Chubbies: Riding the Wave of Nostalgia

SparkAmpLab Editorial Team
April 23, 2020

In a world primarily driven by consumerism and capitalism, the fashion industry has always enjoyed significant success. According to the latest statistics, it was revealed that the retail apparel market is worth a whopping $1.4 trillion. And the lion’s share in the revenue generated by the fashion industry often went to a select few big players, namely H&M, Zara, and LVMH, among others. 

But thanks to e-commerce, several small-time players have been entering the market and introducing a range of products with their own twist. Chubbies Shorts is one such e-commerce, D2C fashion brand that has brought forth a range of retro style shorts, stepping away from the mainstream clutter of the fashion industry and creating a niche of “men’s shorts.” 

What you must know 

Much like any other industry, the internet has greatly revolutionized the fashion industry as well. Just look at this figure. 

By 2022, 36% of all fashion sales are projected to happen online. With more than half of the internet population shopping online, e-commerce sales are soon going to be on par with retail sales. 

How Chubbies is born

Founded by four Stanford graduates Kyle Hency, Rainer Castillo, Preston Rutherford, and Tom Montogmery, Chubbies primarily came into existence to sell retro-inspired shorts. The four were all fond of retro-style shorts and often had difficulty finding such shorts in retail stores. 

As a result, they mostly had to rely on thrift stores to buy the retro-shorts they wanted. Cut to 2011, a few years after graduating and working in various industries, the co-founders came together and decided to set up their own clothing brand. 

After experimenting with selling some pairs of shorts on a 4th of July holiday at Lake Tahoe, the co-founders realized the potential of their brand. “From day one we saw there was a very talkable, very shareable notion around our brand,” Montogmery told Business Insider in 2015, four years after the company was founded. “We saw complete strangers who we hadn’t told about the brand purchasing from us.” 

Naturally, Chubbies enjoyed success once they ventured into full-fledged D2C, e-commerce model, and they then decided to expand beyond their signature style retro-shorts. The company soon introduced swim trunks, Hawaiian-style t-shirts, and long sleeve shirts, among others. Much of the company’s steady growth can be attributed to its unique branding approach. 

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Unique weekend approach

One of the central focuses of Chubbies is to put a modern twist on nostalgia. Consider tearaway basketball pants that most Americans are very familiar with. Chubbies put a simple twist by making tearaway shorts with a Speedo underneath. By taking nostalgic and memorable clothing items and adding a modern touch, Chubbies are able to bank on the retro-charm of the previous generations’ trends. 

Most of Chubbies’ clothing items are priced between $50 to $60, making them neither high-end premium nor very basic. Furthermore, Chubbies’ weekend factor has made a great influence on their brand perception. By and by, Chubbies has become the go-to brand for weekend shopping. 

“We’re constantly building this brand around the weekend and the feeling you get around Friday at 5pm. When a guy throws them on, the stress and rigors of the work week can be put on hold for a bit,” said Montogmery in an interview

Much like other successful D2C brands such as Vineyard Vines, Chubbies has also evolved to selling their clothing on retail storefronts. While the company ultimately retains a D2C model where 70% of the revenue comes from online sales, it has opened several brick-and-mortar style retail stores in various parts of the US. 

Surprisingly, even the retail stores are experiencing great success as people are flocking to buy clothing every weekend before they’re off to enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

Future scope, growth, and competition 

With a strong online presence, six retail stores, and solid brand perception, Chubbies has set itself on a path of steady growth. From a single retail store in San Francisco to opening five other stores in a span of five years, Chubbies seems to be riding the way of the D2C business model. 

In 2019, Chubbies decided to move its headquarters from San Francisco to Austin, where it is “most aligned with our brand in terms of entrepreneurial spirit.” Hency also revealed that Chubbies is currently profitable and sustainable, without the need of outside capital.

All-in-all, D2C consumer companies are turning out to be the most viable and sustainable business models of the 21st century. Start an online store, grow, gain excellent brand recognition, open a storefront, expand, rinse and repeat: the mantra of every successful D2C company, and so has been the case with Chubbies. 

Nonetheless, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing environmental consciousness movement towards adapting “slow fashion” may affect the company and most of the fashion industry at large.

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