The Startup That Wants to Help You Find High-End Fashion’s Holy Grails

Less than three years old, Grailed.com caters to the well-heeled looking to augment their luxe wardrobe.
September 26, 2016, 1:00pm
Inside the Grailed offices. Image: Grailed.com

On SSENSE.com, the retail site for luxury fashion and independent designers, a brand new Raf Simons patch denim shirt retails for about $785. On Grailed.com you can find a selection for anywhere from $491 to $600. An expensive denim t-shirt nonetheless, but there are multiple options on the growing menswear marketplace spanning across multiple seasons. In total there are about 1,300 Raf Simons products to shop at any given time, which is nearly impossible to find elsewhere.

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A grail (in menswear-speak) is a highly coveted, nearly unattainable piece of clothing—essentially a piece where all sartorial dreams lead. Grailed.com is the menswear-specific online shop to buy and sell these exclusive, hard-to-obtain pieces. Not only do they offer Grailed's main section boasting over 1,700 Saint Laurent Paris, 1,100 pieces from Christian Dior, and 1,000 Givenchy products (just to highlight a few), they've added the Hype and Basic sections. Hype includes any and all Kanye West merch among streetwear brands like Supreme and Palace or Jerry Lorenzo's Fear of God. Basic features your classic American favorites like Polo and Tommy Hilfiger or sportswear like adidas and Nike. But don't think of Grailed merely as an eBay for expensive clothing. Instead, think of it as a community. "For fashion enthusiasts, by fashion enthusiasts," brand director Lawrence Schlossman explains to me in the new 5,000 square foot Soho loft office space's lounge.

Founded in 2013 by CEO Arun Gupta, the operation just moved into its second office space (across the street from its first), is up to nine full-time employees, and describes itself as a "curated community marketplace for men's clothing." Gupta built the site and launched with 200 pieces including products like an Engineered Garments polo and a Wings + Horns coat. In its earliest days he would search Reddit for discussions referencing the growing community and and instantly makes tweaks to the website himself.

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Less than three years later its 350,000 active users range from 18-35 years old and include people as varied as corporate executives and editors to a few of the guys that made XXL's Freshman list and ASAP Rocky. An Iowa-based writer and menswear enthusiast, Nick Grant is a frequent shopper and seller on Grailed. "You can try to buy or sell on eBay or on forums," he said, "but Grailed really brings like-minded people together for very specific things." The majority of users buy and sell because unlike eBay, Grailed has made it exceptionally simple for the casual user. "You can sell something you've purchased that you are unhappy with in one click," Gupta explains. In a follow-up email users are given the option to put their piece back up for sale if they are displeased. The original posting with description and photos are used and once an item is placed for resale the list of users that previously expressed interest in it are notified often making for a quick (and easy) sell. "It's also a great place to measure the market for certain items you may not know the resale value of," Granted noted.

So, let's say you aren't ready to drop $2,200 for that Rick Owens leather jacket you've had your eye on. You can pick one up for anywhere from $800 to $1600 and have the option to put it back up for sale easily and right away. Grant is a menswear writer, so navigating forums and eBay looking for high-end clothing may be easier for him than someone else. "The odds of finding a very specific pre-Jil Sander era Raf [Simons] piece on other community-led sites are slim to none," he said. "You would need to know individual sellers who specifically has a range of items and, honestly, most of those guys are migrating to Grailed." This is exactly what Schlossman means when he tells me that the "barrier of entry has been lowered but the quality of the products is still exactly the same."

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Beyond simply creating a home for the sartorially savvy to shop and sell with like-minded consumers, with its first try Grailed established one of company's cornerstones: The Grailed 100. The entire team contributed to curating this selection of 100 of the most important grails available, ultimately showing the user community the team's taste and what they value. Discontinued Raf Simons Geo "Dunk" Sneakers for $820, a Helmut Lang Pillowneck Bomber (from when Mr. Lang was still involved and designing for the label), and a Peter Saville-era Fall/Winter 2003 Raf Simons Fishtail Parka that was made in limited quantities are a few of the rare pieces the team at Grailed hand-selected for the Grailed 100. Gupta calls it a "microcosm of what Grailed is at its very best," while Schlossman explains it as "classic, iconic, archive menswear pieces that have been sourced and curated by us from our community and presented in the best light possible." And the community agreed. Not only was this hyper-exclusive and editorialized fashion porn, they put all 100 pieces up for sale at prices it would be nearly impossible to find them for elsewhere. It produced the highest day of traffic in the site's history.

When I ask Gupta what's next for Grailed, he immediately responds with one word: education. To ensure users don't end up wrapped in all-signature-everything, a vision of despair covered in high-end logos, Grailed is beefing up their content with the foundation being education. For the users that understand Grailed is the place to build their look but are unsure where to start, the site will start offering info making luxury understandable and accessible for those with the means.

"We want to start educating people and giving them context around these items," said Gupta. "What kind of style are you into? Are you into tailoring? Are you into Japanese workwear? Are you into avant-garde like ninja-esque type stuff? Here are the brands at the lower price point. Here are the brands at the middle price point. Here are the brands at the higher price point. Here are examples of 'fits. Here is how to achieve this look and offer brand detail." Very traditionally un-fashion industry (read: unpretentious) of them, but it's apparent that the users are most important to the team at Grailed, making total sense of the squad's motto, "Fire for all."

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