Ge Wang graduated from DePaul University College of Law in 2012 and spent a few months practicing as an attorney before deciding to call it quits and focus on his passion -- creating bespoke suits and shoes for affluent individuals. But Wang didn't completely separate from his legal background. He incorporated a common abbreviation "esq," short for "esquire," into the name of his company, ESQ Clothing.
Less than 4 years later, Wang is outfitting roughly 150 NFL players and almost a dozen players in the NBA. Some of his more prominent clients include running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Antonio Brown, quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Miami Heat's Josh Richardson. Wang also has a heavy focus on outfitting those surrounding Notre Dame athletics, including head football coach Brian Kelly.
How did Wang build his business among high profile athletes?
Wang had no real experience in the custom suit and shoe business before leaving behind his law degree to measure athletes and cater to their apparel desires. He says he benefited from friends of friends, word of mouth and a lot of social media.
The now 30-year-old Wang had a major opportunity. This occurred in the infancy of his business when he was introduced to the aforementioned Forte through a friend of a friend who is a retired Chicago Bears fullback.
Forte told Wang that he had one shot. If Wang screwed up then the relationship would end as quickly as it began.
Fortunately for Wang, Forte is still a client today. He is also responsible for referring many other clients, including running back Jamal Charles. Charles saw Forte wearing an ESQ Clothing blue velvet tuxedo at an NFL Honors event and sent Forte a message on Instagram asking where the outfit came from. The rest is history and now Charles is an ESQ Clothing client as well.
Wang works on lower margins, but keeps the costs low.
"We are able to survive at our margins while others are ripping people off," said Wang. "I'm not taking 21-year-old girls to take measurements. I take the measurements myself. No gimmicks."
Wang is basically a one-man operation. He has one person running his shop in Chicago, Illinois while he is on the road (which is all the time). In the last 4 weeks, Wang has traveled to 11 U.S. cities, Italy and China. It is a busy time, because NFL players are in Training Camp and want their attire before the season starts.
Wang has also hired one public relations assistant. That's it. However, Wang does plan to hire additional help in the social media realm.
In fact, Wang was operating out of his condominium until he took control of the retail shop only 1 year ago. His costs are low, as is his pricing compared to the competition in his space.
"People always think we're crazy priced," said Wang. "A lot of people will charge exorbitant amounts for inferior product. We start at $2,000. A lot of athletes pay others $20,000 for 4 suits. Rookies know no better."
Competition drives Wang's business.
Wang's mother is an entrepreneur and his father is a lawyer. He took a lot of heat from his parents when he decided to leave law for the apparel industry, although his entrepreneur mother was a bit more supportive than his father. She taught him that if he was going to follow his passion, he needed a plan.
Wang was an observer of the Allen Iverson rule -- the NBA's implementation of a dress code. Iverson is still upset that he wasn't able to wear whatever he wanted to off the basketball court.
It caused NBA players to start competing with each other off the court in a game based on style. This has spread to NFL circles as well.
Today, Wang is not only fancying up the players, but working with them on endorsement deals. One such opportunity presented itself when Skittles approached ESQ Clothing to outfit Brown in a Skittles jacket.