Entrepreneur Todd Shelton describes how his American-made clothing business is surviving COVID-19 and sketches out a post-pandemic future of menswear featuring fewer suits, “dressing for your day” and a pent-up surge of creativity.
This article is part of Modern Fellows’ ongoing series exploring how startups, small businesses and retailers are adjusting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Todd Shelton
I asked Todd Shelton (pictured above), the entrepreneur behind his eponymous Made-in-American clothing company, to describe the impact of COVID-19 on his business and to suggest where he sees the future of retail and menswear in light of the pandemic.
I’ve long appreciated Todd Shelton’s line of American-made basics — jeans, button down flannel, oxford and chambray shirts, casual chinos and business trousers, t-shirts, sweatshirts and face masks — as well as Todd’s commitment to ethical manufacturing in the United States. (I first interviewed Todd about his efforts to build an American-made clothing brand back in 2014.)
Todd Shelton’s clothing is made-on-demand by hand at their factory in East Rutherford, New Jersey. They also source fabrics from “countries that enforce similar labor and environmental standards as the United States. Countries like England, Japan, and Portugal with high standards and long histories of fair practices.”
You can see some examples of Todd’s clothes in the photos throughout the article. (All photos are copyright Todd Shelton and are used with permission.)
Below is a first person account from Todd, lightly-edited for grammar and length.
Over to Todd…
“Covid has been a big enough shock to the system that we can expect lasting changes in many areas of daily life, including how we dress.
Fewer suits, more “dressing for your day”
“I expect the biggest change in menswear will be in the suits category. I think the frequency in which we wear suits will drop dramatically — and I don’t think it will come back. I went to a wedding this past week and the dress code suggestion said ‘Cocktail Chic (no jeans).’
“I think that nearly every company that had professional attire or business casual dress codes before Covid, will drop their dress code one big notch towards being more casual.
“We’ll see a lot more companies adopt ‘Dress for Your Day’ – which means dress appropriately depending on the clients you are meeting and the business you are conducting that day. That can include athleisure or work-leisure on days when you’re just alone at your desk. All of this will lead to less judgement from others for what you choose to wear to work.
Online discovery and direct-to-consumer e-commerce becomes even more important
“E-commerce adoption increased as people, who normally just popped into a store to get what they needed, started buying those things online. E-commerce will continue to grow faster after Covid, than if Covid had never happened.
“As e-commerce becomes a bigger share of a brands business, brands will get more serious about the channel. Brands that prioritized wholesale and retail will now start to prioritize e-commerce.
“In menswear, the potential upside is brands will have an incentive to make e-commerce fit and customer experiences better, which would help the reputation of online clothing shopping overall. The potential downside is competition for customers attention will increase, so we’ll see more advertising and advanced tracking tools.
“As for discovering brands, if Covid continues and people no longer depend on old habits like driving to a mall to buy clothing, they will begin either searching online or asking friends for recommendations. If that happens, sites like yours and word of mouth will become more important to help people discover brands.
More pre-orders, fewer clearance sales
“[With respect to operations,] I tend to think brand owners and leaders will want to make their businesses easier to operate due to Covid, with a greater focus on profitability and less focus on unprofitable growth.
“I hope this will mean better planning with production, not over-producing, and minimizing the need for so many sales and clearance events. Once we get past brands selling through their overstock, I think prices will increase and sale events will decrease.
“I also expect to see more brands adopt pre-order sales. Pre-orders minimize inventory risk and most brands will be looking to minimize risk any way they can during and after Covid.
Surviving COVID through on-demand, direct-to-consumer e-commerce (made in the USA)
“We will survive Covid due to our business model.
“We are e-commerce only. We do not have stores. We do not have wholesale partnerships.
“We own our factory in New Jersey which enables us to manufacture on-demand, we don’t have an excess of unsold inventory, and our supply chain was not disrupted. I’m satisfied with our business model at this point.
“We did stop plans to release a Blazer this Fall due to Covid. A blazer will always be an important garment for men, especially if they dress business casual or attend events. But I didn’t feel the timing was right this Fall. Maybe a Fall in the future.
A post-COVID renaissance for menswear
“I have a feeling there will be a surge of new ideas and creative solutions for menswear after Covid.
“There are a lot of entrepreneurial people sitting around thinking about the future right now, and as soon as those people see the skies clearing, they’ll take action.
“I think menswear after Covid is going to be more interesting than if Covid never happened.”
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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