The clothes you wear say a lot about you, often literally. Whether it's a sports mascot, a tourist destination, a school affiliation or a fashion logo -- the odds are good that you own a shirt (or two or three) that makes a very public statement about some aspect of your life.
Tori Young certainly hopes so.
Young, 43, is the founder of Warrior Poet, a boys’ clothing brand aimed at spreading messages about the need for parents to raise “men of character and principle.”
Young chose the company name because it evokes an era when gallant knights and samurai warriors provided boys with strong role models. It’s a theme woven into the shirts and hoodies, which feature words and images, including “Hero,” “E Pluribus Unum,” soaring eagles and the raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima.
While his fashion imagery may be rooted in the past, his WarriorPoet.clothing website name is planted firmly and very deliberately in the present. In the winter of 2015, heeding the advice of staffers who alerted him that the extension ‘dot-clothing’ (.clothing) was becoming available, Young seized on the opportunity.
“This domain name is much more descriptive about what we are doing than the one we were using before,” says Young, whose previous website name was www.warriorpoetclothier.com. “People didn’t know how to spell ‘clothier.’ We were an early adopter of a ‘dot-clothing’ domain.With our new domain, we’ve kept it very simple.”
Young, in fact, has already taken steps to leverage newly available domain names - options that range from ‘dot-fitness’ (.fitness) to ‘dot-agency’ (.agency) to ‘dot-wtf’ (.wtf) - in other ways,as well. He also owns the WarriorPoet.movie website name, which he intends to use to market five films he plans to make. Each movie will have a storyline involving Warrior Poet characters.
“That was always part of my plan,” says Young, who started his company in late 2010. In fact, his WarriorPoet.clothing website already features blog posts, activities and videos that focus on four core values: temperance, valor, loyalty and wisdom.
“We want to start a conversation between parents and kids about what it means to be a loyal friend or son,” says Young, the father of two boys, ages 8 and 10. Young’s idea for Warrior Poet apparel was inspired by his wife’s frustration with not being able to find boys’ clothing that was both “cool and affordable.” He set out to design clothes that would spread the time-tested ideal of the warrior-poet as a role model, combining heart, intelligence and determination. The company subtly weaves a merchandising opportunity into each discussion.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, by the way, we have really cool clothes,’” says Young, whose garments retail for between $22 and $32.
A startup success story
Young’s strategy appears to be working extremely well: sales in 2015 topped $1 million, and he expects to double that in 2016.
Warrior Poet shirts and hoodies are sold in major retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Von Maur, and at 300 smaller boutiques across the country, as well as through WarriorPoet.clothing.
This year one of Young's primary goals is to revamp his retail strategy so that the company is less reliant on boutique retailers, because, as he notes, "boutiques come and go, which means we have to continually go out and get new ones.” Part of his strategy will entail leveraging the full e-commerce potential of the WarriorPoet.clothing site.
From football player to fashion mogul
His appreciation for leading a balanced life came from his own upbringing. Young was captain of his high school football team, and also a talented singer. Instead of playing football in college--he led his high school team to back-to-back state championships--Young opted to study opera and graphic design.
After graduating college in 1994, he took a series of sales jobs in industries ranging from insurance to printing. But “I could never see it being my life’s calling,” he says. In the late 1990’s, while working in radio advertising, Young reconnected with his musical ambitions. He started and managed his own band, serving as lead singer. In 2001, having “achieved what I wanted to achieve,” including some prestigious local gigs, Young became a real-estate agent. But by 2010, he was bored.
“I could do it with my eyes closed,” he recalls. “I needed something where I had a creative outlet.” His wife’s clothes-shopping dilemma prompted him to seek the advice of a neighbor, a successful clothing designer.
By early 2011, with the Warrior Poet concept firmly in mind, Young attended MAGIC, the fashion industry trade show. “I had to sell people on my idea and what we were going to do, since we had done very little up to that time,” he says.
He succeeded far beyond his expectations, collecting more orders on the first day than he had projected for the first three years. He also connected with a Mexico-based manufacturer that "knew what my margins needed to be and could meet them, without me having to travel for hours and hours to Asia,” he says. “It was perfect.”
Looking ahead: expansion & e-commerce
As Young looks to broaden and stabilize his retail footprint and make WarriorPoet.clothing more commerce-friendly, he is also mulling extensions to his product line. While Young's parenting experience inspired him to launch his company with a focus on boys' clothing, the company does offer a few items aimed at girls, and Young sees that as one logical extension of the brand. "We're building out a framework for girls' and moms' clothing now, and expect to launch it in 2017," he says.
Meanwhile, he couldn't be happier with his decision to shift his domain to WarriorPoet.clothing. It's “simple and clean,” he says, “and while I still pre-emptively tell people that we are a 'dot-clothing' and not a 'dot-com,' people have quickly grown accustomed to our website name.”
Or, put another way, it doesn't take a warrior or a poet to explain the wisdom behind Young's loyalty to the domain name WarriorPoet.clothing.
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