At just about a year old, Grailed.com is quickly becoming one of the premier online destinations for secondhand designer gear. Founder Arun Gupta started the site as a way to put the experience of shopping at niche forums like StyleForum and Reddit on a more accessible platform, and it's not uncommon to find everything from Rick Owens leather jackets to Supreme collaborations on offer.
Its relatively minimal design and absurdly easy selling process is intuitive to both the casual reseller trying to clean out his closet and the seasoned flipper who's ready for an eBay alternative with a highly engaged and specialized audience. Even industry figures, like street style photographer Tommy Ton, admit to regularly browsing the site: "If you’re a really smart shopper, you can go online to grailed.com or Yoox... and find things for much, much less," he says.
We caught up with the 26-year-old founder to talk about the site's beginnings, plans for growth, and how to get the best deals on Grailed.
You're a tech guy by trade. You coded Grailed yourself. What were you doing before?
WakeMate was my first company, it was also out here in San Francisco. We made this wristband that you wear in your sleep and it tracks your sleep cycle and wakes you up at the right time, stuff like that. So it was challenging to make a hardware product, especially one that we manufactured down in California. It was great, and now I’m doing something I’m a little bit more passionate about rather than just random sleep technology.
I get a lot of menswear forum vibes in the DNA and culture of the site. Were you ever on them?
I was using Styleforum’s Marketplace and a little bit of Reddit’s marketplace and buying stuff and I was like, “This is great, but it would be awesome if it was way more popular.” And there’s no way for it to be more popular unless it’s a separate site that’s actually dedicated to this. I started doing it cause I wanted better deals and I made the site. You’re right—it’s very heavily influenced by the forums, the early users were the forum people and it basically absorbed up all the forum transactions.
Can you describe the typical Grailed shopper?
There are a few separate contingents, I’d say. You have like the contemporary streetwear guys, where it’s like Norse Projects or Our Legacy. Then you have the more hypebeast-type people who wear Supreme—you can see there’s like a large contingent of Supreme people on the site. There are some people into tailoring, but that’s a smaller amount.
What are some of the most popular brands you see on the site?
It’s pretty diverse I would say. It’s well representative of what’s popular in general. So there’s a lot of Band of Outsiders, a lot of Our Legacy, Norse Projects, a lot of A.P.C raw denim—like a crazy amount—every day there are multiple new pairs of A.P.C. jeans. 3sixteen denim is pretty strong. And a lot of J.Crew.
"If you’re like: 'Oh man, I really wanna get this new jacket, I have to sell a few things that I have,' you can possibly get that money within 24 hours."
About how much money has moved on the site so far?
We currently have sellers who have personally moved $10,000-$20,000 on the site. The average sale price is around $120.
Do you remember the most expensive item that’s been sold on the site?
Oh yeah. I think it was a Carol Christian Poell jacket, that brand's so expensive. Maybe a fencing jacket. We actually sell [Rick Owens] Geobaskets for like $700 constantly. But yeah, the most expensive thing was Carol Christian Poell Scar Stitched Leather Jacket that cost $2,500.
Wow, so with each sale does Grailed make a percentage of the transaction? How is it making money?
It’s all free right now, other than the processing cut Paypal takes. We’re just trying to spread the site as much as possible, since it was just me working on the site, the initial costs weren’t super high. Now that the site is getting more traffic and it’s becoming more popular, we probably have to re-think that in the new year. Right now we’re still focused on spreading the message and getting people to use it.
A lot of people start off in Reddit or Styleforum, learn the basics, and eventually move on. What was your experience like?
I was AJustRun on Reddit's /malefashionadvice, so that was how I got started. I was basically on /malefashionadvice maybe like four years ago or something like that. And you know, it’s kind of a beginner forum, so I started experimenting with other brands that I hadn’t really heard of, because I mostly shopped at J. Crew or mall brands, but there’s this whole new world of like, Billy Reid and Norse Projects. All this different stuff, especially independent stuff that was only available online. It was exciting, but I was in college and pretty poor, so from there I graduated to the Styleforum marketplace and I was a lot more active there talking to people.
Were you AJustRun on Styleforum as well?
You know, I think I was banned from Styleforum for making Grailed. I don’t know if you can find my account.
Forums can be temperamental like that.
Yeah they’re prickly. But yeah, I was using the marketplace and getting introduced to brands like Common Projects. I could never afford those new, so I'd buy them used off the marketplace. I’ve fallen out of forum culture a little bit lately. It's kind of repetitive and a little tired sometimes.
I feel like there are more accessible platforms, like Instagram and Tumblr. Forums aren't really a mobile-friendly media, either. You no longer need a DSLR and a tripod to take a fit pic. It's all on your phone now.
