Sebastian Cruz Couture is a US fashion company that specialises in products including handmade pocket squares. The company was first founded in 2013 when the couple behind it, Cesar and Natasha Cruz created seven distinctive designs of little pocket squares. Priding itself on innovation and taking risks, Sebastian Cruz Couture avoids following trends and aims to set them instead. It has an active social media presence, with 392k followers on Instagram and 133k on Facebook. The company can also be found on platforms including LinkedIn and Pinterest. It has been covered by a wide range of high-profile media outlets including the Daily Mail, E! Online, PopSugar, Esquire, USA Today, Hollywood Life and People.

Improved production times

It originally took around 40 minutes for the brand’s popular pocket squares with crochet borders to be created. Once it was decided that this was too long, a new bespoke machine was created to speed up protection times. A machine designer was consulted, and the movement was mastered after around two months. It was then possible for 25 pocket squares to be produced within just an hour.

Naming and franchising

So how did the company get its name? Sebastian is the name of who will be the couple’s first son, Cruz is their surname, with Couture coming from the fact that everything is made by hand. The team decided investing in bricks and mortar was not the right choice for their business due to the increasing costs of commercial real estate and the rising popularity of eCommerce. Cesar also wanted to avoid becoming a “slave” to managing the stores, fearing that it would make his venture feel more like work. Initially, the brand was franchised, but the owner soon found that fans were buying into the brand without wishing to carry out the hard work needed to grow their franchises. Once the contracts were over, the team took the territories over and decided to connect with customers directly online. Cesar found that only franchise owners that were working full-time were making five-figure sums each month from their enterprises.

The longevity of the brand

Cesar has plenty of advice for those considering working or starting a new venture in the fashion industry. Describing fashion as “one of the most difficult markets to penetrate”, he urges people to ask themselves to decide how and what they want to sell. “Do you want to sell high volume, low ticket items (fast fashion to the mass market) or do you want to build a brand that targets the 1 percent”? Cesar says these are completely different strategies. He says brands with great-looking sites, low prices and random reviews can make money quickly but are unlikely to see much brand loyalty, with market share being lost “the moment another company comes out with a similar product and does a better job at marketing it”.

The importance of brand loyalty

The company co-founder says it takes longer to build luxury fashion brands but that brand loyalty can last for a lifetime. He says these brands need to make it clear that their USP is not price, but that they should launch with something different to what’s already on the market. This will show audiences that they “are here to innovate” and can be depended on to make consumers “look and feel great”. He says consistent messaging is also important, and that it’s vital to take a close look at what others are doing to see what could be improved. He also said customer feedback is very important, adding that many luxury brands “rarely engage back when someone asks a question or comments on their page”. “Offer something great, and execute it in the way the existing luxury brands are failing to do. The only way to fail is by quitting!”

Raising funds for expansion

Cesar also says new brands need to invest a great deal of capital into product development. If this is not available, he advises them to launch a single “highly profitable product” that can raise funds for expansion. Cesar never had to raise capital due to the popularity of his first product – its pocket squares, thousands of which were quickly sold. A considerable sum of money is reinvested into this business each month. He says companies that can avoid raising cash can maintain complete control. According to Cesar, one of the difficulties his own company faced was to find the right manufacturing mill to source fabric from. Several trips to Italy took place over many years before support was available. He says newcomers must have a clear idea of who they want to market to, think about the story that they want to tell and take them on a journey. “You can have the best product in the world if the execution is not even more unique than the product it will not work”, he adds.