Robert Pauley III is the best-dressed man in all of New York City. His unique style is made up of custom made-to-measure suits, tuxedos, outerwear, and luxurious fur collar topcoats, all derived from is his own fashion brand known as the WELTHÉ Guy.
I had the chance to speak with the New York native on his distinct approach to fashion as well as learn how he took what was essentially, a childhood passion and turned it into not only a business but a lifestyle. “I am someone who has always loved men’s suiting. When I was a kid, I would watch movies centered around wall street or people going to work with their briefcases to their corner office and I would say that’s going to be me one day. I’d see a man walking down 5th avenue with a fur coat and think he must be rich, he must be wealthy, that’s going to be me one day. I didn’t know what I would do as far as turning fashion into a career, but I just always loved it.”
While in high school, as part of his internship program, Robert began wearing suits for the first time daily. The positive reactions and respect he received from his peers and colleagues, started to enhance his confidence as well as his love of wearing suits. However, even with his early interest in fashion and design as a child, Robert didn’t pursue his passion right away. A history major in college, Robert found himself in the business of finance. A ten-year, six-figure career that took him all over the world as he lived in several different countries. It was during this time that Robert says his sense of style began to develop. He credits his time living in China for increasing his knowledge about fashion, “China is known for custom and bespoke suits and that’s where I really learned the technicalities of how a suit is made and the differences between fabrics, etc. So, my knowledge of fashion goes beyond me just being a stylish person.”
His distinct style often caught the attention of his colleagues who questioned why someone as stylish as him would be working in finance and not the fashion industry, “They would tell me that I didn’t belong in finance and that I looked like I should be working in fashion. But even with being told that, my initial thought was what company would I work for? I didn’t think I could have my own company.”
As we talked more about how WELTHÉ Guy came to be, he shares this story. “One day, I was looking for a particular coat and I couldn’t find it. The sales reps suggested I make it myself but because I didn’t have an entrepreneurial mindset, I wasn’t sure how to do that because I was used to just buying whatever I wanted. But I took the sales rep’s advice, went and found the material I wanted the coat to be made of, had it made and then started wearing it.”
He further shared that once more people started noticing the coat, they would often ask him how they could get one which is how he started making them for others upon request, slowly building his clientele. This newfound occupation triggered the idea for Robert to start his own company. He eventually quit his job in finance and started working on his business full time.
Four years later, Robert has grown the WELTHÉ Guy to become a recognizable and in-demand fashion brand. When I asked him to explain who the WELTHÉ Guy is, Pauley said, “the WELTHÉ Guy isn’t just me, he represents all of us. Those that see where they want to go, that have an idea of what they want to look like, and what they want their lives to be. When people ask me who my client is, I say it’s me because I was that person before. I was the person looking for a particular coat and look, couldn’t find it, and then took the initiative to make it happen. I had that vision of what I wanted to look like, and a lot of my clients also share that vision for themselves as well. Although the clients may look different, they’re essentially the same guy, all connected through their desire to lead that confident lifestyle, starting with their fashion.”
His use of vibrant colors, unique combinations of fur styles, and fabrics have received the attention of prominent members of the entertainment industry. Having recently collaborated with rapper and business mogul, Damon Dash, and currently working with football quarterback and analyst for ESPN, Robert Griffin III, the WELTHÉ Guy’s distinguished look is becoming more and more mainstream and well-known. Although Robert acknowledges that celebrity support has been great for his business and brand and that the exposure has helped to grow his audience, it’s still the everyday man that he wants to keep in mind as the quintessence of his clientele as that’s how the business started.
That humble spirit comes from his family roots. During our interview, we touched on his upbringing and how he developed the compassion and thoughtfulness of others that was extended to him. Robert grew up in the Bronx and was raised by his grandmother from the ages of 10-17. “My mom was incarcerated at the time and my dad wasn’t around due to his drug addiction. But I always had structure and people looking out for me through my grandmother and extended family to lead me down the right road. I used the experiences of my parents to motivate me to do better and strived for something different. I always had that attitude of putting my best foot forward.”
