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Danh Tran: How His Brand Turned Into a Shark Tank Success Story



Danh Tran

From catching the eye of big names like Metta World Peace and Robert Herjavec, Danh Tran talks with us about just what makes Buttercloth stand out above the rest.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I was born in Vietnam, and I grew up working in my family’s small tailor shop. You could say I started in fashion on my mom’s lap. I used to sit there watching the needle go up and down and I was fascinated. I remember one day she told me, “Don’t ever play with this machine – it’s how I make money for us – and fashion is not good for you. You will grow up to be an accountant or a lawyer.” Before I was ten, I was making my own clothes – and dreaming of coming to America to become a fashion designer.

When my family immigrated here is 1994 I wanted to go to Otis College which was the best school on the west coast, but we couldn’t afford it.  So I took fashion classes at a local college and landed a job at Mattel – eventually designing clothes for Barbie. When I had saved enough money, I quit and enrolled at Otis. After graduating I was recruited by 7 for All Mankind, and later at Hause of Howe, a division of Union Bay). I left there in 2006 to become Head Designer at the Affliction brand for 10 years.

I always hated wearing a dress shirt – they’re stiff, they’re scratchy, and you can’t move in them! I would wear a t-shirt to the office and change out into a dress shirt just for meetings. One day I thought, “why can’t I make a dress shirt that feels like I’m wearing a t-shirt?” That was my “aha moment” and it was the genesis for Buttercloth. 

What does your company do?

Our mission is to redefine men’s fashion by delivering comfort – without sacrificing style. We are 100% an eCommerce brand, and we love being able to have a direct relationship with our customers.

What was the most challenging thing about starting your company and building your brand?

First, I struggled first with the idea of even starting Buttercloth. I kept questioning my courage and commitment to leave my comfortable job and salary for the unknown. Then a friend and mentor gave me a book by Steve Harvey called “Jump.” As I read it, I saw myself in the words. It really helped me see a clear path to follow, and the next day I walked into my boss’ office and gave my notice. 

I’m a good designer, and I’m pretty inventive, so developing the product was easy for me. The next challenge was finding the right people to help me with the business and marketing sides. I recruited my long-time friend and mentor, Bob Stevens, who is our COO. Together we assembled a first-class team. It always comes down to people.

Capital is also a challenge. I started the company by selling my house and cashing in my 401K, so there is no “deep pocket” there. But we had a great product and a good story, and we got people to help us, one step at a time. There are always challenges, however, I see them as opportunities to make a difference.  I love it.

What are your competitive differentiators?

What makes Buttercloth different, first is our unique fabric It’s made from long fiber cotton, and double-finished to make it super-soft on both sides. It has 6-way stretch and breathability that keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We say it makes you, “look like a Friday night, but feel like a Sunday morning.”

How did you come up with the name ‘Buttercloth’?

I wanted a name that was memorable, and one that told the story of the fabric in one word. For a fabric as soft as butter, there could be only one name. A number of “experts” told me to change the name. Thankfully I didn’t listen to them.

How do you hope Buttercloth helps those who come across the brand?

When a guy likes the way he looks and feels, he has more self-confidence – and that translates to more success. So whether he’s sitting in long meetings, having a drink with friends, playing catch with the dog at the community park, or wherever his lifestyle takes him, we want to deliver both comfort and style.

What is one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

What’s your passion? Find it and go for it. Only if you’re truly passionate about it will you be willing to make the sacrifices and take the risks. Build a strong team of people who are the best at each facet of the business. Finally, trust your gut feelings and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.

What does the future hold for Buttercloth?

Following our signature button-downs, we introduced polos and sweaters last year. This summer we are introducing IcyCotton, a patented new fabric that uses the natural cooling effect of mint fibers to actually cool your body. We will have jackets available this fall, and a women’s collection in 2021. I want Buttercloth to be a household name within 5 years.

Where can you be reached online for readers who want to learn more?

That’s an easy one…!
Facebook: @butterclothshirt
Twitter: @buttercloth1
Instagram: @butterclothshirt

Is there anything else you would like to add?

There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. eCommerce has leveled the playing field so much, allowing beginning entrepreneurs to compete on a level they could have only dreamed of ten or twenty years ago. 

Freelance writer covering music, travel, food, fashion and tech. And tacos.