We had the pleasure of catching up with Start Up Loan alumni Christopher Modoo, Co-Founder of menswear tailoring brand Kit Blake.
Founded by Chris & PR veteran Richard Wheat at the end of 2018, Kit Blake is the tailoring brand that does not sell suits; instead building their ever growing collection around the highly underrated trouser.
Chris told us how they have managed to secure coveted press coverage (I spy David Gandy in Kit Blake!) and their plans for the brand in the future.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I have been in retail and menswear since 1991. I started on the shopfloor at Selfridges and have worked with Thomas Pink, The Savile Row co, Ede & Ravenscroft and Chester Barrie. I have experience in made-to-measure, sales, management, buying, merchandising, design and styling.
Richard is an entrepreneur who co-founded a financial PR firm and also has interests in fashion, luxury and lifestyle brands.
What were you doing just before setting up the business?
I was made redundant from Chester Barrie in the summer of 2017 and set up a consultancy brand, “Urbane Outfitter”, to offer my services as a stylist, writer, buying agent and creative director. This business runs parallel to my role at Kit Blake.
What made you want to start your business?
It all began from a conversation with my now business partner, Richard Wheat. He asked me where the gap was in the men’s sector and my immediate response was “trousers”. They are a neglected product category with little to choose from between skinny chinos and suit trousers. Men need trousers.
When did you launch and how was the response?
We launched in October 2018 at a pop-up store in the Piccadilly Arcade as a guest of Fear’s watches and Gownsmith. We were a “pop-up in a pop-up” and had a one-day event. The response was incredible with support from my friends in the industry and press. David Gandy very kindly attended wearing a pair of our trousers which was amazing.
Who are your target customers?
We have two main target customers, the guy who is frustrated at the lack of choice on the High Street and will pay more for quality and style. These guys are either just starting out on their sartorial journey or a bit older but have neglected their wardrobes in recent years and need the easy upgrade that proper trousers give them.
Where can customers buy your products?
We are currently exclusive to The Rake online atelier and in 2020 we will launch our own transactional website. We are also looking to participate in trunk shows and pop-up stores.
How did you hear about Fashion Angel?
When I was looking at funding, one of the UKFT suggested we contact Fashion Angel, as they specialised in start up loan funding for the fashion sector.
What did you gain from the business mentoring that came with the Start Up Loan?
It was the opportunity to lay our business plan bare and open ourselves to scrutiny and questioning.
How have you managed to secure such great press coverage of your brand?
This was a key part of our strategy. Richard is a PR professional and I have experience in writing. We made sure all our products had stories that the press could relate to.
What, so far has been your biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Couriers! I spend a disproportionate amount of time chasing deliveries. And the costs can be significant.
In hindsight, what do you wish you had done differently when starting out?
We are both really happy with where Kit Blake is and enjoyed the journey. I would not do anything differently.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
The Rake magazine made us “Rakes of the Year”…..this is an award often given to more established brands. It has given us a great exposure.
What would be your advice to anyone starting out?
Keep moving forward and making decisions. The Kit Blake branding was signed-off in three days. Avoid procrastinating and over-thinking. Believe in your product and be your best ambassador. Stay nimble and be nice.
Where do you hope Kit Blake will be in 5 years?
We are looking forward to launching our own website and obtaining additional funding so we can scale up.
In five years, I would like to see the Kit Blake brand expanded into new product categories but with trousers still at the heart of the offer. We hope to have an international presence through wholesale and trunk shows and a swanky London showroom.
Interview by Letitia Allman
See how a Start Up Loan can help you start your dream business.