While traveling abroad after college, Alex Kown M.Acc. ’10 discovered an opportunity. In European and Asian factories, Kown learned the true cost of luxury apparel — which gave him an idea.
“If you look at the typical piece of apparel, it retails on average at around eight times what it costs to make. For luxury apparel the mark-up can reach twenty times,” says Kown. "This mark-up has historically been necessary because of the cost to market and distribute the product. I began to think about starting a company to offer fine clothing at a lower price, but I didn't know how we would reach our customer."
After several investment banking positions and earning a Master of Accounting degree from William and Mary, Kown returned to his apparel company idea for making luxury menswear accessible to the average guy.
"What I eventually discovered, was that by using e-commerce as the sole distribution channel, while also vertically integrating, we could cut prices by 70 percent on average, as compared to traditional retail,” says Kown. “This means that we can make the same quality products as the major luxury brands, but charge the same prices as mass market brands."
This spring with the help of angel investors, Kown will launch Breyburn & Co. The initial product offering will be modern cut men's dress shirts made with Italian fabrics and produced in Portugal.
Kown credits his time at William & Mary as helping to give him the skills necessary to launch Breyburn.
“Launching a business requires knowing a little bit about everything — legal, marketing, branding, accounting, and more,” says Kown. “William and Mary gave me the skills I need to analyze problems and find solutions. The program also gave me a broad quantitative skill set to understand financial modeling, data analysis, and decision analysis. I liked being able to take classes in areas other than accounting and I earned a Lean Six Sigma certification.”
Kown is also thankful for the guidance that he has continued to receive from his professors at the College. Mason professor Hector Gurrero has served as an advisor to Kown’s company.
“The teachers and administration at William & Mary are amazing,” says Kown. “I have never encountered people who care so much about their students’ success.”