Monday, February 27, 2012
Interview with Jonathan Shokrian and Barak Diskin, MeUndies
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Earlier this month, Los Angeles-based MeUndies, debuted its subscription, e-commerce service for underwear and other basics. The firm is one of the companies which has recently emerged from Science, Inc., the digital studio/accelerator headed by former MySpace CEO Mike Jones. We caught up with Jonathan Shokrian and Barak Diskin, the founders of MeUndies, to hear more about what they're up to:
What is MeUndies?
Jonathan Shokrian: MeUndies is an apparel basics company, which manufactures our own underwear, currently for men and women. It's for the fashion conscious person that wants to get their underwear conveniently online, and desires high end basics.
How did you guys connect with Science Inc.?
Jonathan Shokrian: A couple of months ago, they were doing research into people in the same space as ours. I think it was Sean Pervical who first signed up for our coming soon page, and we reached out to him, had some coffee, had a few followup meetings, and met Mike. It was love at first sight.
What's your background and how'd you two get into this?
Jonathan Shokrian: My background is in real estate and finance, but I've also been very focused on photography, and did a bunch of photography in college.Most of the photography you see on the site are photos I took. Because of that photography, I started a fashion and music blog, and moved to Los Angeles. Before, I as in Dallas. Barack and I have lots of friends in the same circles, in photography and stylists.
Barak Diskin: Jon and I have been best friends since we were six years old. My background is in business, and I spent ten years in real estate. I understood acquisitions, business, fashion, and how to unite business with passion. We're really excited about MeUndies, because we are really going to disrupt the traditional, wholesale retail market. For forever, the way things have been done, is manufacturers have sold their products at a wholesale price to distributors, distributors sell it to retail outlets, which then sell to consumers. Because of technology and the Internet, we're able to cut many of those links, be a manufacturer, and make our own brand, selling that brand of high quality basics to customers. By doing so, we are establishing a direct relationship with the customer, creating a social commerce platform, talking directly to those customers, and finding out what they want, and making it for them.
Barak Diskin: Underwear is probably the most overpriced thing that there is. The aha moment was when Jonathan was going to Australia, and realized he didn't have enough underwear to last him the two weeks. He realized this the day before leaving, and though he'd just go to the store and buy underwear for the trip. Going to the mall and department stores--which was a hassle--he found he had to spend $26 on Calvin Klein, and looking at them, just didn't understand how he was spending $26 on a pair to get top quality underwear. We asked ourselves the question, and figured out it's because the manufacturer is selling at a markup to the wholesalers, who are selling it at a markup to retailers, who are selling it at a markup to the consumer. All of this is a problem when you're just having to buy underwear, which I think is one of the biggest chores. I don't know if you share the same sentiment, but to me it's just a chore, which is completely unnecessary. You aren't even allowed to try them on in a store, so why go to a store to buy them in the first time? But, if you look online, they charge the same, retail store prices because you can't undercut retailers if you're Calvin Klein. So, we decided, let's make our own brand, make a pair that is just as good a quality--if not better--than Calvin Klein. It makes sense to sell that through the Internet, because it's just a replenishment item.
How difficult was it to handle the back end of design and manufacturing?
Barak Diskin: It was not difficult at all. If you think about it, we're all experts by default on wearing underwear. We've done it every day for a really long time. We also both like and have an appreciation for fashion, and both share an appreciation for premium quality basics. We both agreed on the best, premium quality basics we wanted to emulate, and looked at hose items, tried to emulate that design and comfort, and make them cooler. We added some really cool patterns, sourced some more expensive material--which was even softer than we thought--added some purple lining inside, and so on.
Jonathan Shokrian: With our real estate contacts, we actually had lots of contacts in fulfillment. We found someone we had worked with, and teamed up them. That was great, because usually it takes you awhile to reach a certain volume where working with someone on fulfillment will work out, but we were immediately able to work with them on our product fulfillment.
Clothing is a very subject to the whims of fashion, how are you handling that? Will this be something where you will be changing designs to meet new fashions, or delivering some simple basics?
Barak Diskin: What we are offering is both. We are offering some basics which we can ship over and over again. If you just love that basic black pair of underwear, or that v-necked t-shirt, we can send you that every three months, or every six months, whenever you want. We will also be adding fresh, new products to the mix, so we are always evolving and changing the styles.
Finally, what's next for you?
Barak Diskin: In the very near future, we'll be rolling out a new soft line. Immediately after that, we'll introduce a t-shirt line. Then, we will really let our customers tell us what they want to see next. We can talk to them, and they'll tell us if they want pajamas, sweats, hoodies, leggings, or whatever. We have the manufacturing capabilities to not only scale up in single product categories, but to go vertical and introduce new products across the board.