Jonathan Maher, founder of online store www.thereviveclub.com, has an unusual approach to menswear and retailing. The Brit living in Italy is a former photographer, tour operator, technology and strategy consultant. He founded his website with the aim to offer unique customer service through a curated menswear store. “Whilst others try to go faster, these people want to slow down,” his website introduction explains. Here, he explains the idea behind The Revive Club.
How was your e-commerce born?
I had the idea for this project in 2015, though I launched it in 2016. In the beginning I had a very strong idea of how I wanted to sell before I knew what I wanted to sell.
My background is in technology and customer service, along with start-ups in content marketing.
I am from the UK and moved to Italy 20 years ago, as my wife is Italian. So it’s her fault if I am doing all this!
When I first moved to Italy I set up a travel company that organized holidays for famous photographers from National Geographic, Magnum and others–which taught me to offer customer-focused service. Despite the fact that I had no experience in retail I decided I could start selecting and offering what I like to wear. I started offering a very small selection of brands, all based on my taste.
It was an instinctive choice. I wanted to run a business in a very human and focused-on- the-customer way, just the opposite of the big fast business, and totally different from what was already around. My mission was to create a website through which I could sell what I like–quality clothes that last for a long time. I think that a lot of people need that personal touch.
My idea was to grow a slow business as a form of rebellion against the impersonal nature of tech-driven business, as not every e-commerce store has to be a machine obsessed with cross-sell, up-sell, optimization. It’s our channel of sales with our own personal approach.
To whom is it aimed?
It is aimed at people like me, mostly men in the 30-45 age range, who respond to the idea of buying well-made garments, people who appreciate old-fashioned service and personal touch, but in an online context. They are mostly people who like to dress well, but are not obsessed with clothing or fashion as what we offer is mostly an intersection of classic styles with a rugged edge.
In which countries do you sell most?
Ninety percent of our sales are in Europe with the rest split between North America and South America. The UK is our biggest single market, as it counts for about 25%, followed by France, Germany and Portugal. We pretty much sell into every European country, but with slightly different characteristics.
With the advent of Brexit we have noticed that many costs have grown: shipping costs have doubled, for instance. For this reason we are planning to set up a UK office and a physical store there by 2021. I think it could help better understanding the aesthetic and create an interesting conversation with our customers.
Most important are style and aesthetics that fit with our offer. Then there is quality, as our products are made to last for a long time. We tend to work with smaller companies, better if there is a face we can deal with in order to establish some more intimate relationship. Among the brands we offer there are Taylor Stitch, Pergrine, Benzak, The Quartermaster, Fleurs De Bagne, Iron and Resin and Hansen.
How do you select brands you work with generally?
I always visited Pitti Uomo in Florence, Seek and Selvedge Run in Berlin, and Welcome Edition in Paris. At Pitti Uomo I always discover new brands, even if I don’t go there with that aim. I go there to visit my suppliers and see their new collections, but then I discover new brands. I also do research via the Internet, especially looking at what is sold in different markets from mine, like, for instance, the US.
Do you also offer denim? What brands and products?
Yes, we do. I like denim and selvedge raw denim, but it’s a difficult category to sell online as it requires a lot of tactile elements that online selling misses. The denim we sell is what the customer already knows in terms of brands and fits. We sell well Freenote Cloth, a US brand that develops many interesting denims, like a brown variant. We sell well Taylor Stitch, 3Sixteen, Lee 101 and Eat Dust.
A very visual experience with a kind of editorial feel are super important. As I used to be a photographer, whenever we have new collections I do the photography myself as we try to put our own visual stamp on the pieces we sell with the same background, light and context. This way they’re consistent with the rest of our store and every item we show is carefully thought about and not casually.
Do consumers buy more classic pieces or more extravagant ones?
Our task is to help people find their own style. We all have a navy blue sweater or a pair of jeans in our wardrobe, but it’s also interesting to help our customers discover something that pushes that style a bit.
For instance, many of our customers bought the Slow Parka from a French brand, Fleurs De Bagne [also see here] and many of them asked me the same question: “It’s amazing and it’s so beautifully made, but isn’t it too extravagant for me?” This question shows they were looking for something different trying to push beyond the border. And we cannot just sell safe choices.
Our customers are not flamboyant but are rather at that intersection between classic styles of the past with what is contemporary and acceptable. We help them to navigate the divide between classical and more adventurous choices. Most of our customers love quality clothes, but they’re not “extravagant” dressers. Others are really adventurous and that’s amazing.
I can’t say if they buy more extravagant or classic items. Physical stores put orange sweaters in their windows and they end up selling navy blue ones. For an online store, a navy sweater looks like a piece of black fabric, instead. In the absence of the possibility to touch certain fabrics and textures, colors would work much better.
Do they buy according to impulse, by brand or more rationally?
They are definitely not impulsive, especially over a certain price level. Though they trust us for our brand and size selection as many of them return and order again. According to statistics they are 70%–which is a very high customer loyalty.
They also often write to me asking what’s coming next from various brands. That’s why I created the section Coming Soon. Thanks to that we have many items that are sold out even before they get delivered.
What was your bestselling piece in the last months?
Our f/w 2020 bestseller was a classic style buttoned merino wool olive green cardigan by GRP, an Italian brand, a perfect example of intersection between classic style paired with a contemporary touch. We did two additional production rounds within the season for that piece, which was an amazing success.
Your website hosts Revived, a section for reselling old clothes. How is that working?
It’s incredibly important to me as it’s an essential part of how we should produce, sell and consume. We launched it in October 2019 and it is going incredibly well. Usually, things get sold the same day we put them online. Especially with quality clothing, the resell market is seeing a lot of success as they resell and give new value to these items. Reselling and the circular approach are mandatory and the right way to be a consumer, a seller and a manufacturer.
What’s next in menswear and sportswear?
I think some brands are starting to have less emphasis on seasonal collections, more versatile pieces and more universal collections that can be worn across different seasons. It’s a good trend also because there are fewer unsold pieces when they buy for the next season. Though also strong is the mix between functional apparel and fashion. I think that US brands have become very strong in mixing these two aspects, while European ones still have to progress as they keep them separate and their offer is still too fragmented.