Sitting down with the left brains of the operation
Still seems a shame that the men’s romper trend never took off—a lot of people missing out on a one-decision outfit.
Although maybe the men’s room would be weirder. Anyway, if there was going to be someone/brand that could pull it off, we’d pick Faherty as the contender—that’s just some free marketing advice for a brand we admire very much. In an effort to give out our unsolicited ideas to their team we managed to get Faherty founder, Alex Faherty, on the line—at least we’re pretty sure it was Alex—you see the other founder is Mike, Alex’s twin and it turns out Mike looks an awful lot like Alex, so while we can’t be completely sure it was Alex, it was still a good chance to talk a little bit about the brand, the next big thing for the men’s side of their brand and what tips we could use to tell the business brothers apart.
Whalebone: How do we know this is really you and not your brother?
Alex: If we were in person, you could tell me to write. I’m left-handed and Mike is right-handed. There’s a term for it. It’s called mirror image twins where one’s lefty, one’s righty; one’s more creative and left side of brain, one’s more right side of the brain. That’s kind of how we are. How else would you know? We’re pretty similar, we look pretty similar, so we definitely confuse people. People are like, “Hey, what’s up Alex?” But that happens a lot, which is amazing after all these years it happens.
I think the main way you would know is like what we do at the business. He manages all the creative side of the business, design. I manage all the things related to sales, business, and operation. So we’re a good team. It’s pretty amazing having an identical twin, and working with an identical twin because, honestly, I say nine times out of 10, we’re thinking the same thing before we say to each other, “Oh my God, I’m thinking about the same thing too.” Our minds are wired so similarly with the way we process information and think about things that it happens, all the time, I’m like, “Oh my God, weird, insane.”
It’s called mirror image twins where one’s lefty, one’s righty; one’s more creative and left side of brain, one’s more right side of the brain. That’s kind of how we are.
Whalebone: Briefly, what is the origin of how Faherty came to be?
Alex: Faherty was something that Mike and I have talked about since we were 17, when Mike wrote his college essay on the brand. When people asked me what I was going to do when I went to college, the answer was always, “I’m going to go work with my brother.” So it was sort of a thing that we were going to have a clothing company. I think a lot of it was Mike. He’s the creative juice and he’s the one who always loved clothes when we were kids. He always dressed me, he just had that thing for clothes. We’d have to go to different stores to find the right thing. I remember him spending so much time finding the right sneakers for back-to-school shopping. I’m seeing it play out with my daughter too. He was just destined to do something with clothes and fashion. His vision, and what became our vision was from growing up in a small beach town on the east coast of New Jersey with a very casual culture and vibe. All of our clothes as kids, and even up into our teenage years were bought at a surf shop.
It was before you had these big mall brands like Abercrombie. I don’t remember Abercrombie being anywhere growing up, or American Eagle. It was sort of like a certain brand had a lot of that space. Then we moved to New York City from the Jersey Shore when we were teenagers. And I think Mike’s love of clothing then went to department stores and specialty stores. I think he started seeing some of the amazing quality and things that were out in the market, and I think his head started getting wrapped around this idea of, “This is my style, but I really liked these clothes. I’m seeing the feel of the clothes at these department stores, and wouldn’t it be cool if I created a brand that had the kind of outdoorsy beach style that we grew up with, but it sort of had the approach to it that the designer brands of New York city has.”
That’s basically what he wrote his college essay on when he was 18. And then he spent 10 years at Ralph Lauren; I was working in finance, and my thing was I was going to run the business. I was going to make as much money as I could to save, so we could start the company. Mike was going to learn at Ralph Lauren and we started getting the itch to start right around when we turned 30. Mike said he was ready to quit Ralph to start Faherty, and we kind of worked on the project for about a year. And then I joined him in early 2013 and then Kerry joined us too right when we started. We just have been trying to figure it out for the last eight years.
Whalebone: How is it working with family? Obviously, there are major advantages, but are there any disadvantages?
