Global Observer

Who's fueling the luxury goods market? Men.

Who's fueling the luxury goods market? Men.

Posting in Design

NEW YORK -- Bespoke subscription services are setting their sights on a traditionally undervalued market.

NEW YORK -- What do you get the man who has everything? According to Andrew Apostola, you give him the unexpected.

Apostola is founder of Svbscription, a men’s subscription service curated for people with a high appreciation for luxury objects and unique experiences. The company's twin bases in the Brooklyn neighborhood Dumbo and Melbourne, Australia, send out a surprise parcel every three months, containing four to eight exclusive or rare products and experiences from categories including apparel, technology, beauty and design.

“This is a man who feels an absence when it comes to the possessions he owns. We are a way for him to stay connected and at the forefront of culture," Apostola said of Svbscription's intended audience.

Since launching in June 2012, subscriber numbers have risen by 50 percent, suggesting the luxury men's market is thriving.

Reuters has reported the world's number one and three luxury groups LVMH (LVMH Moët Hennessy) and PPR S.A. (formerly known as Pinault-Printemps-Redoute S.A.) as having higher United States growth rates in 2012, compared with China.

More recently the Wall Street Journal announced the U.S. luxury market was bolstering the business for high-end goods purveyors. At the Financial Times, Jim Shi revealed the men's luxury goods market was outperforming women's in all categories.

Svbscription, with its annual member fee of USD$1,150 (or USD$330-$589 per quarter), seems well placed to capitalize on the growing appetite of male consumers.

According to Apostola, this target market comprises men between the ages of 28 and 40, working at a high level in any number of professional fields, from advertising to design and law.

Apostola, also the CEO and cofounder of online video and film channel Portable, said while Svbscription wasn't a new concept (see competitor Bespoke Post and Birchbox for women), theirs is a a unique service that combines retail and editorial with a membership-only service.

Each product in Svbscription is carefully researched by a multidisciplinary team, including ex-lifestyle editor Marc Goldenfein, 34, Portable's managing director Simon Goodrich, 33, luxury fashion consultants Dino Siampos, 29, and Sam Wheeler, 34.

Apostola said that the point of difference is Svbscription’s ongoing collaboration with its brand partners.

For example, Le Labo, a bespoke French fragrance company, worked with Apostola and his team to release their new travel-specific line to Svbscription members. Each bottle came engraved with the initials of the client.

"They connected with us and we realized we shared the same values of small is beautiful, of reverence to craft, of just fun over hype," Le Labo's founder Fabrice Penot said."This is very special because their aesthetic matches ours, their audience has an educated eye like ours, so we were able to work together."

Since launching a year ago, Svbscription has amassed impressive partnerships, including Todd Selby, Steven Alan, Loden Dager, Malin + Goetz, The White Briefs, Table aux Argentes, Kinfolk, La Portegna, Field, Kathryn Hinton, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Fort Standard and Henson.

Close to home, Svbscription’s direct competitor is Manhattan-based Bespoke Post, another male-centric subscription service established in November 2011 by Kellogg graduates Steven Szaronos, 30, and Rishi Prabhu, 31.

Like Svbscription, Bespoke's service caters to men aged between 24 to 40, with an average annual salary of USD$60,000. Boxes always cost USD$45 regardless of the contents inside.

"We provide brand discovery to a demographic that wants the best, but doesn’t always have the time or knowledge to find it,” Prabhu said.

Self-described as a "lifestyle subscription club for men," Bespoke Post has offered everything from gentleman shaving sets and artisan barbecue boxes to travel boxes and more, and has worked with brands such as Sempli, Hook & Albert, Saphir, and Cocktail Kingdom.

While comparisons between Svbscription and Bespoke Post have been made, there are notable differences.

Bespoke Post focuses only on the U.S. and Canadian markets, while Svbscription has members worldwide such places like the U.S., Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Moreover, Bespoke Post gives their customers the option to look at each month's offer -- if they don't like what they see, they can "skip" the month. In contrast, Svbscription is selling the experience of expectation around receiving the parcel and the process of opening it. "It's buyer beware. If it doesn't suit your taste, then cancel your membership and sell it on eBay or gift it to a friend," Apostola said.

Svbscription also limits the availability of parcels (currently capped at 400) and prescribes a waiting period for new members. Bespoke Post, which preferred to keep their subscription numbers confidential, said they had no such restrictions.

For Apostola exclusivity is good business. “Svbscription is an experience so we want our customers to feel like they are part of community of smart people ... like people who bought Apple shares 15 years ago," he said.

Currently the Svbscription team are in the midst of launching a consulting arm. Leveraging their reputation as luxury tastemakers, they will create custom parcels for businesses, either for marketing purposes or for their staff.

"Whether it's for private clients or Svbscription customers, our aim is to curate objects and experiences that are timeless and don’t fall into trends," Apostola said.

Photos: Svbscription and Bespoke Post.

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Lieu Thi Pham

Correspondent (Melbourne)

Lieu Thi Pham is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She has contributed to The Age, Associated Newspapers, Melbourne University Magazine, the Big Issue, Dazed and Confused, Indesign Group, Time Out, SOMA and Niche Media. She holds degrees from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure