News Column

Talking Shop: Love bags and shoes? This man understands

June 6, 2014

By Rhea Mahbubani, Daily Pilot, Costa Mesa, Calif.

June 06--Scott Sablan has a theory.

Men like four things. Of the lot, they will gladly disclose two, but might not be as willing to admit to the rest.

"Guys like audio equipment and watches," the owner of Cloth & Metal said with a knowing smile. "Guys also like bags and shoes -- I swear to you. I've heard it multiple times. Women will come in and say to their guys, 'You don't need a bag, and you don't need more shoes.'"

With that in mind, Sablan caters to discerning shoppers by showcasing a broad cross-section of wares -- apparel, footwear, watches, grooming products and audiophile electronics -- at his Costa Mesa spot. Cloth & Metal occupied a 300-square-foot corner of the OC Mix, which also included a dressing room, during its April 2013 debut. A few months later, that number climbed to 725, and now, on the verge of a grand re-opening on June 8, it sits at just under 1,400 square feet.

"I wanted to create a single destination for men," Sablan noted. "I felt like there was a concept to do something better than to just have clothing inside the store. Anything that touches men's lifestyle, I want to incorporate it.

"And, very simply put, cloth is for the apparel and metal is for the electronics."

The 35-year-old, who has developed speakers and headphones at companies such as Pioneer and most recently Logitech, came up with the idea of a specialty men's outlet in 2010. He sat on it for a few years until November 2012, when he began fleshing out the business plan. After creating a brand logo and website, Sablan attended the Magic trade show in Las Vegas in February and stumbled across the OC Mix upon his return.

"I knew that I wanted to have a brick-and-mortar location, but it had to be the right fit," the Newport Beach resident remarked. "There's really kind of a cult following behind this whole center, and immediately as I walked in, I was like, 'Wait a minute. This is really unique. This could be a good home.' It just struck me as a very progressive retail concept."

Within a week, he'd signed a lease, and Cloth & Metal was off and running. This location will be the company's headquarters regardless of future expansion.

Since then, the sunny, open space, which has a mid-century modern feel and features brands like VINCE, Naked & Famous, J Brand and Imperial Barber Products, has attracted hipsters, young professionals and middle-aged men. Sablan, who picks items that he personally likes and would use, said that he's even served customers who have maintained a discerning taste well into their 70s.

"Our tastes are as eclectic as the store's aesthetic," the owner said. "We have things that people would never pair together and maybe scoff at when they walk by. But our whole thing is that we want any guy to come into our store and cultivate his own sense of style, in a comfortable manner."

Cloth & Metal, which spotlights floor-standing and computer speakers alongside Bluetooth and AirPlay headphones, will soon be outfitted with a headphone bar where audio enthusiasts can bring their own music and sample an assortment of high-fidelity options -- another of Sablan's loves.

Michael Dias was initially introduced to the owner through a common friend. The sales director of Ultimate Ears, hand-made in-ear monitors and earphones that are on display at Cloth & Metal, admitted to skepticism when he was first approached about writing a blog, which includes music reviews, insight on sound engineers and record labels, and interviews with the movers and shakers of the audio industry.

"My intial thoughts were, 'I'm not sure how music reviews tie into a men's boutique,'" recalled Dias, of Irvine. "It wasn't until I saw the shop and understood his vision that I realized, 'Ah, this is genuis what he's doing.' What I see Cloth & Metal truly excelling at is that it is the filter to let you know what is of very high quality but also accessible."

He said the store's appeal lies in the fact that it combines a welcoming environment -- no hovering employees desperate for a sale -- with an insider's perspective on commodities that men utilize every day. A fan of the way Sablan has presented items both online and in his Orange County outpost, Dias deemed him a "curator of culture."

"I think the way Scott presents what he does is not your mass market, not your mainstream, but something that true connoisseurs appreciate," he said. "It's not that he's presenting the latest, greatest trends. He's showing true crafts and connecting customers with the manufacturer and their products and purchases. If he could sell cigars or whiskey, they would fit right in."

If You Go

What: Cloth & Metal

Where: The OC Mix, 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $5 to $8,000

Information:, or (888) 938-4536


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Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)

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