In this Gentlemen’s Club post, we will be discussing why Manmade has a minimal selection of products. While it may seem strange to some, there are actually several reasons why we have chosen to keep our product offerings minimal and simple.
I’ll be diving into each of these reasons and comparing what “minimal selection” vs “more selection” looks like from the brand’s perspective, and how it ultimately benefits you. We hope that by the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of our approach and why it makes sense for both yourself and our business. Let's dive in!
Basics should be simple
One of the reasons we started building Manmade back in 2020 was because we hated the buying process, especially all the noise and confusion in men’s underwear. It felt complicated for something that should be so simple. We didn’t understand how you couldn’t walk into the exact same store and find the exact same pair of underwear you bought previously.
We didn’t know this at the time, but the reason why this happens is because big underwear brands have dozens of fabric options, dozens of styles, hundreds of colours and patterns, manufactured in dozens of different factories in different countries. When you multiply each of these factors together, you get thousands of different underwear, made by the same brand.
You’d have to become an underwear expert to understand the different fabrics, cuts, and fits. The average man doesn’t really have this in his plans to add to his resume.
Product Development Process
We design all of our products from scratch. We start with what we like and dislike about existing products, then form hypotheses to be validated with external opinions and surveying.
Once we get a good idea of what would be an ideal product, we start designing it and creating technical packages and specifications for our co-manufacturers. There are usually about 5-6 rounds of prototyping to get all the specifications met, and about 6-8 months later, you’re ready to issue a first Purchase Order on the new product.
We take pride in managing this entire process ourselves - we believe it to be a core competency of ours compared to our competitors who sometimes order (knock-off) products from “catalogues” their manufacturers provide them with.
The downside of our process is that it requires alot of time, energy, planning and attention to detail. Being a relatively small team here in Montreal, Canada, we have to be conscious of our capacity constraints and respect them to ensure we don’t drop any of our spinning plates.
Waste and Slack in Manufacturing
On the manufacturing and production side of things, there are 3 main inputs to produce underwear: main body fabric, trims and packaging, and manual labour.
For the fabric, trims and packaging, naturally having more selection causes you to order and manage stock for different fabrics, different colours, different trims (waistbands, thread, care instructions printing), and packaging. When offering more selection in products, there is less volume produced per colour and style combination but with many more styles.
An example would be comparing ordering 1000 meters of black fabric vs ordering 200 meters of fabric in each red, blue, purple, etc.. This added selection requires more “starts and stops” in the production, and waste in between (ex: dye-houses need to mix more blends of dyes for each colour, and this creates more waste).
Meanwhile, on the cut and sew product line, workers need to be trained on many more products and therefore have to start and stop in between production of different products - creating more slack in production.
Inventory and Cash Requirements
Given lengthy delays between purchase order and delivery of finished goods, cashflow is always a challenge. In an ideal dream world where cash is infinite, we’d have a huge warehouse with at least 2 years’ worth of inventory in each of our product lines. But this isn’t realistic and the reason why so many brands in the apparel industry reach a ceiling and can’t grow any further.
The larger a brand’s SKU count, the more cash is needed to tie up into inventory. The math is simple.
Say you need 100 units on average in each SKU to ensure you don’t sell out during your 6 month lead time on production, if a brand has 300 SKUs to carry compared to a brand that has 20 SKUs to carry, the difference of 280 SKUs times 1000 units is 28,000 units of inventory. This is a massive difference in cash flow needs a business may have and a lot to manage.
It is not only significantly more cash flow intensive, it’s much more difficult to forecast, plan for, and thus increases the risk of carrying products that are slow-moving, or even obsolete. This is when many brands queue the “flash sales” to liquidate stale inventory from 2006.
Knowing this, having more product selection requires more inventory warehousing, more carrying costs of inventory that will be slower to turnover, and more inventory that will be discounted or even obsolete. This means the brand will have to charge more in order to offer more selection.
We do understand that we can’t live in a life with only black and white of everything, but when it comes to basics or essentials you rely on day-to-day to perform - or as we like to say: function over fashion - minimal selection for maximum quality is the way to go.