Beyond Hype: A Dialogue with Nico Lazaro of Grailed
If you’re one for vintage clothes, hyped fashion pieces, or you just happen to be a fashion-conscious individual, you’ve probably given the website Grailed a visit. If you’re not familiar, they’re a popular menswear community marketplace that curates pre-owned items from the most coveted designers and brands at unbeatable prices. We got a chance to chat with Nico Lazaro, a member of Grailed’s team to gain a better understanding of what they’re bringing to the industry, and what exactly makes an item a bona fide “grail.”
Working at Grailed, what insights have you gained on hard-to-find, mint condition menswear pieces?
Mint condition pieces are very hard to come by. True “grails” as we call them have either been passed down and worn to death over the years or kept pristine by their original owners. The latter are few and far between, so if we come across those items, we usually won’t hesitate to secure them for our archive.
Grailed is all about community and coveted items, what has it been like to see the community grow, and see the coveted items that are starting to gain recognition in this industry?
I’ve been with Grailed for almost two years now, and it’s been unerringly inspiring to be a part of the team that has firmly planted its roots in our community. We started out of the menswear forums and discussion boards like Reddit and used that foundation to foster a close relationship with our community. I work with the support team to communicate with our users on a daily basis, so we’re able to get real-time feedback on what people enjoy about Grailed and any improvements we can make. Our users are outspoken about what they like and dislike about their experience on Grailed, which helps us decide which features to invest our time and efforts on.
My grail piece has been a pair of patchwork denim from a Japanese brand called The Soloist. I ended up accumulating 3 pairs in black, blue and white over the past year so I have a good rotation year-round. They’re a unique cut and are rugged enough to wear as often as I want (which is quite often).
What role do you think companies such as Grailed and Hypebeast play in this fashion industry, and where do you think Grailed can go from here?Given the visibility of our site, we have the opportunity to reach a large audience that is at the very least intrigued by the fashion industry. While we have the opportunity to appease their baser instincts to buy whatever they have in mind when they first come to Grailed, it’s also our responsibility to create more informed consumers. With the introduction of our “Dry Clean Only” blog last year, we’ve put a focus on highlighting the things about menswear that we value while also doing our best to educate our users on the history and importance of their favorite brands and designers. From here, I think it would be great if we could establish closer working relationships with the titans of our industry, while also bringing to light the talents of the many emerging designers that have yet to break through.
With the formation of Hypebeast’s Hypebae, there is now the reality of Grailed’s Heroine. Can you talk a little bit about this new women’s project, and the need for it now in such a congested category of fashion?
We launched Heroine earlier this fall to a small but hyper-focused community built from an amalgam of existing Grailed users, fashion industry folk, and people we personally knew who had great closets and a keen interest in womenswear. We also have Heroine’s proprietary blog, “The Editorial” which is steadily publishing engaging and informative articles including interviews, weekly digests, behind the scenes content, and analyses of influential past collections and designer’s oeuvres. While womenswear is largely considered to be an over-saturated market, many of the existing marketplaces tend to cater to their audience more as a service rather than a community. Unlike Hypebae which caters to a very specific crowd, the aim for Heroine is to be more democratic so as not to isolate our audience. With Heroine, we’re retaining the “for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts” mantra of Grailed to create a home for womenswear in the same way we’ve done with menswear. We often say that our business is built on 3 principles; community, content, and curation. The Heroine team has already planted their flag with these principles in mind, so we’re all excited to see where it takes us as the community begins to grow.
What brands do you think you should be archiving now, so you can have the best Grailed collection for years?
If we’re talking about brands that will increase in value over time, you’re looking at the current heavy hitters. Any pieces from collections that changed the course of fashion for their time will at the very least retain their value. I think Hedi Slimane-era Saint Laurent revitalized the YSL brand and has already proven to be covetable even after his departure. The same will likely be said about Demna Gvasalia’s Vetements and Balenciaga collections. If you’re building a collection though, it should really be a reflection of your personal taste. I started working in fashion during the “#menswear” era of wearing suits for fun and these days I wouldn’t give a second thought to a lot of the pieces I loved back then. After a while, you tend to find that the cliche tried-and-true wardrobe staples are staples for a reason, which isn’t to say that you should shy away from being adventurous with your choices, but any such choices should be made with considerable deliberation.
Grailed does a great job of combining both the tech and fashion industry. What do you think makes this combination such a success?
We got our start as a marketplace designed to serve the online menswear communities, so by its nature, Grailed is a marriage of fashion and tech. Our company structure is built into teams for product design, marketing, support, and engineering, all of which are closely intertwined to ensure that the technology serves the needs of the community to the best of our ability. Grailed is first and foremost a community and every decision we make is a reflection of that.
With Grailed receiving such an influx of some of the most hyped clothes across the world, some pieces probably perform much better than others. In your opinion, what’s played out nowadays?
The fashion industry is very fickle and the machine that has spawned flocks of hypebeasts tends to move the fastest. Working in SoHo, we tend to have the demographic most saturated with fashion enthusiasts so brand fatigue sets in rapidly. Brands like Off-White were never cool to me personally, but I think Virgil Abloh has done a great job maintaining the brand’s hype. It may be too early to say, but I think Supreme selling a stake in its business to a major investment group was pretty much the death knell for the brand, and with everyone and their little brother owning pieces from them, the brand doesn’t quite have the same exclusivity that once made it desirable. On that same note, the Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers are everywhere and with so many fake pairs being worn these days, it’s really killed the appeal for me. If something is popular today, it’s almost guaranteed to be passé tomorrow. You’re best off ignoring the hype and seeking out clothing that offers a reflection of your personality and values.