“American-made brands can’t rely on reaching a critical mass of consumers by selling $200 button-downs,” said Jim Snediker, the no-nonsense CEO of Chicago-based men’s clothier Stock Manufacturing Co. So it’s a good thing that was never part of the plan when he and his four business partners launched their brand in February 2013.
Born out of the combined fashion and retail backgrounds of Snediker and Jason Morgan (who together started the now-defunct flash-sale site Left of Trend), Mike Morarity and Tim Tierney (of menswear label Vagrant Nobility) and Areill Ives, the quintet’s threads may be made locally in Ives’ family’s 40-plus-year-old factory, but by cutting out the middleman and selling on a mostly direct-to-consumer basis, the brand can keep its prices in the $35-$295 range.
“Making things in America is an integral part of our business, and always will be. For now, everything we do is entirely made here, but that’s not to say at some point we wouldn’t consider doing a really cool project in Japan or the U.K. or Italy. As long as it’s a first-world country with fair labor practices and the quality is there, we’d certainly consider it,” Snediker noted, “but for now and for the foreseeable future, we’re concentrating on making an impact on U.S. manufacturing, specifically in Chicago, and that will always be our main focus.”
Since launching two years ago with ties, pocket squares and a couple of button-downs, the line has grown into a complete collection of shirts, tees, pants and outerwear, as well as some exclusives for Bloomingdale’s Chicago and New York City stores, and production has expanded to include New York-made hats and knits from Los Angeles. “We don’t expect people to buy our things because we’re made-in-U.S.A. — we made a conscious decision to skip the middleman and scale up,” Snediker said. “We are an American-made brand because that’s just the way we do it.”
Adhering to its vision of affordable quality, Stock steers clear of seasonal trends, focusing instead on delivering classic pieces that will anchor the wardrobes of guys who care about style but are suspicious of fashion. New collections are released online every few weeks (upcoming launches include the brand’s first-ever basic pocket tee) and some sold-out styles — like the denim Work Shirt and a Color Flecked Button-Down in blue — continuously get a new lease of life with updated details.
“Anyone who works in men’s clothing will pretty much tell you if you’re releasing a line of shirts you have to include multiple shades of blue,” Snediker laughed. “Our bestselling shirts are always blue and our bestselling outerwear is always black.”
With that being said, manufacturing locally isn’t without its challenges. “A broken machine or a sick operator can lead to a delay in production,” he said, but is quick to note that sourcing has been the biggest issue for Stock. “We get most of our fabric from Japan because that’s where the best woven fabric is made, especially prints and plaids,” he said. “That’s the biggest hole in our supply chain because sometimes it takes two weeks to get fabric and that can increase production time by 50 percent.”
While Stock does source some denim and twill from the U.S., Snediker is in no rush to source everything domestically. “If we could find fabric that has the prints and patterns we want here in the U.S. we would 100 percent use it, but we’re not going to use something sub-par just to say we’re completely made-in-U.S.A.,” he noted, musing, “Maybe that’s a new part of the business down the line, getting looms up and running.”