Cuts Clothing was born in 2016 when office dress codes were transitioning yet it was impossible to find a t-shirt with a comfortable athletic feel that was acceptable for both work and after-hours wear. Ad agency employee turned apparel brand founder Steven Borrelli created this One-to-Watch to fill that void. Five years later, Cuts is now the largest manufacturer in its category and sees itself as the first “sports-leisure” brand owning the workplace. They are even on track to hit 9-figure revenues this year.
In addition to its core collection, Cuts has a Friday drop that is consistently a success. “We sell out every week and it gives our customers a chance to get excited for unique products and colorways that are part of a small batch run,” said Borrelli. “These special drops allow us to take calculated risks.”
Community engagement is everything to Cuts Clothing, whether it’s connecting through live events (pre-pandemic) or via direct feedback from customers. And when the company noticed an increased demand for additional product lines, Cuts introduced outerwear and bottoms. “We are unusual in that most brands just come out with everything in the beginning rather than starting with one great product that you’re known for and then building your brand from there,” Borrelli said.
The next phase for Cuts is expanding distribution, including opening retail stores this coming year, starting with Los Angeles in Q1 and then New York by midyear. Being a digitally native brand with tons of data at its fingertips, Borrelli views physical retail as a low-risk venture offering new opportunities for brand discovery and awareness. He believes giving customers a chance to touch and feel the product in person will ultimately increase customer lifetime value.
Cuts Clothing has been bootstrapped since its inception, with financial support coming from friends, family, and Kickstarter. Building a profitable business without needing outside equity was always Borrelli’s goal, and it has allowed him to operate it exactly how he wants. “At this point, hundreds of people have reached out and there continues to be great interest from the investment community, but we are continuing to hold out for now,” he said. “Our goal is to be a billion-dollar brand and IPO one day.” One-to-Watch, indeed.
This One-to-Watch is a family affair. Growing up in a household with 10 kids, Jimmy Sansone and his siblings were always encouraged to think outside of the box. While working in investment banking after college, Sansone embraced his childhood creativity and had a shirt custom-made to suit his lifestyle. And people liked it. So, Sansone launched The Normal Brand in his parent’s basement in 2015 and recruited his brothers, Lan and Conrad, to join forces with him. The brothers credit their love of style to the sharpest dressers they know —their father and grandfather.
With no prior fashion experience, the Sansone brothers make most design decisions from a “customer first” mentality. Thus, comfort and value are paramount. The Normal Brand’s products carry a classic, rugged feel and are created in an assortment of fabrics, washes, and fits to “get you through your normal feeling better,” as Sansone put it. Customers can learn more about its signature fabrics, follow along on a family hunting trip, or join the brothers on a quest for the best St. Louis sandwich via original content on the brand’s website and social channels. For the Sansone brothers, it’s all about keeping their customers engaged and coming back for more.
With a resurgence of brick-and-mortar opportunities, the Sansones are excited to continue The Normal Brand’s retail expansion in 2022 (including a second location in Nashville) to connect with customers in person. Staying true to its family roots, their mother personally designs each store they open. In addition to its physical footprint, the company has plans to expand its wholesale network of independent retailers throughout the country.
Like our first One-to-Watch Cuts, The Normal Brand has been completely bootstrapped since its inception. The brothers’ personal touch makes it clear why the brand has such a strong following.
The name of our last One-to-Watch originates from the split second it takes athletes to push past their limitations and achieve their goals. Splits59 hopes their products will empower women to do just that.
Founded by triathletes Jonathan Schwartz and Keith Peterson, Splits59’s athletic apparel is built to be high-style and high-performance. An athleisure brand at its core, the company saw sales surge in 2020 during the pandemic. As the world transitions back into pre-pandemic routines, Splits59 wants its customers to think of their purchases not only as workout gear but as part of their day-to-day uniform. As Vice President of DTC Shannon Quarantino said, “Our story has really transitioned from one focused solely on activewear to one focused on an active lifestyle, where our girl can grab coffee, do a workout, or head to work in some of our pieces mixed with her other wardrobe favorites.”
Sustainability is always top of mind at Splits59, especially when considering which raw materials to source and where and how products are produced. Over the course of last year, the brand also started to rethink how it goes about sourcing and developing products, thinking more strategically about the DTC business in general — and about the products they’re creating and inventory they’re stocking. Staying true to its eco-conscious roots, Splits59 will be introducing upgraded sustainable packaging in the coming months, just one of the ways it is contributing to our collective greener future.
Ones to Watch is produced in partnership with Rosenthal & Rosenthal — a proud supporter of growing brands through factoring, asset-based lending, production financing and d2c and e-commerce inventory financing. Click here to learn more about Rosenthal’s newest division, Pipeline™, offering growth capital solutions exclusively for high-growth DTC and e-commerce businesses.