Of the seemingly countless number of “handcrafted” men’s accessory brands that have popped up in the last few years, Canada’s Dolbeau is definitely one of the standouts. Founded in 2009 by unabashed #menswear junkies David Gross and David Caplan, the co.’s limited edition ties, pocket squares and scarves are not just sold on the internet, they’re inspired by it as well. Taking design cues from their favorite Tumblrs and blogs, the two Davids strive to create stylish goods for the online community from which their inspiration comes. And, as a quick perusal of their impressively robust website will show, they’re pretty damn good at it.
Dolbeau co-founder David Gross recently took some time out to discuss the power of bloggers, running a company in his grandmother’s living room and hunting down the best fabrics in the world. Here’s what he had to say.
Well Spent: Give us the Dolbeau origin story.
David Gross: Dolbeau started out as a sort of experiment. Before Dolbeau, co-founder David Caplan and I would spend countless hours talking about web start ups and entrepreneurship. We were super passionate about tech and design, but, we had never created a physical product before. Then, in the early months of 2009, I started obsessively following fashion blogs. I was living in Oslo, Norway at the time. They have a real sense of design and style, which had a huge impact on me. Those websites inspired David and I to try and turn our obsessive compulsive design ideas into something we could share with the online menswear community.
Caplan and I knew we wanted to produce everything in Canada, right here in Montreal’s old garment district, and that we would be designing and developing all of our own products and website. We are serious control freaks and everything we do has to be at a high level of detail. For example, we’ve relaunched the website three times since the beginning. If we see an area for improvement we go for it, regardless of the hours needed.
Anyway, back to the start, in late 2009 we launched Dolbeau 1.0. It was a shop that allowed customers to customize bows and ties. We had a pretty great response, but we knew that we wanted the products to be made of much higher quality components. We were also running the business out of my grandmothers living room – not an ideal workspace.
In late 2011 we decided to rent our own studio space and redevelop all of our product from the ground up. We redid all of our patterns in-house, started sourcing our materials from Japan, Italy, UK, USA, and Canada, and we even began training our own production seamstresses. I’m not sure anyone our size and in our market is putting as much work into each product as we do. Crazy to think that our team of just a few dudes has done all of this.
Tell us about the products.
We make handcrafted, made-to-order ties, bows, pocket squares, pocket rounds, lapel flowers, and jewellery. Everything is made right here in Montreal.
Our fabrics come from some of the best mills in the world. A lot of companies say this, but most of them never really go into detail. Our fabric sources service bespoke tailors on Savile Row and some of the top brands you see on menswear blogs around the net. We take this very seriously, and believe that the best products are made from the greatest components. We even go so far as sourcing the best thread in the world made by Gütermann, and having our own custom bone buttons made in Italy.
Tell us about the business model.
First of all, we release our products by edition. We sell extremely limited quantities of each tie, between 5 to 20. This allows us to keep the inventory fresh and relevant. Secondly, we only sell online via our website. This allows us to control the entire shopping experience and brand. We wanted to compensate for the lack of a physical store by presenting our products in a way that people are already accustomed to, which is to say in a blog/magazine-like style. Our “editions” let us do just that. We take the time to put together each edition in order to bring out the best qualities of each product that we sell. It gives readers a chance to learn about things that they might not have thought much about before, like why some thread brands are better than others, what makes a high quality fabric, and what makes a proper buttonhole. Lastly, because we’re selling directly to consumers, we can offer unbeatable prices for the quality level. Some of our ties would go for upwards of $175 if they were sold at a normal menswear boutique. We’re selling them for between $70 and $100, which is pretty remarkable. It’s the web that makes this possible.
There seems to be a glut of “handmade” ties and pocket squares these days. What sets Dolbeau’s apart?
Our attention to detail and our uber obsession with design. A lot of companies making these kinds of products outsource production in the US or overseas, but we do everything from the ground up. We develop the patterns in house, we make each limited-edition tie by hand, and only after they’ve been ordered. And we use only the highest quality components, from the thread to the linings. We seriously don’t fuck around when it comes to our products!
On your site, you say that “we believe that bloggers are at the core of fashion and culture on the internet.” Can you expand on that? What are some of your favourite sites?
Bloggers have a major impact on what is made and bought online. When it comes to the web, everything else (read: printed magazines) seems outdated by the time it gets out to the public. I would say that 90% of everything we make and design is inspired by what we see online. This is the essence of Dolbeau, and we passionately watch and support this community. We want to be a part of it and we want to actively engage it. We just hope the menswear community embrace what we do.
Any new items coming out that you can tell us about?
We are doing mens jewellery, frayed edge pocket squares, a slew of new ties and bows, more summer scarves, cases, bags, and knit accessories like hats and gloves for the winter. We’re excited for next fall and winter because we’ll be using some extremely high end wool/silk blends for ties and bows.
What would you say to someone who’s still on the fence about buying from Dolbeau?
We deeply care about design and doing things right. We train our own production workers. We source artisanal fabrics from the top mills. Our products are designed to last a long time, because that’s what you get when you invest in the best materials.
For price and purchase info, visit Dolbeau.