The whole story started when sister duo Tina and Carol Barghout, who founded their own menswear label Robinson Man some seasons ago, came back home to their beloved home country Australia after studying Fashion Design in Milan for some time. “We found there was a gap in the market for good quality sustainable cashmere knitwear, with a point of difference”, explained Carol Barghout. “There wasn’t such a shop that could represent our own brand Robinson Man and also stock other labels we strongly believed in.” In August 2016, they tried to close the gap by opening their own store: Under their label’s name the sisters created a shopping destination for men that combines fashion, lifestyle, design and architecture. Additional to Robinson Man, the store carries a carefully edited mix of internationally sourced luxury menswear, and complimentary lifestyle brands and accessories from labels such as Aspesi, Dirk Bikkembergs clothing and shoes, Massimo Alba or James Perse. For accessories luxury leather manufacturer Jean Rousseau, sunglasses from Saturnino Eyewear, perfumes from Naomi Goodsir, and Wood’d iPhone accessories. Here, Tina and Carol Barghout discuss the importance of store design and e-commerce as biggest challenge.
Why did you open a menswear store? Tells us the story and your motivation!
We found there was a gap in the market for good quality sustainable cashmere knitwear, with a point of difference. We wanted our brand, Robinson Man, to sit next to other brands that we strongly believed in. There wasn’t such a shop that could represent Robinson Man and also stock these labels. We lived in Europe before and have a close association with Italy. We were also looking to provide a personalised experience for the man who felt intimated by luxury boutiques and stores that focused on being too ‘COOL’ and trend driven – fashion that only lasted a season.
What is important for you in terms of shop fitting and store design?
The store design is very important. We have a high interest in architecture and interior design. We were working with architects and shop fitters with our concept – reference to Gio Ponti and took a hands on approach in directing the design and build. Ensuring that materials were locally sourced. All the joinery, fixtures and fittings, were designed and made in Australia – it is a true experience of our take on what is Australian luxury.
What does your assortment look like? Which brands have you recently added to the assortment?
We are a fairly new boutique – we opened in May 2016. We stock – Aspesi, Dirk Bikkembergs, James Perse, Jean Rousseau Manufacture Leather, Massimo Alba, Naomi Goodsir Parfums, Robinson Man, Saturnino Eywear, Wood’d iPhone Accessories and F.Hammann Leather / Grooming products.
What is your target group?
Robinson Man’s target market is a successful 30+ year old male as well as the wife or girlfriend shopping for this male. He leads a busy life and needs to eliminate the time it takes to go shopping. He is looking for beautiful, quality and comfortable items because he travels often. He also appreciates receiving expert style advice.
What are five products you couldn’t live without right now?
Cashmere sweater, a great quality tee, iPhone, sunglasses and coffee.
Which fairs do you visit? Or do you only order at showrooms? Where do you inform yourself about trends?
We visit Pitti and also order directly from the showrooms. For trends and inspiration – we inform ourselves through everything from art exhibitions to film and music.
We keep up to date with social media (including reading Sportswear International newsletter) and we highly value printed magazines.
Do you also operate an online shop or do you plan to start one in the future? If so, why and what percentage of your sales are from online business compared to your brick-and-mortar sales?
We currently do not have an online store – however we have been receiving a lot of support from the European and America’s market, so we will definitely think there is a demand. We’ll be going online by the end of the year.
What makes your store different and in what ways does your store excel beyond your competition?
The thorough selection of the brands carried, strong interiors, having many years of expertise in the fashion industry to provide high quality customer service.
How do you stay in touch with the wants and needs of your customers?
Listening to the customers – having a store allows us to have this direct contact as well as with our suppliers. We are very active on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. We also have collaborated with other lifestyle projects Micro-Luxe by Architect Ben Edwards. We host exhibitions in our 2nd room – The men’s lounge. We try to make it a comfortable experience for our customers, so they return, have a drink and share stories – in the end - our customers become our friends.
Is there a kind of model store for you? Some shop (worldwide), that inspires you?
When we were fashion students in Milan our teacher told us to go and write about this special store – Corso Como 10 – we fell in love with it!
What is the biggest challenge for retailing right now?
Online – the world being so accessible via the internet eliminating that valuable customer experience – of feeling and touching the item. Understanding the processes vs the cost of more disposable fashion and the overall impact it has on the environment. Being able to have the opportunity to educate the customer.
What is the most important ingredient for successful retailing?
Exceptional customer service, knowledge and specialisation.
What do you love about menswear?
The textures, the colours, the easiness – it’s understated.
What are the hottest topics right now in the market?
Sustainability – everyone using this terminology to promote their brand. How is this regulated and consumer better informed.
BLOGGERS celebrity status – does popularity on social platforms convert to sales through endorsements of free products offered?
604 High Street