The first time that John Flowerton came into my life was during a dinner party at my flat in Chicago. An underweight, lanky man non unlike myself, John is one of the smartest people that I know — a trader by vocation and a man fiercely dedicated to his work — so much that he rarely spends time worrying over what he wears or why he wears it. His parter, Alina, just deposits clothing in his wardrobe and the pieces that he likes end up on his shoulders.
For people like John, the Trunk Club, a new service created by the founder of Bonobos might be the perfect match. The Trunk Club works like a remote personal shopper. The client first interfaces with a real-life style consultant, whether on the phone, Skype or over email to detail his style and fit. A series of customized outfits is then sent over in a “trunk,” and the client can keep (and purchase) whatever components that he sees fit. He then applies the included return label to the package and everything else is returned free of charge.
Based in Chicago, the Trunk Club is employs a dozen or so style consultants just northwest of the Loop in a lofty, artistic part of town. When Gadling Labs stopped by the space earlier this year, the office was still humming at 7PM, with young consultants eagerly helping clients over the phone and racing through rows of clothing, darting between fabrics and piecing together customized trunks.
Their head style consultant, Mike Barkin sat me down for a discussion on fit. What shirts usually fit the best? How tight did I like my jeans? What colors did I usually wear? Everything went into his table, a host of data collected from which future clothing styles would feed.
And they don’t always work either – occasionally a shirt won’t fit right or jeans will be too large or small. That’s why the consultants encourage you to feed back to the mother ship as soon as the trunk is received. Honing the Trunk Club database on what brands and what sizes work best for one’s fit and style is part of the process, and as the third or fourth trunk is received, most outfits should look like they came straight out of the client’s home closet.
Where the service is particularly useful is for quick turn travelers. One can leave the office with a toothbrush and extra pair of boxers and have trunks meet them on waypoints throughout a week of destinations. Alternatively, cold weather clothing can meet the businessman in one corner of the country early in the week while warm weather gear could round out the trip in the California at week’s end.
Gadling Labs gave that very program a trial last month at the Trump SoHo in New York City. Four days prior to departure, a quick phone call to Mr. Barkin laid out the plan for our weekend trip, what sort of outfits might work and the location of our hotel. On arrival, a bell hop brought up the trunk, a 2′ x 2′ x 18″ cardboard crate with the Trunk Club elephant logo emblazoned on the front. Inside, three custom outfits with jeans, slacks, corduroys, oxfords and sweaters were laid out, some collated to show the obvious overlap and others left separate for creative use. The Jeremy Argyle button down shirts? A refreshingly good fit. The Ben Sherman sweaters? A bit too short. Bonobo slacks? Really great pants, but a bit out of our price range. We ended up sticking with a red and blue Jeremy Argyle shirt, tucking the rest of the clothing back into the trunk and moving on with the weekend. At checkout, we dropped the package off at Trump SoHo’s reception and they took care of the rest.
And that’s how the Trunk Club is supposed to work. It’s low maintenance – you make a phone call, direct your consultant and give them a destination. The product shows up quietly, has your gear laid out and makes it easy to pick out your wardrobe. Five minutes later it’s buttoned back up and headed towards the front desk while you’ve got something unique to wear for the next few days.
The only considerations? The Trunk Club’s shopping profile and their respective partners fit into a fairly specific price and style range. Shirts in the Gadling Labs trunk ranged from $70 to just under $200, while pants were as high as $150. They also don’t necessarily go on sale – the consumer is pinned to the shelf-price for the product which can add up pretty quickly.
But these considerations are the worries of a person tightly dedicated to frugality and highly selective of his wardrobe – and that’s not necessarily the demographic that perfectly matches up with the Trunk Club clientele. For me? I’m too picky about what I wear and its heritage to let someone do my shopping. But John Flowerton’s life may never be the same.