It’s been a little over a year since I last caught up with Stanley & Sons founder / maker Chris Grodzki. In that time, he’s moved into a larger workspace, taken on a full-time sewer, participated in a handful of high-profile collaborations and relaunched his website, all while continuing to put out some of the most beautiful and hardwearing bags and aprons money can buy.
With the spring ’12 S&S collection now live on the co.’s site, it seemed like a good time to check in. Grodzki, I’m happy to report, remains just as affable as he ever was. Still humble, still funny and still mind-bogglingly talented. Below, he discusses keeping up with demand, moving beyond bags and aprons and geeking out over fabrics with The Hill-Side. Here’s what he had to say.
Well Spent: In addition to an aesthetic upgrade, the new site also has an e-commerce component. Does that mean you’re finally able to keep up with demand?
Chris Grodzki: Ha – absolutely not! We still have a hard time keeping up. I thought that going seasonal and streamlining our product range would make life easier. Instead we’ve taken on an even larger number of orders this year than we did this time last year.
Then again, I guess it makes sense. When you bought a bag from us before, you had to email first and actually have a conversation with me. Now you can just order online. It’s funny, I wouldn’t buy something if I had to go through all the hoops we used to make customers go through (I appreciate everyone’s support!).
Anyway, our production is growing, but our staff has not. Or, at least not yet. We have a had a hard time finding really competent people who share the same interests as us. But we’re looking. Always looking.
I noticed there are much fewer bag styles offered on the site now. Why is that?
The old website was very old. The collection on that site was made primarily from reclaimed fabrics, every one of which I eventually ran out of. It was actually only a few different styles, but we had images of all the different fabric options, so it looked like a lot more. We also did a lot more custom stuff back then too, which made it extremely hard to keep up, since orders could and would be so drastically different.
What’s up on the new site is our current styles. We’re going to be seasonal from here on out, so the site will be regularly updated with new collections. We’ve really honed in on our construction methods, and can produce more, faster.
Of the new bags on the site, which are you most excited about and why?
We just got natural waxed canvas! I haven’t seen anyone else use it yet, so I’m glad we get to unveil it first. Pretty much everyone gets their fabric from the same people, but since we make everything ourselves, we can whip something up and make it available asap.
You’ve done a handful of collaborations with The Hill-Side / Hickorees. Tell us about those and how they came about.
Emil and Sandy are amazing. Those guys are so inspiring! They’ve created such great brands and I really look up to them. I met those guys a few years ago and we’ve been good friends ever since. I am honored to ever be involved in something they’re doing.
The collaborations came about from them having fabrics they wanted to make bags and aprons out of. I’m at their office a lot, and every time I’m there I always see a roll of something amazing and we all freak out together about it.
They have been incredibly helpful in building our brand and I will always appreciate that. When they told me they wanted S&S to be the first of their in-store brand collabs I was very honored. And when we make for them, we really kill ourselves with the construction. Anything we make for those guys takes at least twice as long as our standard version. But, you know what? They deserve it. I would do anything for those guys. They rule.
Are there any brands you haven’t collaborated with yet that you’d like to?
We are about to release another “collaboration” of sorts in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned to the news section for updates.
For SS13 we are trying to do some little things here and there but nothing’s set in stone yet. I actually don’t really care for most collaborations. The only time I think it works is when it’s with friends, otherwise it just seems strange to me, like two brands coming together to do some bullshit. I guess that’s what it is when we do a collab too, but at least ours have been fueled by friendship and not money.
Any plans to move beyond bags and aprons?
SS13 – their will be blood.
It’s funny, it seems normal now for a company to make bags and aprons, as if they go hand in hand with one another. But, if you think about it, they don’t have much in common. When we started, we decided to make both because that’s what my grandfather’s company made. And as far as I know, we were the only ones doing that. Now, however, it seems like every bag brand makes aprons too.
The last time that we talked, you joked that you didn’t think S&S would last. Do you still feel the same way?
Ha. I don’t know how I feel. It’s crazy that we have been able to establish ourselves as a reputable brand from scratch. People pay a lot of money for our products. I still don’t know what the future holds for S&S, but I’m really glad that I get to do what I want today.
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