I admit it: I’m an internet shopper. As much as I want to support my local brick and mortars, the lure of the web makes it impossible for me to stay loyal. It’s just so much easier to get exactly what I want. I never have to settle for an item solely because that’s what’s available. Online, everything is available (and usually for a better price). And yet, I have to admit that the more I e-shop, the more I miss the person-to-person experience of buying from an independent retailer. There’s something about interacting with the people who choose the stock, merchandise the space, and pour their hearts and souls into the business’ day-to-day operations, that makes a purchase feel – for lack of a better word – special. Fortunately (for me, not so much for my local retailers), there is one brand that does a near-perfect job of combining the ease and specificity of buying online, with the feel-good aspects of buying locally. That brand is Taylor Stitch.
Based in San Fransisco, Taylor Stitch has been churning out custom and ready-to-wear shirting for just over a year now, though based on their product and flare for customer service, you’d swear they’d been doing it since long before. Using only the highest quality materials (organic Japanese fabrics, corozo buttons, french interlinings, etc), the shirts are produced in the founders’ native SF, where they oversee every step of the manufacturing process, ensuring both the quality of their garments, and the quality of life of their fabricators. However, beyond making great (and ethical) shirts, what really sets TS apart is the owners’ uncanny ability to make shopping online feel just like shopping at a favorite local spot. Digitally corresponding with them (be it through email, twitter, or their blog) feels like talking with old friends (or favorite shop owners), giving every purchase that same “special” feeling that usually only accompanies goods bought in person. These are guys who clearly love what they do, and they are willing to bet that once you put on one of their shirts, you will too.
Co-founder Mike Maher (pictured above, on the right) took some time out to answer a few questions through email. Here’s what he had to say.
Business is an absolute blast. It is steadily growing and we are trying to stay on top of all the great opportunities that continue to arise for us. We are also garnering great press due to people like you who care what the heck is happening and hold companies like ours to a higher standard. We have some fun projects coming up including moving into an office/showroom/retail space next weekend and hopefully an up coming retail co/op sometime in the next 4 to 5 months.
How would you describe Taylor Stitch’s code of ethics?
Our code is a continuously developing ethos that we are always contemplating. As we grow, we discuss how we can stay true to manufacturing in first world countries, specifically the United States, and where we can strive to be better eco-citizens while still delivering top quality products. At the end of the day we just want to continue to offer the best product we can and hopefully get some lower price points mixed in while not compromising any of our manufacturing or piece goods quality. We also truly try and focus on creating a relationship with our customers. People seem to come to us because they trust us. They get a personal response via email or when they call they speak to someone that can make sure they are happy. Sometimes they are surprised that they don’t have to get angry on the phone. You almost hear them stop in their tracks. That’s pretty awesome.
How is Taylor Stitch able to maintain its code of ethics while producing affordable clothing?
We worry more about making things well than shaving a dollar or two off our manufacturing costs. We have set prices for ourselves and want to stick with them as best we can. As we scale we want to make things more affordable and deliver an even better value to the consumer. Keep an eye out for our $99 Made in the USA oxford coming out (relatively) soon.
Why do you think bigger companies can’t (or won’t) do the same?
Larger companies seem to rest on the laurels of their brand name. It is up to the little guy to be punchy and creative and to continue to innovate wherever they can. It’s disappointing to see, but as the large companies scale they seem to focus on driving even larger margins instead of creating value for their customer. Padding their own stats becomes more important than continuing to make an unrivaled product. Some of these brands still keep their prices at luxury product levels while offering a product that’s inferior to what they offered in the past.
Do you think Taylor Stitch’s code of ethics has helped to attract customers, or play any other role in the success of the company?
This is for sure. There is a very strong niche of consumers that look for people that set out to make the best product they can. We hope to continue to win the hearts of these people and build a better organization based on that. It is easy for us to tell a story because our story is true. People can identify with us because we are proud to tell them where everything is made and that it is made the best way we have figured out how.
Are there any specific new ways Taylor Stitch is currently working to increase its level of social responsibility? If yes, what are they?
We are working to develop this co/op of really interesting brands all brought together in one space. With this project we want to have the ability to promote more local things in conjunction with TS. We are playing with the idea of a community garden on the roof of the building and developing relationships with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to offer drop points at the location as well. These are only a few of the ideas and we will continue to look to partner with and support organizations that effect the things and places we love. As always, we will also try and source sustainable and organic fabrics whenever it works out.
On a personal level, do you think the growing demand for socially responsible products is a fad, or, representative of some sort of larger shift in consumer culture?
I think it is broken down into a few different levels of consumers. The organic food movement has obviously caught on full force and the lines have even started to blur as what organic means and the different levels of effort people are putting into it. I hope manufacturing gets to that point but it still has a long way to go. I do believe that the paradigm is shifting but with any change that happens on a massive level, it takes a lot of education and a lot of time. I do think America will keep spending their disposable income more intelligently and buy fewer investment pieces and take care of them. There are however still a great deal of people who would rather buy less expensive things up front with the understanding that they will throw them away for something new when it wears out prematurely. It is our job to try and combat this thought process.
For price and purchase info, visit Taylor Stitch.