A new and rising e-commerce retailer, Basic Outfitters is known for creating clothing that keeps performance, comfort and space in mind. One of its trademark offerings, the New York City-based company lets customers “Create-A-Drawer,” choosing up to 19 basics for just $60. Its offerings may currently be limited to underwear, socks and loungewear, yet Basic Outfitters manages to deliver fashionable attire that ranges from professional to athletic.
Downtown had the pleasure of speaking with the founders of Basic Outfitters, the husband and wife team of Michael and Laura Dweck. As explained within the Q&A, inspiration for the brand and its subsequent business model came from the realization that New Yorkers do not have the storage space that other major cities’ residents do. In turn, quality must prevail over quantity when choosing one’s wardrobe, and Basic Outfitters is there to provide smart around-the-house attire.
To someone who hasn’t yet shopped with your company, how do you describe it?
Michael Dweck: Basic Outfitters is the most convenient new way to shop for basics. With our Create-A-Drawer service, you can refill your drawer with high quality basics in under two minutes for just $60. Customers choose their socks, underwear, tees and jogger sweatpants. It’s that simple.
What inspired you to start Basic Outfitters?
Laura Dweck: When we first got married, we moved into a cozy apartment in New York City, where we had very limited closet space. When it was time to divide up our dresser, naturally I monopolized five out of six of the drawers. Michael was left with one drawer for his socks and underwear. When the drawer wouldn’t close, I knew we had a problem. I made Michael throw out all his old basics, which turned out to be 90% of his drawer.
MD: When it came time to refill my drawers I was faced with two options: high-quality and high-priced basics, or low-quality and low-priced basics. I love to look good, but I hate to shop and the hunt for affordable and quality basics was stressing me out. I figured I wasn’t the only one having this problem and there had to be a better way. We saw the opportunity to capitalize on the white space in the market, and we created Basic Outfitters.
Have you been able to apply anything that you learned from working with Century 21?
MD: Absolutely. It was my first real job and it taught me the importance of professionalism and accountability. One of my roles was to drive the CEO to work every morning. When we were scheduled for a 6:30 AM pickup, he’d be outside waiting at 6:29 AM. That always stayed with me — no matter how important your title is, there’s no room for slacking.
Are there any similarities between what you do now and your prior work with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center?
MD: 100%. There was so much I learned and my experience was invaluable. The most significant takeaway was the value of customer service. Working with cancer patients on a daily basis, compassion and understanding was essential to making the experience as comfortable as possible. With Basic Outfitters, I care about each and every customer and it is my utmost priority to make the shopping experience and the customer experience as seamless and fun as it could possibly be.
Laura, I understand you studied at FIT and interned at Bloomingdale’s early on. What is it that drew you to fashion?
LD: My first fashion memory was when I was in nursery. My mom gave me one day a week that I could choose my own outfit. It was my favorite day of the week and it was when I realized I had a definitive eye and irreverence for style. I remember wearing a purple velvet trapeze top with leggings and Looney Tunes-themed Converses with ruffled socks spilling over. I felt empowered by owning my expression. That’s when I realized the power fashion has to allow people to express their individuality, and I never looked back.
To you, what does the word “basic” mean? Some people may view it as being essential, while others may view it as being simple or elementary…
MD: To us, the word “basic” means essential. Something you can’t live without. Something fundamental to your everyday life. We’ve created a brand of essentials that is the basis of every man’s wardrobe.
Do you have a favorite item from the Basic Outfitters catalog?
LD: My favorite item by far is our new fleece joggers. They’re my Netflix pants and they are the coziest things you will ever put on your body. I usually wear them with our SuperSoft socks that feel like cashmere.
MD: That’s such a tough question! I love it all but one style that I gravitate towards is our performance boxer briefs. The fit and comfort is incredible. And now you know me a little too well.
Besides you two, who are some of the other people that help make Basic Outfitters happen?
MD: What really makes Basic Outfitters run is our band of characters who work with us. Jake came to work with us as an intern when we first started and has made himself invaluable to our team. Frankie recently started working with us and his unique style makes the Basic Outfitters brand come to life. He’s become a fan favorite on our Facebook Live broadcasts. We have an all-star team of freelancers that we work with as well. One of our key hiring points is a candidate’s authentic enthusiasm for our brand and our mission.
Do you have any goals for Basic Outfitters? For example, do you hope to get your products into stores? Or to be able to design lines for existing retailers?
MD: Our goal is to become the leading basics brand. We plan on expanding into the women’s and children’s markets as well as the international market. When we first started Basic Outfitters, we came across a horrifying statistic: On average men keep their underwear for seven years. We have made it our mission to make it as easy as possible for men to change their drawers that they no longer have any excuse not to.
Beyond working together, you two are married. How are you able to make things work both at home and in the office?
MD: That’s our #1 question — so many people ask us that. Luckily, we get along really well! Our skill sets complement each other so well and we each manage different aspects of the business. We’re a power couple!
As two people that were born in the Tri-State area, what is it that keeps you based out here? This isn’t the cheapest place to start or run a business…
MD: Family is the most important thing to Laura and I. We both come from large families and value the close proximity. New York definitely isn’t the cheapest place to work, but the energy of this city is something we can’t live without. The opportunities this city affords are priceless. In the famous words of Frank Sinatra: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!”
When not busy with Basic Outfitters, how do you like to spend your free time?
MD: All I want to do in my free time is play tennis and ski.
LD: He’s obsessed. The first day of the U.S. Open is like a religious holiday for him.
MD: I also love to cook, I even applied for Chopped.
LD: I like to travel any chance I get and I love to take dance and yoga classes to unwind. Shopping is always fun. (laughs)
Do you have a favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
MD: Our favorite brunch spot is Russ & Daughters. Nothing like a good lox and cream cheese bagel.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
LD: Michael is a history junkie so he made me watch Men Who Built America. One of our favorite lines is from John D. Rockefeller: “”Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”