With every outfit, there are those hidden little secrets that complete the perfect ensemble. Some of these details that can trip up even the most dapper of them all are a slouchy collar, droopy pocket squares, and an ill-fitting shirt. With no solution at hand until now, it’s a wonder why Wingmate didn't come about sooner. Created out of sheer necessity by Cheo Vidal and Alan Vladusic, the company makes disposable collar stays at an affordable price that just makes sense for guys everywhere.
The duo was dressed to the nines when we met, but it’s apparent that they don’t take themselves too seriously. The witty banter between the two had us laughing for the majority of the interview, not knowing what was going to come next. Learn more about the Wingmate and follow them on their journey, starting with a Kickstarter campaign.
Labeling Men: Tell me how you came up with the concept of Wingmate.
Cheo Vidal: It was actually very organic. We [business partner and co-creater Alan Vladusic] have known each other for quite some time and I was at his house one night while getting ready, I saw him applying a prototype and I was like "Woah, what are you doing, what is that?" He said that he was using it instead of a collar stay to keep my collar looking - he used a different word...
Labeling Men: [laughs]
Cheo Vidal: …Perfect. And I was like, “Holy shit, I’ve had that same issue many years ago.” I actually had my tailor at the time try and come up with a collar that would not slouch or flare out and make me look like I am John Travolta from the 80s and as it was brilliant, I had the same problem. He had a solution and said, “I’ve been thinking about building a company around it.” I said, “Sign me up,” and that is essentially how it all started. It was born out of necessity, born out of coincidence to some degree, essentially translated it into building a brand that was about elevating today’s man through accessories, re-imagining accessories.
Labeling Men: How long ago did that conversation take place?
Cheo Vidal: I would say from that moment until actually launching took over a year. Most of that time was spent on prototyping and getting the right adhesive, the right everything, the right packaging.
Alan Vladusic: The problem from the beginning is that we needed strong branding. I mean when you create a product which is not necessarily on the market yet, you need very strong branding so people recognize you. So the branding was really the first step. We had an idea but we didn’t have the branding, we spent a lot of time the first couple of months finding the perfect logo, finding the perfect branding. I come from a branding background, so I put a lot of input into this. Cheo comes from a digital background so the foundation was built; we just needed to execute it.
Labeling Men: What makes this different from other products that are your competitors?
Cheo Vidal: We look at it as a collar stay reinvented. Women have the Hollywood fashion tape and that serves its multiple purposes. Men you know, we are more simple creatures, we don’t necessarily need all of those accouterments. Whether you have a collar stay or not, your collar still ends up slouching, so that really was the was where we said, “Here is something that is applied to women’s fashion which can also be seemingly translated to men’s as well.” That’s the ethos of the brand, to elevate today’s man and reimagine accessories over the years.
Alan Vladusic: The problem is men don’t like to spend a lot of money on accessories, so we had to find a solution on how we could bring something that looks good and is cheap on the market and which is disposable. That’s why we came up with it being disposable and functional.
Labeling Men: Is that because guys can’t keep stuff and are messy?
Cheo Vidal: I mean guys are messy, but to his point, women spend. Guys are different types of creatures and for a lot of us, it’s all about price. We figured the value proposition of the price point and the finished result of having “that perfect collar” and using a button-down, Wingmate will essentially replace the button on top of the collar but is invisible.
Labeling Men: And looks better!
Cheo Vidal: Also applicable on every shirt since not every shirt has a slot for a collar stay but every shirt obviously, can use a Wingmate…No pun intended!
Labeling Men: It’s not only for collars; what else can you use it for?
Cheo Vidal: Correct. Its primary purpose is for the collar; it can also used for the tie, the pocket square - if you have a slouching pocket square - and even for a popped button. If you are going out and last minute you pop a button, you can use Wingmate to keep it in place instead of a button as well.
Labeling Men: That’s really smart.
Alan Vladusic: For example, these days men like to wear fitted shirts so there is a problem when you sit down and you have a fitted shirt on and you can actually see those holes, the skin and you can fill the gaps in between with the Wingmate, which is the perfect companion. I’m trying to sound smart but I’m not.
Alan Vladusic: I’m using fancy words right now, but you get the idea.
Labeling Men: Oh, absolutely. Where did the name “Wingmate” come from?
Alan Vladusic: The true story behind that?
Cheo Vidal: We actually started off with “Wingman” but two things…We thought it was a little bit generic, but at the same time we were having that thought process and the trademark was too complicated so we were like how do we elevate but still keep the emotion behind “Wingman.”
Alan Vladusic: It adds sophistication, throwing another fancy word right now.
