The Grunion Run
Whether you’re planning for “the big day” or simply looking for an inexpensive upgrade to your office swagger, The Grunion Run is as wallet-friendly as it is Classfare-approved.
In the past two years, the “trend” in menswear has moved away from heavy accessorizing and peacocking back toward a happy center of classic menswear style. Rather than piling on color, more and more guys are finding beauty in less. Personally, we’re fond of the simplicity that comes with such reduction. Not only does it feel better, more masculine, and timeless, it creates space for the occasional and unique accessory to actually make a statement.
Accessories like those from menswear label The Grunion Run. A brand less than five years young, The Grunion Run has established an impressively affordable and classic yet creative line of ties, pocket squares, vests, and more. As one of our favorite accessory brands, we wanted to learn more about its story. Last month, we visited The Grunion Run headquarters — a condo in Santa Monica, CA, home to the owners and sole full-time employees of the company, Yun-Yi Goh and Kevin Yuen.
“Before starting The Grunion Run,” says Yun, “Kevin and I ran an educational publishing company that created reading books for elementary school students.”
While Yun oversaw the publishing and marketing side of the business, she knew it simply wasn’t enough to scratch the creative itch that was building. “Education is not always the most creative field,” explains Yun. “So after a few years, I was getting frustrated.”
As any creative can attest, the absence of a truly creative outlet only bores a deeper hole. A hole that was only being filled teaspoon by teaspoon, as Yun designed the occasional wedding invitation for a friend.
After several years, in 2011, Yun and Kevin sold the publishing company. Based on Yun’s experience with invitation design and the numerous weddings the couple had been attending, it struck them that the wedding industry just might be the right market in which to launch their next venture. And while invitations made the most sense (based on Yun’s publishing, layout, and graphic design experience), it became quickly apparent that it wasn’t the right play.
“When I looked around, a lot of people were doing stationery,” says Yun. “And they were doing it well. I felt like it was already a pretty saturated market.” As Yun spent more time researching, she realized that over the six years since she and Kevin had gotten married, everything had changed creatively in the wedding industry—except for menswear.
“I remember when we got married, Kevin and I couldn’t find the rentals and other items for the guys that we wanted, so we just got what we could afford and what we could find. And here we were, years later, and little had changed. It was still basically tuxedo rentals and Men’s Wearhouse. When I looked through wedding blogs, nobody ever mentioned menswear. If there was a guy who looked cool, there wasn’t anything about what he was wearing. He got no love.”
And so, to turn the tides of love toward the groomsman, the idea behind The Grunion Run was born — a place where guys could find a look that was casual, vintage, creative, and affordable.
But there was one problem — Yun didn’t have any experience in the fashion industry. So, she did what any other budding and inexperienced entrepreneur does — she started asking around to get advice. “I also did a lot of shopping”, says Yun. “I would basically have Kevin try things on to build the aesthetic I was looking for. It helped me realize that so much of men’s fashion comes down to small things – the width of ties, the fabric feel, the collar size of a shirt, the stitching. There certainly aren’t as many structural options of cut and drape as there are for women — you come to realize that it’s the small details that really matter in menswear”.
After Yun honed in her target customer and aesthetic, she found an overseas factory and sent samples of what she liked. Simple patterns of cotton and linen. “If I had to have a design mantra, it would be ‘no shiny stuff’,” says Yun, with a laugh. “I wanted to focus on casual fabrics — cotton and linen have such a nice hand feel and matte look to them. I wanted a more vintage, rustic feel.”
After going back and forth on details with the factory, Yun was preparing to place her first orders when the couple learned exciting, albeit ill-timed news for starting a company. Yun was pregnant with their first child.
“It was like, ‘the baby’s coming in June so this thing has to start now’. I knew that if I didn’t get the business up right away, it was never going to happen. I thought: If I can’t handle it, at least I will have tried.”
And so she did. Manufacturing orders were placed and Yun and Kevin opened The Grunion Run shop with about ten tie styles for sale.
After contacting blogs about her new shop in March of 2012 (right before wedding season), the orders began to roll in. It was a slow but steady start. After some initial traction and the birth of their firstborn, the couple launched a Kickstarter campaign to help expand the line and get their name out to a larger audience.
Since their successful Kickstarter raise, The Grunion Run has expanded beyond its humble beginnings to a full line of neckties, bow ties, suspenders, shirts, and even a children’s line called “Little Grunion”. But, despite its growth, the company remains intentionally small.
“I’m CEO, customer service, designer, etc. Basically, whatever I need to be on a given day, I’m that,” Yun says with a smile.
“But it’s so nice. One of the greatest things about it is that I get a lot of direct feedback from customers,” says Yun. “While we certainly have plenty of customers shopping for daily wear, the majority are grooms and groomsmen. They’re more vocal than normal customers about what they’re looking for, and especially so if they’re happy with what they find. They’re shopping for a very big and happy occasion.”
As anyone who has planned a wedding or simply been part of a wedding party can attest, the big and happy occasion can also be a breeding ground for high amounts of stress. So Yun has taken it upon herself to make things as easy as possible, even consulting with the couple leading up to their big day. “A lot of guys write to ask us about what might look good with their color scheme, so I’ll offer suggestions and help them make the right choice. I want this to be the easiest experience you have in your wedding planning process as possible,” says Yun. “I will always do my best to help you, even if that’s to send you somewhere else.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone would be hard pressed to find a Grunion Run product that suits their style. With over 70 neckties and bowties from solids to florals to polka dots and stripes (all of which are under $30), there’s something for everyone. Suspenders, pocket squares, vests, and a small selection of tie bars are also available. Plain bow tie in gray? Check. Pocket square in green? Check. Necktie in bright floral? Check. Not sure what to choose? Email Yun and she’ll be ready to assist. Whether you’re preparing your nuptials or looking to punch up your office wardrobe, The Grunion Run offers an exceptionally strong collection of items for the discerning gentleman at ridiculously affordable prices.
“The collection is definitely inspired by things I see,” says Yun. “But it’s also hugely influenced by what I like. I do follow a lot of wedding blogs, but really, I don’t want to look backward. I want to look forward. I pretty much combine what I think people will want and what I like. I guess that’s the beauty of a two person company — I choose something and then we do it.”
Thus far, the choices are right on the money.
To learn more about Grunion Run, visit their website at www.thegrunionrun.com