Former Polo Ralph Lauren creative Robert Godley has made a small fortune from his maniacal rabbit
It started with a handshake and credit cards.
Robert Godley was down on his luck in 2005. The British tie designer had just moved to America as head creative for Polo Ralph Lauren but was canned barely six weeks into the job over creative differences. To make ends meet, Godley pulled together roughly $25,000 with his business partner Robert Goldman and started selling neckties. That effort is now Psycho Bunny, a deviously named menswear brand that does $20 million in sales.
“I owe my gratitude to the individual at Ralph Lauren who decided it wasn’t going to work or I wouldn’t have been forced into making my way forward,” the 46-year-old accidental entrepreneur tells Moneyish. Indeed, along the way, Godley has had to improvise to meet the whims and fancies of American men.
Unlike in Europe, varying climates within North America mean Psycho Bunny can’t sell a sweater made from one material everywhere, even within the same season. Though Godley designed neckwear at British heritage brands like Drake’s, Psycho Bunny’s signature is its $85 polo tee– a change Godley reluctantly embraced because men have largely abandoned ties. Per industry estimates, the neckwear sector collapsed from $1.2 billion in sales during the 1990s to half that today.
The pima cotton polos are made in Peru with luxury detailing like mother of pearl buttons. They’re also embroidered with the Psycho Bunny logo, a maniacal-looking rabbit over skull and bones insignia. Godley had been selling ties with that logo when a fashion buyer suggested that he use it for the entire brand. “The schoolboy romance of it is this whole Jolly Roger thing,” he says. “In the 17th century, pirates were the democracy. They’re all about risk and reward.”
“Unlike Ralph Lauren that represents a studied WASP aspiration, Psycho Bunny feels fresh and modern,” says Chuck Welch, founder and chief strategy office at Rupture Studio, a creative consultancy. With a “cheeky little logo that borrows heavily from internet meme culture. Psycho Bunny gives people room to use the brand to bring some light humor to a heavy world.”
Still, without the luxury cachet of Ralph and with prices higher than basics specialists like Uniqlo, why do men shell out ? Godley says he’s taken a leaf from the pages of Savile Row tailors by promising quality to modern dandies. “There are brands whose polos will shrink in length or get wider in the chest” over time, he says. “But in this day and age, the male consumer would like confidence in their purchase. Why travel, put your clothes in a hotel laundry and worry?”
The approach seems to have worked. Godley says that the company has seen sales grow by roughly 25% annually since he and Goldman founded the brand. Over 70% of its internet clients are repeat customers. “They’ve a huge loyalty to the brand because we’re catered to their needs,” he says.
Outside the U.S., Psycho Bunny has also developed a following in the United Kingdom and South America, where men “seem to understand [style] in the same way Europeans do,” Godley says. And though he says slow but steady organic growth is preferred, he does have an eye on his former employer. “Ralph started selling ties in 1971, the year I was born,” he says of the American icon who made the short-lived decision to hire him. “He also started as a necktie guy. There are a lot of similarities.”
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