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.
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 in retail, you see a lot of companies who come up real fast and come down real fast. We want to make sure we keep control as much as possible of our products, marketing and branding. When we release a product, we want it to be awesome.”
Collard Greens is first and foremost a wholesale brand, which is currently about 70 percent of its business through relationships with around 250 retail and specialty outlets.
The founders opened up its their standalone retail store in Richmond, Virginia in 2013, and followed by moving its headquarters there earlier this year from High Point, North Carolina, where it had existed after an earlier move from Idaho.
“Richmond has always been one of our best markets, yet we never had a real retail presence there,” said Jeremy, who also highlighted that direct-to-consumer sales through the company’s online e-commerce platform are growing.
“Randy has been really able to focus on driving the branding, which drives e-commerce purchases,” Jeremy says. “We want to make our social media and website enjoyable and cool, we don’t try to beat people over the head with our marketing. I think we have a pretty healthy balance.”
Longer term, the founders are interested in bringing manufacturing in house, as peers like Todd Shelton are doing.
“U.S. manufacturers are generally more nimble and communication is better, but we have a different relationship and set of terms with each of the manufacturers we deal with,” says Jeremy. “Everything is just a little bit different and that becomes hard to manage. For quality control purposes, manufacturing our own goods is definitely a long-term goal of ours.”
For now, customers can order online, through a growing number of menswear outlets around the United States, and online.
About JakeJake is an expert on men’s style and fashion based in Washington, DC. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs and innovative clothing and lifestyle brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. He has published hundreds of articles on style and apparel, and regularly interviews small business CEOs and startup founders about industry trends. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine.
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