Fast Fashion A New App Takes the Frustration Out of Shoppingby Brie Stimson June 26, 2018
In a small attic space of a real estate company in Pacific Beach, three late-20s, early 30-somethings are living their career dreams. Michael Sacks, 25; Max Gleicher, 26 and Jimmy Woolley, 31 – two San Diego Jewish Academy graduates and a former coworker from Utah – all quit their jobs at the beginning of the year, moved back to San Diego and founded Cayenne Clothing.
The app, which went on the App Store May 1, offers one item of clothing per day – available to be bought or not for 24 hours – to its customers. It’s targeted to men who want to be stylish, but don’t have the time or the interest to shop.
Cofounder Michael Sacks says the trio work seven days a week and 14 hours a day on their new venture. “You can’t really stand in half of our little space,” he laughs, “but it’s just what we need, no more.” His contention of working every day is further backed up by the fact that we’re speaking on Memorial Day, and he didn’t seem to remember until a few days before the interview that it was even a holiday.
The partners usually get to work around 8 a.m. and their time is spent planning, dealing with customer service issues and searching for new brands to feature on the app. “That’s amazingly time-consuming. As my cofounder Max says, there are a lot of bad brands out there. A lot of time is spend actually trying to find a decent company to feature,” Michael tells me.
Before starting Cayenne Clothing, Michael was an iPhone app developer at a clothing retail company. And although he worked in fashion there as well, “I definitely did not have the reputation for being into clothing or fashion. My cofounder Max is very much involved and interested in the whole style aspect.” He says even in high school Max dressed well.
The one item a day concept is modeled after a company called Woot. “They’ve changed quite a bit, but when they originally started they used to sell one electronic item a day,” he says. “When I was at the Jewish Academy I was obsessed with the company, and I wrote an economics paper about them.” Soon after, he says, Woot was bought by Amazon. They now sell more than one item per day, but they still have one featured item each day.
As mentioned, the minimalist sales model is aimed at men. “There’s this theory that I read a while back that there’s kind of the hunter-gatherer human nature that women tend to be more inclined to choose between many options,” he tells me. “Because historically women have been the ones who purchase most items, stores have been designed with that idea to have a wide selection so that people can go look at all the options and make their decision. But my thought was that a lot of men don’t want a bunch of options.” He says they look for brands that are exciting but without being too risky.
When they pick an item to feature, they work with the company to let them know how many of the item they expect to sell so the company can hold the inventory. After the 24-hour selling period they let the company know how many were bought, the company mails them X amount of the item and Cayenne ships the items to customers themselves. “Especially the smaller brands don’t really have the infrastructure to ship out to a bunch of people kind of all of a sudden,” Michael explains.
There’s also an ethical aspect to the one-item-a-day concept. “I’ve found that most successful tech companies make money by having people use their app as much as possible and for as much time in their day, and I’ve seen that kind of become detrimental to society in a way,” he explains. “I didn’t want to do that, so giving people their time back is important to me.”
Michael says business has been doing well and they’re breaking even with their costs. “It’s been a great learning experience for us. There’s some things, definitely a lot of stuff we didn’t expect, and then things that have changed quite a bit while we’ve been around, but it’s going well.”
They gain about 25 users a day, Michael says. “Some people just kind of fall in love with it, and that makes me really happy. There are people that just check every single day.”
A lot of time is spent looking for quality brands, and Michael says 50 percent of the brands they feature are local. They frequently visit warehouses and factories from San Diego to LA, and the app is focused on making it easier to discover small and medium-sized clothing brands. “We realized that a lot of companies spend a vast majority of the money they have on marketing instead of making quality stuff – the bigger players tend to do that – get very cheap clothes and just market it a lot. So that’s what you really pay for,” he explains. He says their goal is to make it easier for smaller brands to make quality clothing for a better price.
“We want to create a place where a small brand that truly just makes quality stuff doesn’t have to spend a ton of money on marketing, but instead pieces get featured by us and be successful that way,” he says. “Don’t worry about the discovery aspect, just worry about making something great.