Even with that fortitude from an early age, Robert, like many of us has had his fair share of tragedy. As we started to talk more about family, he reflects on what he calls one of the hardest years of his life and how that affected him. During this time, he lost his brother and only sibling as well as his best friend of 20 years at the same time. “Their deaths really made me say ok, you need to go after the things you want in life, live your life, and make your impact while you’re here because you never know when you won’t be here. Taking more risks and doing the things I want have been the biggest reinforcements that this loss has had on me.” Noting that both his brother and best friend were both huge proponents and supporters of his career from the beginning, he uses the continued growth and success of the business to honor their memories.
Diving deeper into the topic of fashion, we discussed the current state of the industry and its advances to inclusivity among designers and models as well as where he sees the WELTHÉ Guy contributing to those advancements. To my surprise, Robert says that he’s an advocate for doing away with fashion shows and further explains why this seemingly traditional display of the latest fashion styles is rather antiquated and may no longer be needed to share your collection with your audience, clientele, and future buyers. When I started the business, I had a show during New York fashion week, as well as in Atlanta and Chicago. My lesson learned from those experiences was that you invest a lot of money to put a show together. The shows don’t necessarily generate sales. It’s a good way to show people what you have in your collection, but it doesn’t always entice people to buy.
His advice to up-and-coming fashion designers vacillating on whether they should or should not participate in fashion shows is simply that, “everything is direct to consumer now and you don’t really need to attend fashion shows in person now because you can stream them.” Instead of the traditional fashion show, Robert is using his ingenuity and creativity with a different approach, “my idea of a fashion show is that I take that season’s collection, and I film a video of me wearing the different looks from that collection in different locations throughout the city, add some music, and upload it to social media. When people can see the looks over and over again on your social media pages, that eventually drives sales because they want what they see.”
Of course, no business can be successful without a certain element or key that helps to maintain it and move it forward. Robert believes that his key to success can be summed up in one word…process. Putting systems and operations in place, doing things a certain way, and being consistent with them has led to his success. Rarely does he deviate from his process because he knows what works and what doesn’t. He also credits this process to his approach when designing a new piece for his collection. “Sticking to a process ensures that there is a less likely chance that something will go wrong. I stick to the style of the classic man, but I add a modern touch with colors and fabrics, etc. because I find that that works best for the business.” What sets Robert’s business apart from competitors is that his clothes are not off-the-rack pieces. When you decide to have something made from the WELTHÉ Guy, you are signing up for an experience. That experience includes having clients work with Robert directly whether in person or virtually to layout the look of your desired purchase. Those meetings consist of fabric discussion, lining, buttons, color schemes, and the overall fit, giving the client ownership of designing their own product in the same way Robert did with the very first coat he had made for himself with his own vision of how it should look and fit.
As a busy man, Robert rarely has much downtime but as the owner of two schnauzers (Banks and Cash), he’s getting outside more and more. He also enjoys a good Netflix series or documentary, but his main focus and priority is continuing to grow his business.
Looking towards the future, I asked him what’s next for himself and for the business to accomplish? His answer was to teach. “I love teaching others. I get messages all the time from people who tell me that they love what I do and how I do it and they ask for information that I can share with them. I eventually want to create a course to teach people how to do what I do from their homes. I think it’s a way to help people increase their income but it’s also a way to bring this type of business to the community.” As we close out our interview, I wanted to get a sense of just how far Robert sees WELTHÉ Guy going and what impact it will have for said community. Answering pensively, Robert had this to say about the legacy he hopes to leave behind, “I see the WELTHÉ Guy being bigger than me as the individual face that people see. I think the brand itself will expand and be known for all of the things that I’m known for in terms of the fit, the fabrics, the quality, and the experience but also the community. You cannot have a business today and not care about the community or have a social aspect or corporate responsibility in terms of what you’re doing and what you’re putting out there. The WELTHÉ Guy has given people inspiration and motivation and has made them feel as if they can do this too. Those things are way bigger than me as a person and the brand itself. I think the legacy will be that of the community that was built around the brand, a legacy of the narrative around black men and how we present ourselves, and a legacy of a black-owned business that’s purchased by all.”
The WELTHÉ Guy, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, is a luxury and lifestyle brand, focusing on custom-made suits and topcoats, as well as shoes, shirts, outerwear, fragrances, and skincare. Robert has not only grown his business to be a true representation for the everyday man and his desire for the wealth of self-confidence and ambition, but he also has redefined style for black men and what it means to be wealthy. In his own unique way, Robert has perfected the art of “style is freedom.”