On the fourth floor of a SoHo walk-up, there’s a one-room loft filled with ten computers and, seated at every one of them, a corresponding twenty-something guy wearing mostly black. Each employee endlessly switches back and forth between open tabs on their browsers, responding to emails in between. In the corner are clothing racks packed with pieces that make any fashion follower’s knees buckle: late ‘90s Helmut Lang, bankable Raf Simons, rare finds from Japanese brand Undercover. They’re humble surroundings, spiked with dashes of luxury, a visual metaphor for what has quickly become the leading authority in used menswear: Grailed.
For those who aren’t the type to drop a G on a Rick Owens leather jacket from three seasons ago, some background: Grailed is the hyper-specific version of eBay made for menswear nerds. Since launching in late 2013, it has become the service of choice for discerning guys to sell their used clothing. Founder Arun Gupta built Grailed after realizing there was no used clothing service that catered specifically to men. “I spent so much time on StyleForum, SuperFuture, and StyleZeitgeist trying to come up on good deals, but I had no money and no job,” Arun says. “When you can cop a $240 sweater for $40, that’s an amazing thing. So clearly, the deals are great. But you feel like a rookie and outsider—people are mean to you and judge you. There’s a large barrier to entry that makes it difficult.”
With a clear mission in mind, Arun coded what would become Grailed in three months. He launched the site in December 2013 with a tight selection of about 200 items he personally listed, culled from the collections of guys he had met on the forums. The site debuted under the radar of pretty much everyone outside of the small internet menswear community Arun alerted himself.
“The early Grailed marketplace was a super high concentration of people who were very knowledgeable about fashion and had great brands, because they only bought the best stuff,” Arun says. He trolled for comments on Reddit, using the feedback to make instant updates. “I remember the top comment when I launched it was was ‘You can’t filter by size? What the hell!’ And I immediately went and built the filter-by-size feature.”
Sellers who once posted their items on StyleForum or Reddit now had an easier way to reach other enthusiasts. Grailed also worked in direct opposition to eBay, endearing itself to casual sellers who simply wanted to free up closet space. “On eBay, you either sell zero or you sell thousands,” Arun says. “No one sells two things on eBay, but on Grailed we have thousands of people who do, and it’s no big deal.”
“I can’t do eBay,” says Jacob Keller, manager of Portland menswear boutique Machus, who’s also worked with Nike and Jordan Brand. “There’s too much clutter and I don’t trust people there. You can stumble across eBay, but people are on Grailed because they know what it is. It’s close-knit—I’ve bought from people multiple times and they’ve bought from me multiple times.”
After converting the forum heads and making its way in front of fashion insiders and menswear nerds, Grailed has a strong base: 70,000+ listings are posted each month by 200,000 active users. Arun says Grailed facilitates hundreds of sales each day, with an average selling price of about $150. The typical Grailed shopper looks a lot like the team of men’s fashion junkies Arun assembled to run the site. If you’ve been following the #menswear movement, you may even recognize their names: brand director Lawrence Schlossman, former Four Pins Editor-in-Chief and co-author of Fuck Yeah! Menswear; Community Manager Nico Lazaro, a prolific Tumblr user who previously worked at New York brand Ovadia & Sons; and marketing director Jake Metzger, a recovering Tumblr blogger himself who’s logged hours at other fashion startups. If you need proof of how deeply entrenched the Grailed staff is in the world they’re helping fuel, during our interview, two Grailed team members unboxed a recently delivered package—the sold out, insanely coveted, $800 Titanic-inspired “Coming Soon” hoodie from Vetements. And speaking of the French brand, perhaps you’ve seen that raincoat made by parody brand Vetememes that’s been all over the internet lately? That was spawned by Grailed employee Davil Tran.