Alex: I think that adds some complexity, so I’d say, the more family involved, it adds a little bit more complexity. Between Mike and I, we have a harder time giving honest, direct feedback because, it’s not an employee, it’s your brother. We’re definitely super honest with each other, but at the same time, there are things that we’re not great at. He knows I have the business and operations realm, and Mike has the creative and product side of the world. We may place too much trust in each other at times.
Whalebone: What was 2020 like while having to largely navigate just the digital marketplace? What were some of the pivots that had to be made?
Alex: It was crazy how, in the last month it really feels like things are getting really close to back to some level of what it was before, which is always hard to imagine, even for traffic, sales, and in physical retail stores that we have, it feels like they’re kind of where they were before, which I don’t think we would’ve ever imagined four or five months ago. I think that’s an amazing feeling. We’ve made a ton of momentum over the last year through COVID and like now things are even better. I think we were forced for a period of time to be singularly focused on one sales channel for the most part. For a small company, we have three sales channels. We have a retail store business, an online business, and then we sell business-to-business to other retailers. They’re all equally important, and they all have their advantages and helpful ways to acquire customers and get people to know about the brand, but they also spread us thin. I think we had three months or so, where we only had one channel that we all we could think about every day was that. I think it made us elevate our game online, our marketing strategy, our customer strategy, and really play offense on the online side of the business.
Not to say we weren’t playing offense before, but Faherty is how we pay our bills. It’s how we raise our family. It’s our dream. This is all we ever really wanted to do, so we’ll figure it out. We care so much, so when all of a sudden online became our main business, it was like, we got to get really good at this, not just for now, but forever, because now we know something like this could happen again or who knows.
Whalebone: What’s the overall feeling you want someone to have when they put on a piece of your clothing?
Alex: When I put on something Faherty that I have, I feel something about the fabric, it’s lived in. It’s super comfortable. It sort of feels like something you’ve had for a long time. I have all these things in my closet that I always go-to for some reason, like whether it’s the design or the feel, it’s comfortable. More than just the way it feels, it’s comfortable in the way it’s reminiscent of timeless style, easy-to-wear, wear wherever, but still feel like you’re wearing something that’s interesting and unique and different.
What you’re wearing is like people who’ve made it track in your head to make it really nice. And if there are any issues with that product, you have a lifetime guarantee. People will take care of you, and we’ll find you something that you like better, or we’ll replace it. The trust too, in the brand, how I’m going to buy into you, the brand is going to pay that back to me. Whether that’s how your customer service is going to be, how we’re constantly going to get better.
All of our clothes as kids, and even up into our teenage years were bought at a surf shop.
Whalebone: Who is your fashion inspiration?
Alex: I mean, this is a cheesy answer and I’m going to come back to you with something better. I have a lucky situation where my twin brother designs all my clothes. Almost everything we make, I get to say, I like that, I don’t like this, and if I don’t like it, we don’t make it. That’s all based on my design. I’m pretty freaking lucky to have that.
Honestly, I don’t really pay much attention to what’s happening outside of what Mike and I are designing and coming up with, so I look at Mike definitely as my style icon and the things that he designs. You can kind of see it in the way I dress, it’s very vintage and I still dress like I’m a 15 year old surfer dude. Growing up in the nineties, it was so much about board shorts and T-shirts, it was such an outfit.
That’s pretty much like today. Surfers and surfing were really big in the nineties, culturally across America. Kinda lost its excitement as an industry. We would watch surf videos in our free time as kids. It wasn’t just if you were a surfer, if you lived in the Midwest, you thought surfing was cool and you watched surf videos. So I was lucky to grow up in that cultural moment where surfing was just a really big deal. Icons like, whether it was like Machado and Slater, and those guys, watching how those guys dressed.
Whalebone: One fashion item that is usually reserved for women that needs to be made mainstream for men? Bromper?
Alex: I think it’s the overalls. I know rompers were a little tough, but overall it was one of our best-selling products for women. I see Kerry wearing overalls all the time, I want to start wearing overalls. They’re super functional; you get a pair of pants and a top at the same time. Kind of amazing. We’re launching that in fall. We’re working on something in that world.