THE EXPERT: Scott Sablan JOB TITLE: Founder & CEO, Cloth & Metal
Written By: Genesis Gonzalez
Photographed By: Michael Oliveri
When it comes to shopping and men, let’s face it, they would rather be somewhere else doing just about anything else! However, when shopping includes none other than a headphone bar to hear great music, a selection of shoes that we all know can’t be passed up, and perhaps the simple ease to just hang out, the combination might have men rethinking the shopping experience. At Cloth & Metal, Scott Sablan, Founder and CEO, knows when it comes to shopping and men, it’s all about introducing the perfect place to hang out, listening to great music, and having fun creating your own style.
Cloth & Metal is the perfect hangout for any guys looking to kick up their style, maybe tame the beard, and find their fashion bliss. The pressures of shopping are wiped away as the experience is purely simple and easy! It’s all about creating your own style and finding what works. Every genre of clothing and style is for your choosing, plus all the right tools to maintain and sharpen the look of beards and mustaches. For a great shopping experience that is all about hanging out, Cloth & Metal is the place to be.
Q: With a background in audio, when did the inspiration hit to create a retail store that encompasses both menswear and an array of audio products? Has fashion always been on the mindset?
Scott Sablan: I’ve been sitting on the concept for some years now. I used to develop audio products for a living, and would lead product development as I was a product manager. I’ve always been kind of a serial entrepreneur. The categories I focused on were audio, speakers, and headphones. If you are going to do your job well, you should be tapped into the passion and lifestyle of it. I think in terms of developing products, you have to have an eye out for what is cool, so I’ve always had that appetite. I was sitting on the concept for a while. It’s really about creating a single environment and tying all those things together for guys. There are a lot of men’s lifestyle stores out there, but I wanted to create a single environment where you bring all those passions together.
Q: Fashion can be a very competitive and challenging business. Do you feel with the addition of audio, accessories, and footwear that it can be more of a challenge or maybe a “fun” challenge?
SS: Well, of course! I think anything that creates the possibility of either diluting your brand or your value proposition can always be a challenge, but there are some good opportunities that obviously come along with it and I think for us, it’s really about making sure we are focused on what we are offering for our customers. It does add another element of complexities for sure. It’s kind of crazy because I used to be responsible for managing multi-million dollar projects. We started out in some 300-square-feet and owning a small men’s store in some ways is really almost harder in a way than managing these large projects.
Q: When it comes to men and shopping, what is the one thing that will make it easy and painless?
SS: First of all, keeping it simple! But for us, I think now a days especially when you start thinking about the
customers that come in and start thinking about their shopping experience, the concept is really important now for guys. Obviously owning a shop like this, we try to go through the hard work, depending on whatever you’re looking for when it comes to your lifestyle needs and making sure we’re presenting guys with their best options—not presenting too many options, but presenting them with a few key options and keeping the experience simple for them.
Q: What do you look for when selecting designers to be added to the store?
SS: We’ll selectively chase trends. One of the things that I saw early on and was something really cool was a brand called Zanerobe. Despite what some people may say, they really were the brand that brought the whole jogger theme to the US. We got on that really early when we first opened the store. But I think above anything for us, we try to make sure the aesthetics of the shop are very timeless. Obviously the product has to have a high amount of quality and manufacturing integrity and then also bringing in certain labels or brands that have a certain perspective or flair. Again, it’s really odd because I think fashion is very intuitive. But if there’s a certain flair perspective that we like, we will latch into trying to expose our customers to some of that too. We want to make sure we have quality products that are timeless. If there is something unique about a certain brand, then that will catch our attention.
Q: Do you find the fan base has been both from the audio and fashion worlds?
SS: Oh yeah, for sure! We just added a headphone bar! I’m really just trying to expose people to what great sound is and expose them to audio. With the addition of the headphone bar, we have started getting very high-end; we have some very high quality products, more than we have in our traditional component base business. We’ll have the hardcore audiophiles that will come in there, but we’ll also have some select people that maybe will only buy clothing or will only buy audio. But it’s been really nice because in the short time we’ve been around, we’ve had customers that come and purchase both. There’s been quite a bit of crossover.
Q: When it comes to the selection of audio products, is there some influence from your personal taste and expertise in the field?
SS: I think first and foremost, performance and quality is an absolute must, especially when you’re dealing with lifestyle oriented products such as headphones. We do not sacrifice on quality no matter what the device looks like. My preferences are actually pretty similar when it comes to my apparel buying as far as aesthetics, quality and performance. And the obvious thing is making sure the products are extremely easy to use and interact with.
Q: What tends to be the product that most men go shopping for? When they walk into Cloth & Metal, are there some guidance or style tips to help that customer find the product they’re looking for?
SS: We’re a little bit different. Most men’s stores present one perspective on style and fashion, and what we try to do—above all—is create an environment where they can confidently build their own sense of style. Clothing is obviously a key aspect of our business for a number of reasons, but the funny part is that I can’t tell you how many times guys have come in shopping and their wives or significant others will be there and they’ll say, “You do not need any more shoes, and you do not need another bag.” I swear to you, guys like shoes and bags. Clothing is probably going to be the big obvious thing, so a lot of guys come in shopping for clothing. I think secondary to that, guys really like shoes and bags. Our business is pretty well diversified; you get guys coming in for every single category.
Q: Grooming products are sold within the store as well. Do you feel being well groomed is as much a part of looking good with fashion?
SS: Yeah! I’m personally more clean-cut, but I think even now you see a lot of guys with facial hair. But I think even when you have a lot of facial hair, there’s a lot of maintenance just to keep a beard. If you’re growing a full beard, or you’re growing a full mustache, you’re most likely hardcore about it. In the beginning, guys that are doing that will tell you that even if you’re growing your facial hair out, you need to be manicuring it or keeping it groomed on a regular basis.
Q: To be located in The OC Mix is an exciting and bustling place to be. How has this particular location helped with business?
SS: In a number of ways. I love Orange County, and I obviously live down here although I grew up in San Diego. I’ve been all over parts of California at one point or another. But down in Orange County, things are mostly associated with the beach. We’re not a surf shop, but what I wanted to do was try to find a really cool environment that brought out the uniqueness of the store. We first started out as an online concept, but once we saw the space, we fell in love with it. I think what the other retailers and restaurants in The OC Mix are trying to do plays very well with our brand. I think for us, it’s obviously highlighted the brand and helped us establish it.
Q: If a man is looking to update his wardrobe, what are some staple pieces that should be purchased?
SS: Denim is obviously really big at the moment. But I think at the top of everyone’s list, besides a pair of jeans, is an everyday tee. Mine used to be a V-neck, but I think right now it’s just that everyday pocket tee. We carry a brand called Groceries which is just phenomenal. They use organic material which is made here locally and the fit is perfect.
Cloth & Metal
3313 Hyland Ave, Ste A15
Costa Mesa, CA 92626