While technology makes it increasingly easy to access well-made goods from Europe, Asia and elsewhere, there is something gratifying in getting to know the designers, manufacturers, retailers and writers who are refocusing men on what our fellow countrymen and women are making here in America.
To begin, see Modern Fellows’ list of Where to Buy American.
Paul Winston’s ties are a throwback to an earlier time. From his simple website and New York City storefront he sells silk grenadine and madder ties, as well as “conversation piece” ties, at prices you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.read more
Undershirts are usually an afterthought. You probably are loyal to a favorite brand without really remembering why, and without having evaluated alternatives in recent memory. Entrepreneurs like Mike Schwarz, CEO of men’s undershirt retailer RibbedTee, are giving men a good reason to try something new.read more
Modern Fellows caught up with entrepreneur Brad Christmann, who took his Washington, DC-based sock venture Boldfoot live this week and quickly surpassed his initial fundraising target. Brad, a District-area native – he grew up in Silver Spring – has been fine-tuning the concept and construction of his line of colorful men’s socks for the past year and a half.read more
Collared Greens ain’t subtle. The young company is cranking out a bright and bold line of American-made neck and bow ties, polos, pocket squares, and other takes on classic menswear staples. It is also on the move, recently transferring its headquarters to up-and-coming fashion destination Richmond and expanding its presence online and through menswear shops nationally and internationally. Their story dates back to 2008, when co-founder Randy Ashton convinced Jeremy Bull and Dalton Grein to move out to Sun Valley, Idaho to start building up his idea for a sustainable menswear brand. “The original idea was to start a clothing company with the purpose of raising money for conservation,” said Jeremy, who spoke to Modern Fellows recently. “We’re all outdoor minded and wish we could make more of a difference, but when you’re young and of limited means it’s hard to do much. Collard Greens would be a vehicle for funding conservation efforts.” Jeremy – who graduated from college in 2005, worked on a ranch and then as a financial advisor in Charleston – seems like an unlikely candidate to be selling neckwear and belts. His passion – sustainability and conservation – is evident in the company’s focus on sustainability. “Each year we donate 1 percent of gross revenues to 3 or 4 environmental organizations of our fans choosing,” Jeremy notes. The company also started the CG/24 Conservation Project, to which it devotes an additional 1 percent of profits, and has partnered with a company called Native Energy to help offset their carbon footprint. Photo credit: Collared Greens As for the clothes themselves, “Silk is inherently organic,” Jeremy says, “but the dying process isn’t.” Collared Greens use vegetable-based dies as often as it can in its ties. “We also use recycled materials in our packaging and eliminate plastics where we can in the process,” he notes. “We’re not perfect but we give it an honest effort.” The company’s focus – updated, bright takes on classic American design – is refreshing. Collared Greens sent over a light blue and pink striped “Carolina” necktie as well as a cozy (both pictured) for the purpose of a review. [The cozy is cradling a delicious Sweet Josie brown ale from Lonerider Beer in Raleigh, North Carolina.] The vibe – cozy and all – is playful, and the tie wears well. The woven silk isn’t heavily treated, and lacks the weird sheen of many department store ties. It’s nicely textured and, with a blade that measures three inches in width, is not too skinny or fat. Like the suit? It’s from Dragon Inside. Jeremy notes that the company is looking to grow its line methodically by about one new product per season while also expanding the depth and breadth of existing offerings. “We’re big proponents of the idea that slow and steady growth is sustainable growth,” he says. “Particularly...read more
Todd Shelton has his hands full. Two years ago this month, the Tennessee-born menswear designer decided to move manufacturing of his classic, already-American-made lineup of shirts, knits, jeans and pants in-house. In February 2012, “we moved the brand into an industrial warehouse in East Rutherford, [New Jersey,] bought our first machine, and hired our first production employee,” Shelton wrote on his blog. Integrating manufacturing, design and retail – as Shelton is doing – is no small feat, and the menswear industry isn’t exactly overflowing with examples from which to learn. Shelton, pictured above, identifies Los Angeles-based American Apparel as one of the few businesses that is doing something similar – soup-to-nuts designing, manufacturing, and direct-to-consumer retail. (Unlike AA, at the moment, Shelton sells direct-to-consumer over the Internet only, rather than through retail stores.) It is a massive undertaking, and one that presents a unique set of challenges. One surprise – until you stop to think about it for a moment – is that prices are rising as Shelton brings manufacturing