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an interview with andrew apostola: svbscription founder

Edited by: Jodie Kharas
on July 5th, 2012
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As the fixation with considered curation continues, Svbscription seems like the perfect segue. Launched last month by Sam Wheeler and Andrew Apostola, the subscription service caters for modern men who appreciate the finer things in life. Selecting from a pool of design, cul­ture, tech­nol­ogy, apparel and entertainment, the team carefully curate a quarterly package consisting of luxury products from a cross section of unique brands. Seemingly a case of right place and right time, Lookbooks grabbed five with Founder Andrew Apostola to talk Hemmingway and the good fortune of building a devastatingly handsome members base.

The website looks great. How’s it all going so far? Thank you, you obviously have great taste. It’s been a really fun process so far. Not only have we come up with a great product that people seem to be receiving really well, we’re all working together for the first time and that’s been a very enjoyable process. Oh, and the fact that we sold out the first version of the parcel in a surprisingly short period of time has meant that we’re happy with where Svbscription is headed.

Tell me about the target market. The Svbscription man is someone who wants to own and accumulate luxury products and experiences. He’s confident enough with his personal style to take risks, not only in exploring new brands but by allowing his tastes to be informed by magazine editors and others with impeccable style. I also think that a key element of our guy is that he wants to own some truly special items, like the kind of things, precious things that your father would keep on his desk.

How did the initial idea grow from being a light bulb moment to a reality? It was a very fortuitous coming together of ideas that culminated in New York late last year. The three of us — Marc Goldenfein, Sam Wheeler and myself (Andrew Apostola] — were all fascinated with the rather unique experience of receiving precious objects in the mail. Everybody knows this feeling — you know the one — of coming home, seeing a parcel in the foyer of your building and pondering for a split second, what exactly is inside, who sent it and how it might change your life.

The lateral layout of the site feels very fresh- Am I imagining a Bauhaus inspiration in there somewhere?

It was Bauhaus inspired, yes. At lot of the central ideas behind the movement relate directly to what we’re trying to build with Svbscription. The sense that the practice of building and manufacturing should have a purpose beyond itself, that products should have a timelessness and a connection with those who own and use them.

How are the packages curated? It’s a very intensive process, one that is much more labor intensive and meticulous that you’d think. Each parcel is assigned a central theme that we curate all aspects of the experience around. For example, the first parcel is centered around the idea of travel, so we start by writing a central manifesto around the idea before mapping out a series of mood boards that reflect the theme. The most challenging part is taking a modern approach to each theme and how that applies to the modern man. When people think of “travel” and “masculinity” a lot of obvious and very dated imagery is conjured up, strangely a lot if it centres around Ernest Hemmingway! People have been saying to us, “There’s going to be hip-flask in there and a bottle of whisky, right?” But this is not an exercise in nostalgia; we’re really thinking about the practical needs of real men going about their lives in 2012.

Can you give us a sneaky hint about the first package? Everybody asks that, and the best we can say is that it will contain a combination of apparel, content, accessories and an experience. Most of the brands we are working with are from right here in New York, however we have also collaborated with partners from Montreal, Berlin and the UK. Our first one hundred members have all taken a risk on the experience and I am the first to say that they definitely will not be disappointed.

How big is the team at present? It’s actually a lot larger than you’d imagine. Sam and his collaborator Dino Siampos are heading up product development and buying, while we have a whole team of programmers and project managers working on the platform from Australia, lead by my friend and business partner at Portable Studios, Simon Goodrich. In our office on 28th Street in New York, there’s myself, Marc Goldenfein (who’s heading up editorial and operations) and assisting staff. We’re currently half way through a seed round — there’s a lot of work to be done.

In your opinion, are men considered secondary to women in this market? No, men are just another vertical within the very broad spectrum and trend of subscription style businesses. We’re occupying and exploring the luxury tier, but you see other great companies like Birchbox working to provide beauty product and others like Bark Box, which is designed for dog owners. There’s even one for sex toys that’s launching soon.

What does the future hold for Svbscription? For the first parcel we set a limit of 100 memberships. For the next round we’re opening those memberships a little wider. We’re in what Steve Blanks would like to call the customer discovery phase of the business and we are finding out some very interesting nuances about our customers. Did you know that every single one of our members is exceptionally good looking? Who would have thought...

Thanks Andrew, best of luck!

Thanks to you too! All the best.


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