Michael McPherson Jr. and Mace Neal III have a simple yet powerful slogan that helped established the foundation of their business, Windsor Neckwear: Stand out while fitting in.
And by creating upscale men’s accessories in limited runs, they’ve made the concept a reality for their customers.
Frustrated by the predictable, and often limited, options found in the standard men’s store, McPherson and Neal began their Nashville-based enterprise in 2008 in modest fashion, spending about $80 on some fabric and a necktie pattern.
“We didn’t want to walk around looking like everybody else,” McPherson explains of the company’s early days. “It can be overwhelming going shopping and seeing a thousand ties on the wall. We wanted to make something that would be exclusive, but still possible for people to purchase.”
The duo did their due diligence, learning about the clothing manufacturing business and raising enough capital to effectively create, launch and sell their first collection. In late 2009, McPherson and Neal released their inaugural line of four neckties. The line sold out in three weeks.
Since then, Windsor has expanded its product line, which now includes, in addition to neckties, bowties, pocket squares, shoes, shoelaces and floral lapel pins. The company also offers the popular “Perfect Pair” packages — which run under $50 and are sets of coordinated ties, pocket squares, lapel pins and shoelaces that take the guesswork out of accessorizing.
According to McPherson, the decision to expand was always an option, but the business partners had to wait until the timing was right.
“Our customer base has grown, so it’s been a natural progression of our business,” he says.
Neal says that one reason Windsor Neckwear has grown so rapidly is that the company’s clothing accessories work well with the key dress wear already found in the closets of most men.
“As long as you have the standard black, grey or navy suit, if you change your neckwear, it will look totally different, like a new suit,” Neal says. “And what we’ve been able to do successfully is make products that cater to every type of man, whether you’re a conservative businessman or a trendy guy. We have different styles for different types of men.”
True to the initial inspiration that birthed Windsor, McPherson and Neal continue to release their products in limited quantities, capping each tie design at 50.
“We do limited quantity because we want that exclusivity,” McPherson says.
Exclusivity is an attractive concept in today’s fast-paced, mass-produced, trend-obsessed fashion world. And despite the small-batch nature of the enterprise, Windsor’s products are surprisingly affordable, bridging the gap between the aspirational and the attainable. Neckties and bowties primarily range from $20 to $40, lapel pins run under $15 each, and even the priciest items, the dress shoes, are in the $100 range.
And speaking of trends, the trend du jour that continues to snowball with incredible force is buying local, so Windsor’s homegrown, independent enterprise is attractive to boutiques throughout the Southeast. And, as Neal points out, the company’s online e-tail outpost has no borders, attracting international customers.
Offering quality accessories at affordable prices has earned a rapidly growing customer base. To accommodate the clientele, McPherson and Neal recently attended The COBB trade show in Atlanta, which caters to menswear retailers based mainly in the Southeast. If all goes well, Windsor products could be in 29 states by the holidays.
“This is our first step into the wholesale market as far as offering products to mass retailers,” McPherson says. “We’ll offer an exclusive line for the wholesale retailers.”
One thing that McPherson says spurred Windsor’s growth was the company’s custom design services, in which Windsor incorporates logos or colors into custom neckwear.
“One of the biggest points of growth for our business has been our customizations services,” McPherson says. “We work with a lot of different organizations, fraternities, businesses and private schools.”
But as McPherson and Neal see their business grow, a couple of things won’t change. While their manufacturing and production is currently based overseas (in Hong Kong, Italy and China), they handle all design and administrative efforts in Nashville.
McPherson and Neal both express a love for Music City and its potential as a true fashion city.
“Nashville is becoming a business hub, and I feel like the city could become the fashion capitol of the South,” Neal says. “There’s no need to flee to New York or L.A., because Nashville is becoming who they are.”
Another thing that won’t change, no matter how big Windsor Neckwear gets, is the company’s dedication to providing its customers exclusive designs at a reasonable price.
“As we grow, we’ll do more options in limited runs,” Neal says. “That is how our business has been established.”
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