Telling the truth about SME life today

US fashion retailer defies the downturn

Capicotto says he spent $3,000 starting up his urban fashionwear business. “I was just 19 at the time and was still living at home with my parents,” he says. “Every time I sold a t-shirt, I’d put the money straight back into the company. And I didn’t start paying myself for a salary for a year.”

Without a big advertising budget, Capicotto decided to contact the bands in his home city of New York and ask them to help promote his new clothing label: “I’d look up contact details for band managers on the internet and then ping them an email. At first, no-one took me seriously. I was just a kid and no-one wanted to take a chance on me. But, eventually, I got a couple of responses and it snowballed from there.”

Capicotto invited the bands to visit his warehouse and take any item of clothing they wanted, for free – on the condition that they wore the clothing at gigs. “Those bands play in front of tons of fans every night. Why on earth wouldn’t I give them free clothes?” he says. “It’s great advertising.” Glamour Kills now works with more than 30 bands, including All Time Low, You Me At Six, The Audition and Forever The Sickest Kids.

Up until a few months ago, Capicotto single-handedly designed every item of clothing but he’s just hired a team of designers, allowing him to concentrate on growing the business. Even though America is in the throes of recession – with figures showing that consumer spending fell for the second month in a row in April – Capicotto is bullish. “We currently have one store in New York but we’re looking to open up two more this year. In terms of turnover, we’ve tripled what we were on this time in 2008," he says.

“Our clothing range is aimed at the ‘alternative youth’ market – teens who are into skateboarding, rock music, that sort of thing. And young people in the States aren’t feeling the effects of the downturn. They might have to pay a cell phone bill or car insurance each month but they’re certainly not counting the pennies. They don’t have a mortgage or dependants to worry about.”

While Capicotto admits that US banks are “a little more hesitant about giving out business loans, especially to younger entrepreneurs,” the 23-year-old is confident that Obama’s administration will help SMEs Stateside: “He made a few points about it in his campaign. I think he’ll take care of small businesses.”

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