Labeling Men: [laughs]
Alan Vladusic: So because “mate” is a very English word and English and origin from wearing shorts and being proper English and the word “Mate” is very strong, it is something very unique and “ownable,” instead of “Wingman” which is very generic. It’s used everywhere so try to find something more unique and “ownable.”
Labeling Men: Definitely, we agree. What would you say is the type of guy that is buying Wingmate? Is he the businessman, is he the hipster; who is he?
Cheo Vidal: I think he’s everybody in that sense, from the hipster to the financial analyst, but ultimately it’s the gentleman that cares about finishing cares about the detail in the look. One of the things that my sister taught me when I was a teenager - my sister gave me a lot of my style -was that you could have a great outfit but the wrong pair of shoes and it would destroy the outfit. So with that in mind, you can have a shirt, a great look, but if you’re looking like John Travolta or Scarface, we aren’t in the 80s anymore. This is a precise and detailed way to finish the simplest look or the most put together look black tie event.
To recap, our consumer is broad in terms of who they are and where they may come from, but are singular in the fact that they care about their look and they are interested in that finished, polished presentation.
Labeling Men: How would you describe your personal style?
Cheo Vidal: It’s classic, some would even say it’s borderline conservative, but at the same time I feel as though I like to pick and choose from many different categories. When it comes to suits and eveningwear, I know what I like. I like two-button high-armed English suits, I'm into double-breasted looks right now. Classic in that regard. I love my accessories. I also like to be understated and give reference to days of yesterday through suspenders, bow-ties, these little touches that like I said, help show the narrative of men’s fashion. At the same time, I love streetwear, leather, very urban/edgy things from designers like Nicholas K, Demo Baso for example, it goes both ways. Very urban/edgy at times to very conservative classic student looks.
Alan Vladusic: Well it’s a tough one but I would say that if Slash would have sex with Tom Ford and the baby would come out, that would be me. It’s a combination of a little bit rock, a little bit ghetto. On the other hand, I can shoot up and look slick and be like Tom Ford. I like both, the best of both worlds. That's really how to explain it. I like a little bit grungy, the grunginess and then at the same time the fancy, the finished look, the sophistication. I think it’s a mix of both.
Labeling Men: That’s great! I personally like your watch; who makes your watch?
Alan Vladusic: It’s a Breitling. I love watches; I'm a watch collector so I've been doing it for years.
Labeling Men: It’s really nice.
Alan Vladusic: Thanks man.
Labeling Men: Two part question: if you had one celebrity to be your brand ambassador who would it be and why?
Alan Vladusic: I can tell you right now, it’s David Beckham for sure. I mean he's the man, he has a great personality, he's a great guy, he has a great sense of style, great soccer player. David Beckham, the thing with his look, he can go very street and also suit up and have that combination which I really like.
Labeling Men: [To Cheo] Do you agree?
Cheo Vidal: Yeah, he messed up my whole thing!
Labeling Men: [laughs]
Cheo Vidal: I'll get back to you on that!
Labeling Men: Give me one article of clothing every guy should own as a staple?
Cheo Vidal: I would say for sure a properly tailored suit. That's definitely number one and good shoes and a proper suit. I know what he's going to say, a proper watch!
Alan Vladusic: No, no, I think a shirt is very important because a shirt is so easy to mess up. I'm not saying you have to buy a tailored shirt, it can be pricey. Get a shirt that you like in the store and get it fitted so that it fits your body, you don't even need a proper body, just get a shirt that fits perfectly to your body. I think that’s an essential for you. A proper shirt you can wear with anything. You can wear it with a nice pair of jeans, you can wear it on suit pants, on shorts, basically with anything. A shirt is the most important men’s essential.
Labeling Men: What city would you say has the best fashion?
Alan Vladusic: Oh, I can answer this question because I'm from Europe. When it comes to suits, there is no place like England and Italy. I mean by far they know even when they are young kids, they suit up and know exactly what to do with a pocket square, they know how to wear a tie, how to wear a fitted shirt. London and Milan, they are kind of like New York but if look at the Financial District with the men wearing suits, they don't know how to dress, very few people do. I would say Europe is in front.
Cheo Vidal: What he said! Hit the nail on the head!
Labeling Men: Tell us what to expect from you in the near and far future.
Cheo Vidal: Well, pretty much upon the results of our Kickstater, we are going to be expanding the collection, we're playing around with a few different categories right now, but let’s just say we'll be keeping it close to the brand in terms of accessories and elevating to today's man.
Find Wingmate at wingmate.us and check out/donate to their Kickstarter here.
Interview by Nisim Frank