Yeah absolutely. I’ve really been into Tumblr and Instagram. Mostly Instagram lately, but I was following Lawrence Schlossman's How to Talk to Girls At Parties for a while and Liam Goslett’s GAWS. So, I was super into Tumblr, but the forums are kind of a gateway; you get into the forums, you learn a little bit, you buy things that are super hype for a while and you kind of find your own style and graduate out of the forums.
What are these specialized consumers looking for on a service like Grailed that they couldn’t find on eBay?
I think that the magic of Grailed when you compare it to eBay or Etsy is the curation aspect of it. We have a couple community moderators so if the stuff isn’t good or it doesn’t fit with the aesthetic of the site they just delete it, and we have the Grailed Basic section where we can move all the low-end stuff, like H&M, Gap, and Uniqlo into. It really keeps the homepage pretty tight, and if you think about it, all the stuff that people are selling on Grailed is stuff they purchased at retail—so it’s kind of a curated selection of every collection from every different designer.
Every once in a while you get some stupid product somebody is trying to sell because it was a terrible purchase, but usually it’s like Norse Projects or Rick Owens jackets. Like, pretty popular stuff. So if you come to the homepage the first time, you’re like, “Oh man Helmut Lang, Alexander Wang! These are all really nice things and they are good deals.”
What's the point of difference between Grailed and Grailed Basic?
It's somewhere around J. Crew. Obviously, J. Crew Factory goes on Grailed Basic, but so would J. Crew T-shirts and polos. J. Crew outerwear would probably stay on the main Grailed site. It's kind of fuzzy. It's a little bit based on taste. Every once in a while there's a really good Zara piece that's a reproduction of something from Julius or something, and I just leave it, because I think it's really awesome and more people browse the main site.
How many visits does Grailed Basic get versus the main Grailed site?
It’s low, maybe it’s like a fifth of the homepage traffic. Per month, I’d say Grailed.com gets visits around the mid-six figures. One of the things we actually track a little more heavily is time on the site—when someone comes to the site, how long do they stay on? How many pages do they view? On average, we’ve found that people spend six minutes on Grailed, which is pretty high I think.
The other metric we track heavily is the sell-through rate—if you post something to Grailed, how likely is it that it’ll sell within 30 days—and that’s at 65 percent for us, which is really exciting. Of that 65 percent, about half of that sells within the first day, which is pretty awesome if you’re trying to get liquidity. So if you’re like: “Oh man, I really wanna get this new jacket, I have to sell a few things that I have,” you can possibly get that money within 24 hours. I’m surprised by it, honestly.
That’s definitely a common practice amongst clothing enthusiasts—the idea of reselling old things in order to fund new purchases.
Dude, that happened to me the other day with a pair of Incotex chinos that I saw on MR PORTER. They were skinny cotton linen cargos, they were green, and they were fucking awesome. I was like “I had no idea this existed, but I need to have it now.”
MR PORTER has great shots of their product. Do the product photos affect the sale price of an item on Grailed?
I think there’s a juxtaposition between a lot of people using stock photos in their Grailed photos, and the price is like half off retail. So you see the stock photo that you see on a retail site and then you see the price and think, "Wow, that’s way lower than I thought it would be." Which is definitely really interesting. I think when it comes to Grailed users, they just want a nice browsing experience. When you go to eBay or Etsy you have to search for exactly what you are looking for—so like a Supreme cap that’s blue or whatever. A Filson jacket, an Engineered Garments Bedford Jacket, you have to know the exact name of the product otherwise you aren’t going to find it . On Grailed, you don’t have to know exactly what you are looking for, but you just come to the site and scroll through. It’s more of like a window shopping experience, which is what we were trying to go for. It’s one of the reasons we don’t have a search bar.
So the lack of search functionality is meant to encourage a sense of discovery?
Yeah it was intentional early on, but now a lot of people have been asking for it. It makes more sense, and maybe to have a description—so you can search the description as well, not just the title. We’ll definitely do it in the future, but early on it was very much our intention to say: “Come to the site, don’t filter all the way down to what you are looking for right now. Scroll through, because you’ll see a lot of stuff that you would like and wouldn't have found otherwise.”
Do you find that some brands have more retail value than others even when used? There's obvious labels like Supreme with a bit of resell cachet, but are there other outliers?
It varies based on how used it is, or if it’s like brand new, but stuff on the site sells for half off. I think that certain stuff definitely has a stronger hold on its value—like Common Projects, they rarely go below half off unless it’s like a really obscure model. Achilles retail at like four or five hundred and they almost always resell for $300 or $250+.
"The type of person who can't afford to spend $200 on a piece that doesn't work out always has Grailed as a backup."