in-house. “I know some people think that if you bring manufacturing in-house, you’re going to lower your costs,” said Shelton. “That’s simply not the case. If it were, other clothing brands would own their factories.” He decided the benefits of manufacturing under his own roof – to control quality and to provide better flexibility with product design – were worth it. Quality, Shelton says, has skyrocketed, and control offers a new ability to customize fits, which “has opened up a new world for our customer.” That additional control and quality comes with a cost, and getting the retail prices to a sustainable – that is profitable – level has taken some finessing. His jeans, which used to sell for between $120 and $160, are now priced between $150 and $200. T-shirts today start at $65 while before they began at $45. Shelton says these new prices for these product categories, the first that Shelton brought in-house, are stable. The jeans are priced comparably to others of similar quality with the made-in-America label. Todd Shelton provided a pair, as well as a t-shirt, to Modern Fellows for free, and they fit well and feel great. Having been lured by the softness and feel of elastane-tinged jeans for the past several years – which are the best they will ever be the first time you wear them – Todd Shelton’s basic unsanded selvedge dark jeans get better with age. One reason the jeans fit so well was because I knew exactly what size and fit to order thanks to an innovative “fit kit” the company is testing. Todd Shelton will send out a package of unfinished mock-ups of jeans so that customers can test several different fits and sizes (and then return the fit kit via a prepaid shipping label). Transitioning manufacturing has been an iterative...read more
Several online retailers set up shop in Georgetown this holiday season, offering DC residents an opportunity to touch fabrics, try on clothes and get to know their brands offline. Modern Fellows toured pop ups put on by Richmond-based Ledbury and Washington, DC’s Read Wall this week and captured some photos of what’s on offer. Read Wall Read Wall grew up in Washington, DC and stuck around to found an evolving and extraordinarily interesting line of menswear staples. While he began with a focus on casual and textured button down shirts, his namesake company is now looking to provide a complete line of essentials for men, including made-to-measure suits and dressier ready-to-wear and custom shirts and accessories. To do so, he is stitching together partnerships with high-quality American manufacturers to provide modern takes on classic pieces. Poised to grab the mantle from Brooks Brothers to help dress a new generation of men with an updated fit and style, Read has caught the attention of outlets like Esquire, Garden and Gun (a favorite around here), and GQ, who accurately characterizes his effort as “producing clean prep essentials guys will wear on and off the clock,” though the preppiness is mostly, thankfully, understated. The quality is loud and clear, however, and is evident up on the second floor of 3330 Cady’s Alley, across the street from Bonobos’ Guide Shop. Read is sharing the space — which is not well-marked from the outside — with several other companies for a temporary collaborative shop for the holidays, including Tuckernuck and Zestt, a great home decor and indie art shop. It will be interesting to follow Read as he looks to develop a permanent physical retail spot in Georgetown in the new year. (Full disclosure: Read provided this red check cutaway collar shirt to Modern Fellows at no cost.) Ledbury Heading north on Wisconsin Ave., Richmond-based Ledbury just celebrated its fourth year in business, and has started to branch out from its initial focus on shirting to offer other items including unlined blazers, ties, and Charlottesville, Va-made belts. They moved a selection of clothing, including a nice shawl-collar sweater pictured below, up from Richmond to a small, temporary outpost, which ends its run on Sunday. Gilt City DC is offering a $200 credit for $100, which is valid for use only at the pop up. While the focus may have expanded, their shirts are still the star, and the shop is full of attractive patterns in a variety of styles....read more
What better time than Cyber Monday to trot out a gift guide? From head-to-toe, below are seven ideas for stylish American-made gifts for men. One nice thing about the options below, and others you might discover via directories from the likes of American Made Matters, retailers such as William Rogue and Co or Made Collection, or Modern Fellows’ roundup of Northern Grade Richmond, is that they offer opportunities to make a gift a little bit more meaningful by providing a story behind it. From Goorin Bros.’ effort to revive hats for men to the rise of Alabama-based Zkano’s organic socks, the companies below provide interesting anecdotes to accompany your gift this year. Head Thanks in part to Don Draper and the recent revival of Jay Gatsby, a new generation of men are discovering hats, and Goorin Bros. is one of the movement’s major suppliers. While fourth-generation hatmaker Ben Goorin’s 28 retail outlets and web store are stocked with top hats and bowlers, the company also