If you only had one version of every type of clothing in your closet, what would you want it to be?
Together with his co-founder, Andrew Kneisley, William Sulinski raised $600,000 to scale his LA-based startup Pistol Lake to bring you the answer.
Pistol Lake aims to provide “the most functional apparel for minimalists” by creating high-quality apparel that you can wear to the office, to the gym, to the bar, and even on an outdoor excursion.
“Think the comfort of athletic gear like Nike Dri-Fit and Under Armour,” said William, “but without the bright colors and glowing neon bands that make you look like a Power Ranger.”
William and his team sought to combine the functionality of sportswear with the subtlety of casual wear, and to do so ethically as well.
Pistol Lake creates its clothes with recycled materials, and emphasizes ethical manufacturing to create fair-paying local jobs.
Applying Startup Mentality to Clothes
In growing Pistol Lake, William borrowed extensively from his background in starting and selling tech companies and applied a startup mentality to tackling an age-old industry.
“We spent 2 years engineering a proprietary fabric based on Eucalyptus pulp and recycled bottles,” said William. “We’re taking bottles that would otherwise have gone to the trash and turning it into the first fabric of its kind.”
The recycled fabric, named Eudae, is lightweight, anti-odor, and has moisture-wicking properties.
In terms of design, Pistol Lake also borrowed Silicon Valley’s extreme emphasis on iterative improvement to create its line of clothing.
“The design process itself actually took 4 years, during which we iterated constantly by using small production batches,” said William.
“We had hundreds of production runs until we finally landed on the perfect shirts.”
Pistol Lake’s startup methodology has paid off well, as proven by a successful Kickstarter campaign that almost tripled the initial goal (raising $57,543).
The Rise of Pistol Lake
If you want to know what growing a clothing brand online should look like, look no further.
Even prior to its current round of funding, Pistol Lake has already created a dedicated fanbase to evangelize its products.
“Early on, we didn’t focus too much on marketing,” said William, “Most of it was just word-of-mouth from our community.”
Since its inception, Pistol Lake has always attracted a dedicated following. A Reddit community founded 3 years ago, which is active to this day, is full of customer discussions and suggestions that William and Andrew read and respond to personally.
One Reddit comment read, “You openness and transparency is why I love this brand”.
That devotion, in part, is what attracted Pistol Lake’s early investors.
“When I saw how passionate their customers were, I knew this was a company I needed to be a part of,” said Neil Parikh, co-founder of successful mattress company Casper.
Taking a page out of Casper’s book, Pistol Lake provides a 100-wear trial to make sure customers are convinced of its “Most Comfortable Shirt Ever” guarantee.
The company’s early devotion to its community of customers has paid off. Its products are adored by venture capitalists and athletes alike, including NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, and has become the “daily uniform” of Dave Morin, founder of Path, and a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist.
“I can’t tell you how much this has simplified my life,” said Dave, who is also founder and partner at Slow Ventures, “Eudae is a true materials breakthrough.”
And this is coming from Slow Ventures, who also invested in Allbirds, the company behind “The World’s Most Comfortable Shoes”, and Casper.
Social Impact and Future
Pistol Lake represents the new face of an massive CPG industry that is being disrupted by digitally native vertical brands, a trend characterized by online-based brands, controlled distribution, and a fanatical devotion to customer experience.
Like other digitally native brands such as Warby Parker and Allbirds, which work with non-profits or adhere to stringent social and environmental standards set by the B Corporation, a trusted social impact certification that Pistol Lake is also set on obtaining.
“We are actively at work developing all the gear that you will need to put in a backpack and travel the world with,” said William, “All the while focusing on what we stand for.”
To William, that means creating fair-paying direct employment opportunities locally through Pistol Lake, as well as continuing to scale the use of recycled materials.
“As we grow, we want to have a more direct relationship with our customers as well,” said William, “We live in an age when authenticity matters, and we want to communicate clearly what Pistol Lake stands for as a company.”
According to William, the message Pistol Lake wants to drive home is pretty simple:
“We just want people to know that what they wear shouldn’t limit what they do.”
To learn more about digitally-native vertical brands like Pistol Lake, see the full story on HuffPost here.
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