Dallas E-Retailer Need to Expand With Foremost, Plans to Raise Funds

Black Friday is just days away and Matt Alexander, founder and CEO of e-commerce site Need, says he’s not only ready for the onslaught of holiday shoppers, he’s busy hatching a retail sibling.

Alexander plans to unveil the new site, Foremost, at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Foremost will offer lower-priced clothing to cater to a younger crowd, 18-to-25-year-olds, compared with the 26-to-42-year-olds who shop at Need. “All the clothes will be made in the USA, designed in-house,” he says. “We have a creative director now. We’re designing the first few collections and sourcing fabric right now.”

I caught up with Alexander last week during a trip to Dallas to see what was going on with Need a year after launch. Turns out, quite a bit. Need, which features a monthly selection of men’s wear and accessories—think brown suede monkstrap shoes or a down vest in moss-green—has grown to around 200,000 users and in October made its debut at New York Fashion week.

“It was pretty eye-opening,” says Alexander, a 27-year-old graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a former technical writer for Southwest Airlines. “They were wary . . . there is a strong dislike of flash sales.”

The main distinction between Need and other fashion e-commerce sites is that it does not offer such sales, Alexander says. Need’s products are offered at a full retail price of which Need takes a cut. Having a presence at New York Fashion week, one of the industry’s most important events, he added, sends a message that, although Need is online, it operates like its more traditional fashion counterparts do.

The e-commerce site is one among a growing cluster of e-retail startups in Dallas. At the Houndstooth coffee shop in a rapidly gentrifying east Dallas neighborhood where we met, Alexander paused regularly to point out or introduce me to those entrepreneurs. One of them was, Bryan DeLuca, co-founder of Foot Cardigan, a sock subscription service.

The two earlier this month opened a brick-and-mortar storefront in the city’s edgy Deep Ellum neighborhood east of downtown. The store, Unbranded, will remain open through the end of the year and houses a local coffee bean roaster, brewer, and distiller. The idea is to create a “creative space” while also giving entrepreneurs exposure. Companies such as MailChimp and SoftLayer—a Dallas software company bought last year by IBM—and a local law firm, among other businesses, are sponsors of the effort.

In total, Alexander says Need has raised $525,000 in seed funding. Six months after its launch last spring, new investors came on board, including Greg B. Abbott, former CEO of Ithaca Industries, a New York private-label apparel manufacturer; Imran Sheikh, U.S. director of retailer Aftershock London; and Mobelux, Need’s technology development partner.

Plans are underway to create localized versions of each of the collections, including one for London where Alexander grew up.

To support the development of Foremost, as well as localized sites, Need is currently speaking with investors in order to raise a Series A round in the seven figures by Christmas, Alexander says.

“We’ve proven our initial concept and, now, the challenge will be . . . to build upon that and turn this into a large-scale operation in the U.S. and abroad,” he added.


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