This “for enthusiasts by enthusiasts” mentality has helped Grailed evolve just like the Internet-powered menswear scene has. As more people have caught wind of Grailed, it’s become a hotbed for resellers trying to flip hyped gear like Supreme or Yeezy Boosts for profit. The immediate response: Create a “Hype” section so new listings don’t clog the main feed, and add a trust and safety team.
“In the first year, the worst thing that happened was somebody didn’t ship their item,” Arun says. “No one sold a fake item. But if you look at the marketplace now, we have people combing the marketplace for fakes. It’s part of their full-time job, and that’s really important. If people lose trust in the market, that’s the worst thing that can happen.”
That, and the looming threat of what happens when you’re no longer the new kid on the blog. As of now, Grailed has unveiled some forward-looking initiatives that offer a taste of how they’ll stay fresh as they continue to grow. The Grailed 100, a project that involved acquiring 100 rare menswear pieces to offer back to the community at unbeatable prices, was the first installment in what the team hopes to be a seasonal undertaking. As of press time, 99 out of the 100 items have sold, the sole exception a pair of waxed Dior jeans. The project also laid the groundwork for editorial content like interviews, shop visits, product roundups, and brand profiles that will live on Grailed’s recently-launched blog, Dry Clean Only.
The company has even dipped its foot in the pool of white glove services, helping influential people track down certain rare pieces of menswear lore they might not be able to find themselves. It remains a strictly case-by-case venture. Grailed declined to confirm any clients, but a quick scroll through their Instagram feed turns up photos of teen model Luka Sabbat at the company’s HQ (wearing that Vetements Titanic hoodie) and A$AP Rocky in a Number (N)ine jacket Grailed identified as found on the site. As with most menswear success stories lately, all roads lead to Kanye: Ian Connor, the latest member of West’s creative team, also makes frequent appearances on the feed, captured in the Grailed offices holding a bag of Doritos and dressed in Helmut Lang and Raf pieces from the site.
Those notable names come to Grailed for the same reason the average user does: Despite some rumblings of low-balling shoppers, incredibly rare menswear artifacts continue to populate the site, and they actually sell. To date, the most expensive item ever sold on Grailed is a tie between the iconic “Power, Corruption and Lies” Raf Simons parka and a Swarovski crystal-adorned Carol Christian Poell jacket, both sold for $7,000. That concentration of high quantity and high quality is pretty hard to match elsewhere.
“It also helps me learn about designers,” Keller says. “Before, you could only buy what brands put out in the current season. Now, it’s easier to buy past season items. It helps me know where to look in a designer’s current collection and bumps up my knowledge of what brands make what pieces.”
There are plans to make Grailed more community-focused, letting shoppers follow individual users to see when they post new items and culling their Instagram photos to remind you that you are actually buying from another real person. Also in the works are updates to make selling on the mobile app possible and the introduction of a binding offer system—a measure that prevents buyers from offering a price to sellers and then running away with no obligation to actually pay.
“People are on Grailed because they care,” Arun says. “When you look at someone’s profile now, it’s just items they’re selling and their user name. It’s very functional. But, we could have your last four IG posts or some great ‘fit pics. You could tell us what brands you’re looking for. That helps with trust.”
Grailed’s recent increase in fees (the site now takes 6% of each sale, compared to 3% previously) also forecasts its future. ”When we had to implement a fee, it was heartbreaking,” Arun says. “But as we got bigger, it was inevitable. We have an office and 10 people working here. It’s not a passion project anymore. If you want Grailed to exist next month, next year, three years from now, it has to be a sustainable business.”
It certainly feels like Grailed will stick around for the long-run. On the immediate horizon: an expanded team and equally expanded digs in SoHo, as the once-airy loft has turned into a cramped boys club. “I think that we’re trying to be a new type of company,” Arun says. “We’re not eBay or Tradesy, or some other vanilla marketplace. We’re a fashion marketplace. We care about fashion. We wear fashion, we shop fashion. We want to have vintage Raf in here, but we also cater to the J.Crew customer, too. That’s what Grailed is about—fire for all.”