Kickstarter has taught us a couple of things: Veronica Mars has a lot of fans, and if enough people want something it will get made. It’s the latter idea that inspired Stock Mfg. Co., a local online clothing and accessories company. Consumers are curators, assisting in the selection of wearable lines of high-style, good quality and well-priced designs. Basically, if you (and enough other people) like it, want it and click to buy it, Stock will make sure that item gets made in its Garfield Park warehouse and will ship to your home. Designers submit patterns and, if accepted, the site hosts their product for a run of about two weeks. No up-front costs are required from the designers, just the hope that pre-orders meet quota, typically a minimum of 25, and then production moves forward. The success of sales then determines whether the goods remain limited editions or become stock.
The idea of manufacturing to a more user-friendly fashion industry by selling “straight from stock,” as Stock’s CEO, Jim Snediker, refers to it, grew out of the backgrounds and entrepreneurial spirit of the company’s five partners. Snediker and his colleague Jason Morgan started an indie shopping site called Left of Trend; Mike Morarity and Tim Tierney ran their own menswear label, Vagrant Nobility; and Areill Ives was at the helm of his family’s apparel factory in Chicago. The men pooled their resources and desire for American-made premium goods—minus the retail mark-ups. By offering a one-stop spot for designers, Stock Mfg. Co. provides the space, staff and support for the entire process from fabrication to PR and marketing to sales. “We want to create jobs in Chicago on many levels,” Snediker says. That goal extends to both up-and-coming names and established designers looking to try out new projects.
The focus for Stock Mfg. Co. is transitioning to menswear; the company initially featured clothing for men and women. In March, local Columbia College graduate Shelby Steiner debuted her layered chiffon maxi-skirt. Another recent addition was a Montauk tie named for the Hamptons retreat, presented in a preppy linen seersucker combo by Artfully Disheveled. Stock Mfg. Co.’s pool of talent is not limited to Chicago; the company only requires its designers to be U.S.-based. Dixon Rand, a label by Abe Voytek, who is originally from San Diego, debuts soon on the site with a triple pocket day-to-night grey blazer featuring the details of old-school tailoring. Each article of clothing on the homepage is accompanied by a short designer bio and video montage incorporating the look into everyday settings.
Selling alongside these guest designers is Stock’s own brand of ready-to-wear. And now the company is preparing to cast an even wider net: In a few weeks, Bloomingdale’s will promote a selection of pocket squares, made exclusively for the store by Stock, in its Chicago and New York locations. The company also plans to expand and improve its machinery, and is actually turning to Kickstarter to help fund those projects. “The more we expand and improve,” Snediker says, “the more diverse our offerings can get.”