Big Style in Small Batches
Can a men’s shirt company bring ‘slow fashion’ to the masses?
Tom Severini (left) and Geoff Argue
The odds of Tom Severini and Geoff Argue crossing paths when they attended Parsons School of Design in New York back in the ‘90s were as slim as the fit of Thom Browne trousers. Argue had his career sites set on fashion, while Severini was majoring in communication design. But one fateful class in common was all it took to launch a decades-long friendship. In the summer of 2015, the two decided to combine their interests and skills, took a deep breath, and plunged their friendship into the depths of partnership. The result: a men’s online shirt company called Batch.
After Parsons, Argue designed for corporate “fast-fashion” houses while Severini worked his way up to creative director at a boutique ad agency. “Tom and I had always talked about having a company together,” he says. And 14 years later, “We had the experience, we had the connections, and finally, we thought we had a good opportunity to start something that could play to our strengths.”
Argue had relocated from New York to Fort Myers a few years earlier to design for women’s label Chico’s, and he couldn’t find any high-quality shirts that suited his style. Knowing he could make his own, and make them better, he summoned Severini, who quit his job and moved down from New Jersey with his wife and daughter. When an Indian supplier Argue had previously worked with opened his own shirt factory, and indicated that he was eager to expand his range, still-nebulous idea met real-world feasibility.
Batch started as—and remains—a bootstrap business. “It takes an army and a small village, but Tom and I didn’t have those things,” says Argue. What they had was a couple thousand dollars of their own savings, which they pumped, mostly, into building out their website. They opened their virtual doors in the spring of 2016 with a few shirt styles, made in low-risk, “slow-fashion” batches of 20 to counteract a challenge they were aware of going in—namely, says Severini, “Men don’t like to buy a lot of clothes.” Over the months, they honed in on their customers’ preferred style (casual), and managed to build a base of repeat buyers willing to shell out for good fit and attention to the small details, like nice buttons and hand stitching.
Tech keeps them lean. They can put in a phone order to India and have it in hand in two weeks’ time; overseas meetings happen via video chat. Their DIY ethos helps, too; they take care of their own shipping and photo shoots, using a friend as their model. Their sole advertising has been in the form of an Instagram account (@batchmens) and product coverage from men’s lifestyle sites like Gear Patrol.
Plans are afoot to add standing collar shirts and pants to the lineup. Long-term plans are a lot more ambitious. “We’ll own hotels and restaurants,” says Argue. “Our whole concept is well-made goods in small quantities, and even though we started with shirts, we hope to do everything.” Adds Severini, “We have big aspirations.”