Let’s face it, the field of menswear can often be painfully predictable. That’s why in most men’s style publications, you’ll see phrases like “upgraded classics” or “basics with a twist” used so often. But every so often, a brand rises to the top that delivers a brand new concept for men’s fashion. The shirting brand Teddy Stratford might be on the cusp of one such breakthrough. The founder was traveling in Thailand when he had a sartorial epiphany: He noticed that the Thai police force looked so sharp in their shirts because of a zip construction underneath the button placket. That was the origin of his Zip-Fit shirt. He even went further to devise a way to engineer better collars so they always stay in place and not disheveled like you were just turning up to Lil’ Jon on the dance floor. The new shirt label just executed a very successful Kickstarter fundraiser proving that real demand exists for a better shirt. We caught up with the brand’s founder Bryan Davis to find out more – read below.
“We must have gone through 20 different patterns to get the right fit …”
How do you describe the “aha moment” when you realized that you had an idea that could be quite important in the field of menswear?
I was standing in this police tailor’s shop in Bangkok and had just zipped into the closest fitting shirt I had ever put on (way closer fitting than our shirts) and I looked at myself in the mirror and it didn’t look as tight as it felt and I realized….the zipper is the reason that these guys can wear such close fitting shirts because they don’t pull at the buttons and make them look ridiculous. At first I just thought that the zipper was something different and cool but that is when I realized that it actually served an aesthetic purpose. After that I couldn’t help but see fitted shirts pulling at the buttons everywhere I looked and realized that it happens to lots of guys even if their shirts aren’t too small on them.
Did you have any prior experience in the fashion lane before starting the Teddy Stratford brand?
I have been around fashion since I moved to NYC. My old girlfriend worked for Elle and Vogue and one of my best friends has worked for Bloomingdales for years. I also did some PR for a couple of friends who started menswear lines. But I have personally never been in production myself. Luckily I found Carl and he has been making shirts for over 30 years. I would never have considered getting into the business without an expert as a partner. Never.
How long did the R&D process take before you realized you had the perfect silhouette and construction for your shirts?
A long time. We must have gone through 20 different patterns for the shirt each one getting closer to the right fit. Luckily I am the fit model for our sample size and I work for free or we’d be broke. Also, when we graded the pattern we learned that standard grading rules don’t work for athletic shapes so we took a few friends who were large, XL and small and said, okay, the shirt has to look good on these 3 guys or we have to change it. It was painstaking but worth it because I think we got it right.
Where are the shirts made – and can you elaborate a little but on where you source the fabrics, buttons etc that are used to make them?
The shirts are made in the Garment District in a little factory on 39th and 8th. Our fabrics come from the best shirting mill in Turkey called Soktas. They make Italian quality shirting at about 2/3 of the price so we can sell our shirts for less than you would expect to pay for a shirt of its quality that is made in NYC. We get our custom engraved buttons from a family owned company in Hong Kong that has been making buttons for a few generations. Our zippers are sourced through a company in the Garment District that has them custom made in China.
What is the best compliment you ever heard from a skeptic customer who bought one of your shirts?
It was actually from the owner of Story in Chelsea (which is the only store we have sold the shirts at). She had only seen the shirt on me before and told me she thought it only looked good on me because I was in good shape. Then she asked a random customer to try it on and the guy came out of the dressing room and looked incredible. She realized that it was the shirt and not me that was in good shape!
What do you see as the ultimate vision for your label – are you going to expand past shirting and get into other categories?
At the moment shirting is enough for us. We are planning to launch a women’s line by the end of 2015 because women have a bigger problem with dress shirts “gapping” than men do and we want to specialize in shirting because that is where Carl’s expertise is.
Lastly where can guys find Teddy Stratford shirts to buy?
At the moment they are only available on Kickstarter at a little under our wholesale price – we wanted to keep them under $100. There will be no point in the future where anyone will be able to buy a made in NYC shirt of this quality for under $100. It is truly the direct to consumer nature of the site with no marketing costs and no inventory that enables us to do it.
To find out more about Teddy Stratford, visit here
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