What does a Harley-Davidson dealership have to do with the fashion industry? A whole lot, apparently.
For Kate D’Arcy, growing up in a family that ran a dealership in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, provided her with the perfect foundation for setting up her American-made women’s line, Toggery, in 2007.
“Growing up in a small business, my parents always instilled in me the importance of doing business in your backyard, to fuel the community and environment you’re living in,” D’Arcy said. That’s one reason why she’s so passionate about local production. “No matter what you’re selling, it’s fundamental that you’re there.”
Designed in Philadelphia and made in various facilities throughout Pennsylvania using custom-knit fabric from the Carolinas, Toggery aligns itself with the likes of James Perse, Splendid and Vince — contemporary brands offering premium basics with a Californian aesthetic — but focuses on simple essentials in muted colors with a nod to the North Eastern lifestyle. “Our customer is probably wearing Current/Elliott jeans, an Isabel Marant jacket and her tee is pulling everything together,” D’Arcy said.
In 2011, she expanded Toggery beyond its core offering of great-fitting T-shirts to bow a full lifestyle collection including tanks, tops, dresses, shorts, leggings, jumpsuits and sweaters. Pointing to her background, D’Arcy noted, “Harley-Davidson is such a powerful brand that I grew up understanding and seeing how a company brands itself through customer experience and great product.”
Part of fulfilling that philosophy includes sticking close to her production base. “Being able to live in the same city I’m making my collection in allows me to bring new trends and products to the market quickly,” D’Arcy pointed out, adding that she’s typically in her factories two to three times a week. “Being made in the U.S.A. is important to me not just because I believe in investing in our country but because it allows us to be adaptable to the marketplace.”
Retailing for $42-$160 or higher, depending on the season, Toggery is currently carried at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, Alter and Poppy in Brooklyn and United Arrows in Tokyo, as well as Anthropologie.
While supporting local manufacturers is imperative to her business model, D’Arcy doesn’t think that the Made-in-U.S.A. tag has any pull, per se, on her customer’s purse strings. Rather, “it makes her okay with the purchase that much more,” she said. “Your product speaks to shoppers if it’s priced right, has great quality, great style and fills a void in the market.”
Next fall, the brand will debut a tweed-like fabrication that D’Arcy described as “really fuzzy and yummy” which will add a dressed-up feel to such relaxed silhouettes as a roomy blazer, comfy pants and an oversized sweater. She said for for fall, the label is all about texture. A wine-hued marsala shade (Pantone’s color of the year, don’t forget) flows throughout the collection, pairing well with the line’s classic core colors of black, white and gray. “We’re constantly inspired by the idea of clothing being layered, comfy and easy.”
In eight years the business has grown from a side project she tinkered with during nights and weekends into a fully-incorporated company whose sustainable wares are worn by singer Lana Del Ray and actresses Rachel Bilson and Eva Mendes. D’Arcy has no plans to move her production overseas. “The fashion business in general is a hard market — no matter where your goods are coming from it’s not for the faint of heart,” she said. “And we feel we can continue to offer a quality American-made tee at a great price-point.”