carries a range of knit hats and beanies for those who might be intimidated by sporting a fedora. Neck One of my favorite stories is the handmade ties produced by Louis Walton, a school bus driver by day who taught himself to sew. He is stocking a nice collection of silk repp and grenadine ties at the moment, though the promised 2 week turnaround time for each custom tie may be cutting it close for a Christmas arrival. For quicker delivery, Billy Reid’s heirloom collection boasts some interesting wool and silk blends in 7 or 9cm lengths. Shoulders For made-in-America custom shirting, Ratio Clothing impresses for the ability to find a guy’s fit with minimal fuss and a gorgeous set of imported fabrics that can be dressed up or down. While the logistics of getting a shirt by the holiday are difficult, a gift certificate offers a nice way to get to know to Eric Powell’s Colorado-based company. Raleigh-based Lumina Clothing offers more casual ready-to-wear options. Chest DC-based Hugh and Crye makes some of the most attractive pocket squares around that serve as excellent stocking stuffers. If you’re comfortable buying your gift recipient underwear, I have been testing out terrific American-made undershirts from founder Mike Schwarz’s Ribbed-Tee. Wrist If one more watch company opens in America, we’ll have to call it a movement. Shinola, which set up shop in Detroit to much buzz but little inventory, is finally ramping up production and has a respectable selection of watches in stock and ready to ship for the holidays. Weiss Watch Company, owned by Swiss-educated and WOSTEP Certified Watchmaker Cameron Weiss, aims to produce accessible heirlooms and “rediscover the legacy & prestige of the manufacturing processes” that began in the United States. Knees New Jersey-based designer Todd Shelton has been rolling out an increasingly robust collection of American-made trousers, khakis and denim and writing about his manufacturing experience. Lumina Clothing...read more
“Welcome to the hat shop!” Ben Goorin is standing at the door to his company’s new Georgetown outpost, offering a hearty greeting to a steady stream of shoppers. It has been a busy eight years for the fourth generation CEO who, since taking over the business, has opened nearly 30 retail stores selling American-made hats directly to men and women. Modern Fellows met up with Ben for an interview during the grand opening of Goorin Bros. store on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown and caught a glimpse inside: The cozy 1,000 square-foot-shop is lined with a range of bowlers, top hats, cloches, fedoras, flat caps, Gatsbys and knits for men and women as well as some cute caps for kids, at prices that range from $35 to about $200. Inside, a gorgeous tin ceiling and warm mahogany wood give the shop a nostalgic feel that is in keeping with their other locations around North America. In the back, a wall of history, pictured below, details some of the highlights of a brand’s history that dates back to 1895. To follow is a brief interview with CEO Ben Goorin, lightly edited for clarity, and a look inside the hat shop. What has your journey been like over the past few years? My great grandfather started this business [in 1895]. It was wholesale until 2005, when we opened the first retail shop in San Francisco. DC is number 28. What kinds of challenges have you faced since taking the plunge into retail? We had to learn retail. It’s not something that was in our family history. We had to learn it over the last six or seven years. Everybody is able to learn about the history of hatmaking and the craft and how to find the right hat for the right person. It’s not just a sterile retail environment, it’s fun. What kind of a hat would you recommend for someone who isn’t used to wearing them? A lot of times, the key is to put a hat on someone, look in the mirror and go from there. You can start figuring it out once they start trying things on. There is the physical aspect — a hat frames the face and should balance them. And oftentimes it is personality-driven. How much are you interested in making a statement versus wearing something that is a little more subdued? How would you describe your typical customer? What we’ve found is that it is everyday, ordinary people who are curious about hats. If I had to zero in, people in their late-30s seem to be our most frequent customer. Between men and women, sales are about 50/50. It used to be 80 percent men, because we were very focused on men — our shop feels very masculine. But sales for women have been very strong lately, particularly in the cloches. Where are...read more
