Valet: Your Concierge to a Well-Styled Life
Readers these days want even more recommendations, more introductions to new brands and styles that fit within a point-of-view.
There's something irresistible about an independently-published lifestyle Web site that strives to deliver all the style and substance of a contemporary men's magazine without irritating subscription cards. That's the promise of Valet. Like old-school print favorites such as Details and GQ in their prime, Valet. delivers tons of great service and writing - and packages it in beautiful layouts that have you constantly clicking for more. Whether you want tips for easy electric shaving, need to know how to talk to a tailor, or want help losing the love handles, you'll find straight-up advice that works. As Brad Bennett of men's style site Well Spent put it: Valet. is "constantly raising the bar for all of us."
The co-founder and editor-in-chief of Valet., Cory Ohlendorf, was recently inducted into the SAY 100 Men's Style and Gear channel as one of the Web's best examples of how the look and spirit of traditional men's magazines can be translated to the digital world - with awesome results. We took the occasion to catch up with Cory about why he thinks men's style sites are finally coming into their own online, the right way to mix commerce and content – and why men don't need pictures of half-naked women to be interested in style.
Independent men's style sites are on fire and Valet. is certainly a leader. Why do you think it's finally time? Well, thank you. I believe guys are increasingly making the connection that being successful and living well is often manifested by your personal style. And this awakening is happening at a time when men's style sites are populating the Web that speak to them (and with them)—showcasing brands and products that they can actually buy. Style has become something of a conversation online, whereas in the past, it was more inspirational photos and strict dictates from print publications.
What do you think men come to a site like Valet. to find? What makes a great men's media/style site? I think we've built a solid reputation for quality presentation and informative, entertaining reads with a real service angle. We hope that every day when you check out Valet., you learn a little something, discover something new and come away feeling good. We don't believe you need to be enticed by half-naked women in order to learn about personal style.
As for what makes a great men's site, we try to be as sincere, thorough and consistent in everything we do - from the site and apps, to the Shopping Engine and Ask Valet. And I think guys really appreciate that. We know that Valet. is never done, it should keep dreaming up the next innovation for our users because as they're learning about their own style, we're also learning what makes for a great experience. That and you've got to always be looking forward to the future.
What are some urban men's style trends you're enjoying right now? How about the flip side of that – what needs to go? It's not so much of a trend, but I think it's great that guys are focusing more on buying quality, learning about the provenance of the pieces they want to buy and knowing they can have something tailored, repaired or re-crafted. As for what should go, I'm not much on prohibitions, but I'll go ahead and say square-toed shoes and bootcut jeans.
What other style and culture voices do you follow? Who else is doing it right? We've always been fans of A Continuous Lean here at Valet. And I think Well Spent has a good voice and finds some great brands and products. Also Gear Patrol has a wonderful presentation, videos and features.
What celebrities best embody the Valet style right now? I'd have to go with Ryan Gosling. He likes looking good, he puts in the effort and seeks out quality brands, but he doesn't take it too seriously. He never looks like he spent too much time getting ready. That is the living breathing example of what we hope our users will take away from Valet.
How can Valet help a brand break out or get noticed? We've developed a great trust with our audience. They know and appreciate that we really look into a brand, their product and their ethos before featuring it on the site. So when we do write-up about a product or a brand, we make sure to point out all the things that sold us on the concept, and in turn really illustrate why this is something our audience should pay attention to. On top of that, we have a strong profile within the industry, so other brands and media outlets often see something we've featured and link back to it or share it with their social network.
How do you think about the connection between content and commerce? What do readers want? This is certainly a big topic of conversation in our industry right now, and many experiments are under way. For Valet., content and commerce have always gone hand-in-hand. It's one of the beauties of the Web - the content is fresh and current and you're able to click from within a story and directly purchase the products you just read about right then and there. That was the basic expected experience five years ago, but we're seeing that evolve into a really honest effort to surface more great finds from across the Web. With Valet., our users latch on to the recommendations we put forward and value our style point-of-view - they want to see more of that from us. Well, there are only so many stories that can get written, but product recommendations are nearly endless. So, we felt a dedicated Shopping Engine could really deliver on what users are starting to expect from an editorial site. We scan the Web for finds that fit within Valet.'s point-of-view and make those available within the Shopping Engine. We see that type of integration going further in the future. I think readers these days almost demand that. And they want even more recommendations, more introductions to new brands and styles that fit within a point-of-view.
What's something your readers would be surprised to learn about you? That at the end of the day, I'm just like them. A regular guy who's interested in style and living better, and is willing to do what it takes to get it right.
Who's closet would you like to raid and why? Maybe Ralph Lauren. That's a man who appreciates quality and his style ranges from cowboy to clean and tailored. He's the ultimate vintage collector. Plus, I just know it's meticulously organized and categorized.
How would you finish this sentence: When in doubt, wear… Something classic and simple. Chances are, if it used to look good on your grandpa in his 20s, it'll likely look good on you now. Or just wear your ultimate favorite piece in your closet - because if you're comfortable, you'll instantly have more confidence.
Follow Cory on Twitter @valetmag.