How a company invented a better model for selling shirts?

San Francisco-based Taylor Stitch has been designing men’s and women’s do-everything basics since 2009, making frequent appearances on Huckberry and other popular lifestyle blogs. Taylor Stitch might be based in the Mission District of San Francisco but everything about the young upstart American brand (which made limited edition shirts for the Nothing Major shop earlier this year) calls to mind clichés about New Englanders: Impeccable manners, reliability, an honest product for a fair price, straight talk, all that Yankee values stuff—but filtered through an unhurried, confident West Coast point of view, perhaps with some tech start-up verve thrown in.

So its not so shocking that the idea for Taylor Stitch really started while its founders (Michael Armenta, Barrett Purdum, and Michael Maher—all hailing from the North East) were still in college—Purdum and Maher studied entrepreneurship at Babson College in Massachusetts, in fact. And while the fashion business might not have been in the original business plan for a young Michael Maher, he was affected by the changes in manufacturing he saw affecting his neighbors growing up in New England.

But at the beginning of 2015, the young company decided to try a sales model untested by any previous small-scale manufacturer. Instead of creating seasonal collections, and dealing with the gamble of trying to predict what would be cool in the coming season, Taylor Stitch started designing collections on a weekly basis, and then marketing their designs on their website through something akin to Kickstarter. They call it Workshop.

The basic idea behind Workshop is to make new styles available online each week, giving consumers the option to fund each product by purchasing it in advance of availability. For doing this, the consumers then receive a 20 percent discount.

Taylor Stitch did this in part to give customers a say in what’s being created. But it’s also a smart business model. Workshop takes the guesswork out of figuring out which styles will work, and also prevents the company from having to mark up their products, then put unsold items on sale at the end of the season. The product runs are limited and fresh (sewn in the United States and Europe), and the company has more freedom to work with better fabrics and manufacturers. Sometimes they collaborate with other companies (those design partnerships start months in advance), and sometimes the designs are all their own.


The founders also got rid of superfluous details like pleats to create a more versatile shirt. The fits of the first line of Taylor Stitch were based on 1000s of patterns from the custom line, and still made, somewhat miraculously, in San Francisco.

The founders started with a basic shirt. Next came a jean—Taylor Stitch’s idea of perfect jean, that is. The brand has slowly expanded its selections since but eschews the idea of seasonal collections and trend-riding. Shirts are still the main draw.

Fans come from all walks—because the garment is essentially a casual, no frills shirt that can function in the office or at the bar. And it still deals in bespoke. Taylor Stitch offers custom suiting (made in Massachussetts by Southwick, a family business since 1929), and its custom shirts are cut by hand in Newark, New Jersey. Maher is also doing his part for the New England shoe industry—Taylor Stitch partnered with Rancourt & Company for its custom shoe line.


Everyone believes it’s not very sexy to build a better mousetrap. These guys have proved otherwise. Their shirts are top premium quality and meant to last a lifetime, completely different from the cheaper options that you buy a couple and toss them in a couple of weeks/months.

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