One of the few incubators in the United States at the intersection of fashion and technology, Stitch Factory is looking to help build the kind of hip, tech-savvy destination for entrepreneurs envisioned by Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh, who is embarking on a SimCity-of-sorts project to reboot downtown Las Vegas. Modern Fellows spoke with Stitch Factory founders Jennifer Taler and Meghan Boyd to learn more about their efforts to support budding fashion entrepreneurs in Las Vegas and beyond. Stitch Factory helps fledgling businesses take flight and acts as a hub for the Las Vegas fashion community. Jen and Meghan have also attracted a high-profile transplant from Los Angeles in Combat Gent, a menswear startup founded by Vishaal and Mo Melwani that has garnered positive buzz for its inexpensive men’s suits and tailored basics. (The company, which is the recent recipient of $1.84 million in financing from a group that includes Hsieh’s Las Vegas Tech Fund, will base production of its upcoming denim line from Stitch Factory.) Below is a lightly-edited transcript of a conversation with Jen and Meghan. When did you get started? We had our grand opening in January 2013, but started moving stuff into the space last July 2012. [Initially] we wanted to stage it. In September we invited designers to start working out of here for free to test the concept, get their feedback, see what other machines they want. Do you like working in this collaborative environment? At first they were h hesitant, as a creative person they were afraid that someone would knock of what they’re doing. Then they found when they were all in this space at the same time that they were more creative and learned tips and tricks that they wouldn’t have otherwise known. When Vishaal [of Combat Gent] is here, he’s an amazing resource on the sourcing side of things. He’ll know who to talk to for this and that. It’s fun to see the energy of everyone working together. What was the inspiration for founding Stitch Factory? [Meghan:] We were originally inspired by co-working. Whether it’s General Assembly or Starbucks, you can go there and work but [as a designer] it would be pretty difficult to take [all of the equipment that you need] with you. Then we started getting involved with the Downtown Project and were thinking about ways to bring something different to the fashion world in Las Vegas. Tony [Hsieh, Zappos.com CEO] had just started speaking about Downtown Project. A woman emailed him and he connected her with me. We met, and she grabbed her bag and pulled out the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated and she said that’s me. This woman had about 10 swimsuits featured in Sports Illustrated. She was sewing them out of her spare bedroom in her 2 bedroom out in Henderson. She has the hard part down –...read more
In the second of a two-part series profiling unique places to buy the best socks online, Modern Fellows highlights entrepreneurs who are producing modern takes on classic sock styles that are way more interesting and carefully considered than what you will find in the local department store. From over-the-calf hosiery to organic Alabama-made cotton crew socks, Modern Fellows tested a variety of blends, designs and sizes from six entrepreneurial sock outfits. Here’s what we found: Charles Mark & Sons Charles Mark & Sons is the result of a collaboration between Houston-based John McClellan, San Francisco’s Josh Pollick and Eliot Cotton in New York City, who concluded that their geographically-diverse personal networks would provide a solid basis for launching their menswear concept. The friends launched a crowd-funding campaign in December 2012, through which they nabbed customers in 15 countries, and officially premiered in January 2013. John suggested that their Italian-made cotton/nylon/spandex blend “is identical to the composition that you would find in a luxury brand that retails for twice as much.” Charles Marks’ lightweight socks, which come up over the calf but not quite to the knee, don’t sag or bunch around the ankles and are exceptionally comfortable. Even though they rise up high on the leg, you hardly notice they are there. The patterns and colors are interesting but not overwhelming, and I sometimes find myself passing by bolder, more expressive socks to seek their extremely well-rounded pairs out from the drawer. CM&S operates a “buy-one, give-one” business — for every pair of socks bought, the company gives on pair of white socks to a nonprofit called the Joy of Sox — but the quality and design are what will keep customers coming back. Pairs of socks are $14 plus about $4 shipping. Dapper Classics Started by the father-son team of Fred and Harrison Rich in 2011, Dapper Classics specializes in classically-styled over-the-calf length socks. By far the longest pairs that Modern Fellows received in the course of this review, Dapper Classic’s socks are lightweight and breathable — important traits for hosiery that hugs the bottom of the knee. Still, these are socks you feel. They are noticeably there on your legs. The Richs manufacture their socks at a third-generation mill in North Carolina of either a “soft mercerized cotton and nylon blend” or merino wool. (DC was the only company to offer up a wool sock for review, which says something about the modern emphasis on cotton blends.) Their ah-ha moment for starting the business came via a family discussion between Fred, his wife Connie and Harrison about the lack of high-quality, classically-styled made-in-the-USA socks that would stay up and not show any leg. At $20 per pair with free shipping via the Dapper Classics website, their variety of understated solids, stripes, dots and patterns offer a terrific alternative to higher-priced imports from the likes of Marcoliani and Pantherella. They have garnered...read more