Fashionably Challenged? Join The Trunk Club

August 22, 2011

Based in Chicago, Trunk Club keeps a huge backstock of the best men's fashions, then mixes and matches to create wardrobes based on the individual tastes of its clientele.

I am by no means a flashy dresser, so when I chose to wear a pair of bright red shorts to work last Thursday, it drew some major attention. My fiancée purchased the shorts — “They were only $10,” she said — and though I’m told they’re fashionable, I never would have purchased them on my own.

My style is to fashion what meat and potatoes is to fine cuisine.

I used to spend quite a bit more on clothes, but I’ve eased into a passive attitude about fashion, which likely comes with age. Call it complacency, but for me, clothing is about necessity, not vanity. I understand the importance of dressing well and projecting a positive self-image, but I don’t recall the last time I purchased something at full price and I’ve never spent more than $50 on jeans. My style could best be described as neutral and safe. Also, really affordable.

I bring all of this up because on Thursday, I stumbled upon a pretty interesting business called Trunk Club, which is like a Netflix for men’s clothing. Customers start by creating an online profile to explain their personal style. On Trunk Club’s end are several fashion experts who use the profile and follow-up interviews to better understand how to their clients dress. The experts purchase several outfits (including shoes and accessories) and send the new wardrobe in, you got it, a trunk. The customers only pay for what they keep and send the rejects back in the trunk, which comes with pre-paid postage.

Trunk Club isn’t for bargain-bin browsers and clearance-rack hacks like me. As their website explains, “We pride ourselves on offering high quality, long-lasting clothing that our customers will enjoy for years. As a benchmark, most of our sport shirts and dress shirts range from $70-$250, denim between $165-$225, and v-neck sweaters between $75-$225.”

So, I’m priced out, but I still find the concept interesting. It makes me wonder: Is this the future of retail? Eliminate brick-and-mortar stores and provide a customized, personalized experience online?

Imagine an online music store where music experts take an audit of your iTunes music library and send you a dozen or so album recommendations. You give each album a listen, keep what you like and return what you don’t. The same could be done with books, movies and TV shows.

How about groceries? Several diet plans have popularized the meal plan-by-mail model, but what if the consumer’s intent is simply to try new foods and recipes while dodging the Sunday lines at the grocery store?

Trunk Club is inspiring because it provides a sustainable model for small businesses by equally utilizing the power of technology and expertise. Rather than rely upon some ill-conceived fashion algorithm, Trunk Club offers a roster of fashion experts who know more than you do about designers, fabrics, colors and fits. Sure, you could find similar expertise at the nearest shopping mall, but don’t you hate being recommended a $200 pair of jeans by some clown who’s clearly on commission?

You won’t find me joining the Trunk Club anytime soon, because I’ve got my own fashion expert at home. But for bachelors who can afford it, Trunk Club is sensible, convenient and just plain cool. It proves online shopping doesn’t have to be some hollow, soulless and purely transactional experience.

Shopping malls, take notice.