The luxury fashion brand Sebastian Cruz Couture specialises in distinctive pocket squares, shoes, jackets, accessories and more. The brand has grown substantially over the years despite receiving no initial investment from outside sources and has featured prominently in the media. First founded back in 2013 by husband-and-wife team Cesar and Natasha Cruz, its earliest creations included seven distinctive pocket squares. The first round of squares proved to be so successful that the funds generated from them could be used to send the brand to another level.
How the brand grew
Over the past seven years, the brand has generated a loyal following on social media, with 392,000 Instagram followers and 133,000 Facebook fans. One of the biggest reasons for the brand’s early growth was the creation of a bespoke machine which slice pocket square creation times. Before the team worked with a specialist machine designer, it took around 40 minutes for a pocket square with a crocheted border to be created. After the machine was designed and created, it became possible to produce 25 squares within an hour.
Where does the name come from?
The team pride themselves on the fact that all the products they create are handmade. This is where the ‘couture’ part of the name stems from. The couple’s surname is ‘Cruz’ and they plan to call their first-born child Sebastian. Many people have asked Cesar why he chose not to invest in bricks-and-mortar stores. There were several reasons for this decision, including the way that his customers generally prefer shopping online, the work needed to keep physical stores in operation and the increasing costs of real estate for commercial use. Other accessories now designed and manufactured by the brand include scarfs, cufflinks, belts, bow ties and neckties. The website is also home to a helpful ‘find your fit’ facility.
Why franchising was abandoned
For a brief period, the Sebastian Cruz Couture brand was franchised, but Cesar was left disappointed by the efforts of the franchise owners, many of whom he thought were unwilling to put the necessary work in. Only those that put in the necessary hours were able to generate five-figure sums from their enterprises each month. When the contracts expanded, Cesar and Natasha took over the territories, deciding to engage with their customers online rather than offline.
Advice for ambitious design brands
Although the franchise movement was quickly abandoned, Cesar has valuable tips for others who are keen to make it big in fashion, which he describes as “one of the most difficult markets to penetrate”. He says those that do have fashion world ambitions to spend time thinking about who they want to sell to and how they want to sell. He says exclusive brands that offer luxury products tend to retain customers for a lifetime, with companies offering low-cost products initially performing well before losing market share to newer competitors with more effective marketing efforts. Cesar says fashion brands need to think about whether they “want to sell high volume, low ticket items (fast fashion to the mass market)” or if they want to “build a brand that targets the 1 percent”.
The need to be distinctive
According to Cesar, companies that wish to excel in the luxury fashion market need to be less focussed on competitive pricing, spending more time developing something that differs from what’s
already available. They need to prove that they can innovate and can provide products that leave customers looking and feeling “great”. Messaging should also be consistent, and attempts should be made to assess what others are doing wrong. Cesar also says that it’s essential to pay attention to customer feedback and to reply to followers whenever they leave questions or comments on social media. He says many luxury brands are still failing to engage with customers leaving commentary on their pages and sites and that customer loyalty has been weakened due to this.
It’s also important to invest substantial cash into product development, according to Cesar. Once the company’s pocket squares started to generate capital, funds were used to expand into other products. This continues to be the case. Capital never had to be sourced from anyone outside of the company due to the success of the pocket squares, which quickly sold in their thousands. Cesar also says businesses that don’t ask for cash from elsewhere can avoid relinquishing control to others. One problem Cesar did encounter in the early days was sourcing suitable fabric, although this challenge was eventually overcome after multiple trips to Italian manufacturing mills. Cesar also advises others to think carefully about the story they want to tell their customers and the journey they want to take them on. The company can be found on social media platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.