boxes to introduce people to other cool brands that they maybe haven’t heard of. Grover is exposing people to good quality clothes and brands they might not have heard of yet. They are up and coming. They aren’t 7 Jeans, so maybe we find someone else. And you get to wear cool stuff that your friends aren’t wearing. We try and choose things that people haven’t heard of. We’ve done rain jackets, we’ve done skin care goods, we’ve done a leather wallet.

We want to make sure we send these products from our friend’s brands, we want them to make sense for the season, the month, the weather.

We want our customers to think, “This is a great product, I didn’t know about it, and it’s perfect. How did they [Grover] know?” We want to have the delight factor. We want to send our customers what they need for this month, and this moment.

CC: Do you get a lot of complaints? What happens when someone doesn’t like something that arrives in the box? 

MJ:  I would say we get a lot less complaints than we expected. I think there’s the right kind of guy that will be into it. If you get something that you don’t love, we hope it will grow on you. We also hope people can give it to someone else.

Some people just send things back and we take it on a case by case basis. If someone emails us and tells us that a shirt isn’t their color, and we have another shirt, we’ll send it to them. There’s an open dialogue between us and our customers. We don’t really have policies, we don’t really have rules. We want to make sure that they are well taken care of.

We want to make people feel like they’ve been invited into a community, into a family. We work really hard to maintain the idea that people are part of something unique.

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CC: A lot of your products would also work well for women because they are so basic. Do you have a desire to become a unisex subscription service? 

MJ: We have quite a few women subscribers. Some women subscribe for themselves, and some subscribe for a significant other, we also have a few couples who have subscribed and they look at it as a box for them and they split the box depending on what comes. If a T-shirt comes and a rain jacket comes the girl kept the T-shirt and the guy kept the rain jacket. The girl gets to wear it as a boyfriend shirt, she loves it and thinks it’s her most comfortable shirt.

CC: What happens when these female subscribers get mens pants or boxers? Do they get frustrated?

MJ: So we were kind of hoping that women wouldn’t join at first, because we didn’t want to get those complaints, and then they got pissed off because they got boxers and pants. A few of them cancelled, a few of them sent them back and asked for T-shirts.

The problems haven’t been with the tops, they’ve been with the bottoms.

Boxers are probably our most popular item because it’s hard to find a cool, made in L.A. boxer. I don’t think we’ve figured out how to do the unisex thing, and I don’t think we are going to push it because we aren’t sure if we are going to be able to do it. So for now we are just playing it by ear.

CC: What have been some of the challenges with running this business?

MJ: We have customers in Europe, we ship to nine countries. We noticed that other companies only shipped to America. It’s a huge pain, and it’s really difficult, we were spending $20 to send products to Europe and Japan and we had to ask our international customers if we could increase the price, and they agreed because 15-20% of the cost goes into us shipping.

We aren’t making money doing this. This model will only work on scale. We need about 500-1000 people for this to work. It would let us operate with room to make a living. It’s been growing every month.

We’ve just been kind of making boxes and seeing what happens.

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Kyle Asai, lead designer of Grover, at a local fabric knitting facility

CC: How do you source all of your products in Los Angeles?

MJ: Every Grover item is made locally here in Los Angeles. The journey from concept to design to production all takes place within a few miles of our office. Our lead designer, Kyle, rides his bike back and forth to the local factories daily. Knitting, Cutting, Sewing, Dying, Finishing – all the elements of production take place right here in LA with the same manufacturers who have helped us since day one. We hand screen print the Grover & Friends boxes ourselves at a local screen printer in Atwater, pack and ship all of the boxes right here in our office, and make sure that all of our Grover products take on the same rich character as the people who help us produce them.

CC: How do you collaborate with other companies to curate your boxes?

MJ: We’ve worked with a couple brands, Ursa Major and Clark and Madison, and that’s to name a few we’ve really enjoyed working with. We know we have a really unique customer: somebody who is really willing to spend the money to subscribe and be hopeful that we will send them really cool and interesting designs without knowing what they are. It’s the surprise and delight factor, and they are investing in that.

I also think other brands see value in our customer base, so they know that our boxes will be sent to fashion forward, taste-making people. So I think there’s a lot of value in that in brands. So with Ursa Major, we worked with them to work on an essentials box. Every month we write about the companies we work with them, what’s unique about them. We wanted to create an essentials man box and dyed shirts to match Ursa Major’s logo.

We describe every box, what’s in it- the shirt- we know the cotton farmer of our shirts, we know we want to make sure that our customers know why we are pairing it with Ursa Major products so they can apply it to their own lifestyle.

All images courtesy of Grover. 

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