Grana

Client: Forbes feat. Grana
Website: grana.com
Date: June 8, 2016
Services: Profile
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In Hong Kong’s burgeoning industrial Wong Chuk Hang district, past the cement trucks and a handful of cranes, around the corner from the warehouse adorned top-to-bottom with orange and white graffiti, is where you’ll find Elephant Grounds, a hip coffee shop that sells Pop Tarts and plays 2 Chainz over too-loud-to-concentrate Bang & Oluffson speakers. But when you look out Elephant Grounds’ picture window, your gaze is met by five over-sized sans serif letters: GRANA. Sans serif seems to be the flavor of the day in this up-and-coming creative neighborhood, and it’s not the least of reasons why Wong Chuk Hang is the perfect place for Hong Kong’s most disruptive apparel startup to call home.

Luke Grana, the startup’s eponymous founder, wears a tidy white button-up and deep denim jeans when I meet him at Grana HQ. He’s charismatic in an unimposing sort of way, like a good party host amongst new arrivals. A serial entrepreneur with multiple successful exits under his belt, Luke oozes with prescience as he displays Grana’s product expansion timeline for the next 6+ months, which is neatly arranged by month along the open-concept office’s south wall. “We’ve already got 2,000 SKUs,” he tells me, leaving the obvious unsaid: We’re just getting started.

Much like the styling of their clothing, Grana’s founding moment was a modest one: Luke was visiting his brother Alex in Peru when he was exposed to Peruvian pima cotton. The feeling of the fabric, a soft, smooth cotton unlike what he’d experienced before, shocked him. “Really soft,” he emphasizes with wide eyes as he handles one of Grana’s own pima cotton tees; it’s clear that for Luke, that formative moment in Peru lives on every day through what they’re building at Grana.

The Peruvian pima cotton tees are one of Grana shoppers' favorites. Photo: Grana
Photo: Grana

But Grana’s inception is only one example of the hyper-rational nature of its founder at work. As Luke flushed out the concept back in Sydney, Australia, he started from the ground up on every decision, drilling all the way down to the best city in which to headquarter the company long-term. For Luke, the decision was easy: because Grana cuts out all the middlemen and takes fabrics direct from their source – be it Peruvian cotton, Mongolian cashmere, or Japanese denim – to Grana’s warehouse to the end consumer, the answer was wherever it makes the most sense to ship globally from.

Where is that? Not New York, not London, but the world’s largest air cargo hub: Hong Kong. So without hesitation, he moved the company to Hong Kong, a decision that’s already paying big dividends. Thanks to three DHL pickups from the Grana warehouse every day, orders within Hong Kong are delivered same-day, while USA orders are put on one of a dozen daily DHL planes going across the Pacific so that they reach their customer’s doorsteps within 24-48 hours of them clicking Buy.

For Grana’s customers, whose average purchase size currently sits at $108 USD and growing, that’s a beautiful thing.

Still, there’s a striking resemblance to Warby Parker, the American eyewear brand that’s been disrupting how millennials buy glasses in a similar way to what Grana is doing with apparel. The light sky blue branding aside, Luke admits that Grana has kept an eye on Warby Parker, an admission that shines through in Grana’s attention to details like the handwritten thank-you note and explainer cards outlining your chosen fabric’s origin, which are included with every purchase.

Yet the company’s simplistic designs and wide range of colors brings to mind another fast-growing Asian apparel brand: Uniqlo. Luke assured, though, that while he’s a big admirer of Uniqlo, Grana’s customers don’t overlap with Uniqlo’s as much as it may seem.

“If we tell a Uniqlo shopper we’ve got this beautiful French poplin fabric, they say to us, ‘Well, I’m happy with just a regular fabric, and I just want a good price.’ Yet when we show our fabrics to someone shopping at more luxury brands and tell them our price point is where it is, they totally get it.”

And that’s why a remarkable 50% of Grana’s sales come from repeat buyers – not only are their fabrics akin to those you find in garments four times their price, but the prices themselves, at times, seem shockingly low.

“If we can, we’ll break the rules,” Luke told me, adding with a less-than-subtle grin, “These are exciting times.”

They certainly are. And in this booming metropolis of Hong Kong, where fast is never fast enough, Grana knows it all too well.

This profile was originally published on Forbes.com

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