The website Elusive Society – https://elusivesociety.com – seems at first deceptively simple. But it is a simplicity based on knowledge that has taken e-commerce owner
J.W. Martin close to 30 years to acquire. “I opened my own clothing store in 1989, the month I turned 18,” he said. “I did that for about 10 years. And then I sold that…and did marketing [for a major retailer]. So I was a marketing manager and then translated that into an e-commerce manager. Then I left and started my own business again.”
After a short foray outside of apparel, Mr. Martin—an artist and a writer—launched Elusive Society in 2015, which carries a line of men’s headwear, some unisex and a few meant for women.
Designed with a minimalist approach, the e-commerce site emphasizes photos of the hats in sharp colors, some shown in context with clothes that complement, the gear or location called for. Descriptions consist of a few words on styles and fabrics.
At the website, text at the last two photos mentions that one hat is featured in the August-October issue of British GQ magazine and the other in the October/November WIRED UK magazine. Thanks to those publications, about half of Elusive Society’s buyers now are in Europe, the other half mainly in the United States.
OF CUSTOMERS AND STYLES
In terms of target customer, Mr. Martin has identified two profiles. “One is the millennial, the young male who is looking for…a classic styling but with high-quality materials and a fresh kind of minimalist outlook.
Designer, artist and writer
“They like a 5-panel hat,” he said. “The older male does like the heritage styling of a 6-pan
el hat with a curve build.” The fabric—such as tweed, wool or linen—is the same for both5-or-6 panel hats.
Regarding buyers, Mr. Martin said, “[i]f I set up a booth at a market, like a Christmas market or a farmer’s market…I sell a ton to women. And it’s either a gift for a man or it’s a stocking cap for themselves.
“But online, my primary buyer is male,” Mr. Martin said. “I haven’t completely figured out why but these are my guesses. Women…enjoy going and browsing and looking at everything and touching the items,” he said. “The men: My guess is they prefer the ease of ‘Oh, I like this.’
And they just tap it and buy it online,” he said, which may also explain why Instagram—with its focus on photos—is the social media that works best for Elusive Society.
The company is based in Urbana, Illinois, USA, where the Elusive Society retail store is
located inside a collector’s record store—a pairing that has worked successfully for the brand, he said. The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is located in that city.
OF APPAREL AND DESIGN
After leaving his corporate position in the late 2000s, Mr. Martin realized that he could not launch the clothing business of his youth. “The landscape has changed so much,” he said. He first tackled a few projects outside the apparel field, and then focused on fashion design—an area he had always loved—launching Elusive Society in 2015.
In the coming year, Mr. Martin plans to focus on wholesale so his line can be sold in stores: a time-consuming and often costly proposition when one tries to meet retailers in person, he said. However, being able to email a customized catalog from which wholesalers can directly purchase greatly helps, he added.
OF FERVOR AND BUSINESS
Asked about the name of his e-commerce, Mr. Martin said, “many times, like myself, e-commerce are a one-man or one-woman entity doing everything: photography, design, marketing. “It’s just all passion and that kind of comes across,” he said. “I guess, it was just describing how I fit in the world of brands, you know…part of that ‘elusive society.’” Mr. Martin’s advice before launching an e-commerce? He recommends writing down (1) what product you can make to which people respond the most, (2) what product you have the energy and drive to create, and (3) what product you have the skills to make. “You will hit obstacles,” he said. “[Y]ou will incur some losses and you need to have the energy…to keep going, the skillset to keep going, and it needs to be a product people most respond to.”
For each item sold, Elusive Society donates one headwear to keep a needy person warm in cold weather. At the request of e-commerce owners such as Mr. Martin, ZINation recently turned its Catalog Maker into an app creating “shoppable” catalogs: Buyers who click on a catalog item are brought directly to the e-commerce site to process the purchase. “E-commerce owners want to be able to handle customers’ purchases without intermediaries,” David Ker, ZINation CEO, said.