I’ve always found that crazy for Common Projects in particular, you can hardly find a pair of white Achilles Lows for under 200 bucks.
Yeah it’s just not gonna happen. Honestly, I think it’s a combination of the fact that people who buy menswear are really into the idea that it will last forever. We buy clothes which are handmade with the best materials and they’ll never fall apart and you can wear them for 30 years. Whether that’s true or not, or if they actually do wear it multiple years is another question, but I think that contributes to the resale value.
If you’re reselling Common Projects and you’re like “Oh, I wore these for a year,” but you can probably wear them for another ten years because they are plenty of life left in them. People love to say that in the description: “plenty of life left.” So that's one thing, and then with Common Projects, there is just so much hype around them. Everybody loves Common Projects. But beyond that, A.P.C. has a pretty high resale value, which is surprising. Their denim retails for $185, and regularly they sell on Grailed for $100+. It doesn’t even matter how used it is honestly, but that might have something to do with the fact that everyone loves A.P.C denim.
It seems brands like A.P.C. and Common Projects are standard issue in the menswear starter kit.
Yeah, and then you know a little more niche brands like Hender Scheme have been popping up on the site lately—and those do not drop in price at all. Even if they're used maybe, it'll be like $100 off, and the retail price is like $700. They sell for like $500-600 regularly. The Rick Owens, Julius, and Boris Bidjan Saberi stuff also sells pretty high—all the sort of goth ninja, dark designers. That stuff resells pretty high, because it’s just cult people.
There isn’t a lot of price asymmetry in the market because it's so small. So everybody on StyleZeitgeist probably sees every single piece with that aesthetic on Grailed when it’s posted. So it’s not like the really good deals on Grailed get slept on. They share it all across the forum, they post it everywhere like, "someone should buy this, it's such a good deal!" Everybody knows about it.
Are there any brands you keep a lookout for on Grailed?
Visvim. I love seeing Visvim on the site. That’s one of the reasons I started Grailed, so I could buy a pair of FBTs on the cheap. It hasn’t happened yet, because the ones that have been in my size have been too expensive, but I really want the FBT Bearfoots—I’m so into them, and it’s the one thing I’ve been looking for. Visvim, Kapital, and stuff is really nice because the people who buy it aren’t really the type of people who resell things. There’s a small set of people who “trade up” for Visvim, or have one Visvim piece at a time and sell it to get another one. But generally the kind of people who buy Visvim are the people who have it sit in their closet, so every time I see something like that pop up it’s exciting, because I feel like I’m getting a different kind of customer on the site.
I like seeing raw denim on the site, and I love seeing obscure brands too, there's that brand that launched a little while ago that makes sweats, Aimé Leon Dore. I saw a couple of pieces from them pop up on the site from people who had mis-sized or whatever. They were very hyped and sold out almost immediately. Unionmade had a crazy sale recently, and a ton of that stuff flooded Grailed over the next couple of days. The same thing happened after the Self Edge and Que Pasa sale, that stuff ended up on Grailed as well, but that's the whole point: If you buy something or take a chance on something expensive, like a $200 jacket, the type of person who can't afford to spend $200 on a piece that doesn't work out, always has Grailed as a backup. You can recover most of your money.
In that sense, it's kind of like Flight Club for clothes and high-fashion items.
I think Flight Club is awesome. They're doing really, really well, and they have a great model. Everything that they do, they cater towards their consumer, and everything I put into the site, is for the people who are buying and selling stuff.
The main difference is you don’t necessarily need clothes to be deadstock or in the box to necessarily see the value in them.
Absolutely. It’s all about the desire, it’s all about how bad you want it. And if you can buy it of what you would pay retail, it’s very easy to not care that it’s used. I think that’s one of the reasons Geobaskets sell so well, people just need to have them, and they don’t care about the box.
My favorite feature on Grailed is the ability to make and entertain offers. It's sort of like Pawn Stars.
People love negotiating, they love haggling. So if something’s listed for $100, they’ll send an offer for like $90. If they can even get it for $95, they’re super happy.
Do you have any tips for swag-haggling?
On the site you can’t send an offer that’s less than half of the asking price—I had to do that because people were sending offers that were less than that. Try to knock maybe $20-$30 off depending on how badly you want it.
I’ve lost out on a ton of stuff because a seller received higher offers than mine. And it’s like “damn it, I really wanted that; I was just an idiot trying to haggle.” If you really want something, don’t haggle too much, maybe try to get free shipping, but if you’re on the fence, send a reasonable offer, think about what you’d actually pay.
Lastly, do you get a discount when buying stuff off your own site?
I wish man, I wish.