A Movable Fit
Mar 31, 2019 06:21PM
● By Dan McCarthy
NOTHING SOLVED THIS NEED OF HAVING MENSWEAR THAT FUNCTIONS IN AND OUT OF THE OFFICE, AFTER WORK SOCIALIZING, OR WORK TRAVELING, SO WE DECIDED TO GO BUILD IT.
When brothers-in-law Mike Patrick and Jeff Gushard had the “aha” moment that eventually led to their creating and launching Manual Outfitters, their premium line of Massachusetts-made professional active wear, Gushard says he was in a tight spot, as it were.
“I was in an open stall in an airport bathroom after one of those 80-hour workweeks, to change out of work clothes for another three-hour flight to home,” he says with a laugh, describing the familiar move of balancing on the tops of one’s shoes in order to not have the fresh sock you’ve just changed into after the long trip touch the bacterial pleasure cruise that is your basic airport men’s room tile floor. “An absurd moment,” Gushard says, “where I thought, why is it that I have to deal with these clothes that I rip off the first chance I get?’”
Something of a combination of one’s fight of fashion over comfort crossed with two guys seeing an opening in the market where performance menswear and athletic outerwear befitting an Olympic athlete going for glory meet the problem for Gushard and Patrick wasn’t that area of the market didn’t exist. It was that for them, it simply sucked.
“Mike and I realized it all felt similar,” Gushard says. “All polyester and not really professional looking enough, nobody in that category using natural fibers.” And that result of constantly feeling, looking, and smelling like you had been at the gym after a full day of 100 percent polyester led to their concepting of what would comprise Manual Outfitters. “Nothing solved this need of having menswear that functions in and out of the office, after work socializing, or work traveling,” he says. “So we decided to go build it.”
Both men hailed from non-manufacturing backgrounds; Patrick comes from advertising and local firm Arnold MullenLowe, and Gushard spent years in consulting and advising for Fortune 500 and clients at Bain & Co. Yet the two were driven by a simple, relatable impetus.
“The stuff we wear to work we wear more than anything else in the closet,” says Patrick of people regularly in the 12-to-15-hours-a-day office-uniform threads, “but we expect the least of work clothes than our other outfits, even those for the gym a few hours a week, so we wanted to create performance orientated workwear that can handle that kind of use.”
Often there’s the tendency for this segment of the market to work with substitutes say using outerwear and activewear gear from Lululemon or Nike, re-employed for the office/travel but both Patrick and Gushard say it was nothing to get excited about. Their line focuses first and foremost on the professional setting but is just as fitting for the rest.
“We’re really trying to recalibrate that very consumer expectation,” adds Gushard.
After going to top tradeshows around the world, the two began to see a way to sell stuff at price points comparable to Brooks Brothers versus the super high-end Canadian Goose or Arcterx materials, “clothes made and marked up before reaching the consumer,” says Patrick.
Patrick says they want to celebrate the mills they are working with because many of the mills producing performance or professional active wear mills in China aren’t exactly proud to tell the stories associated with life and work there. Manual Outfitters is the opposite of that and works to embolden the Bay State manufacturing scene along the way.
Manual Outfitters sources from a range of the most technical fabrics in the world. “For us, that’s a lot of European mills, and all our production happens in Fall River, Massachusetts,” says Gushard. “No one has used these kinds of fabrics for these designs before, so we sat down with teams of experts to figure it out. Every garment we make is a ground-up new learning process for us and our sewers.”
“Look at craft beer,” says Patrick. “People in that market love knowing the ingredients, all the stories and the people involved with making the beer, which is what the ‘craft’ market is about paying more attention to the ingredients, where they came from, and so on. That’s what we feel is happening in apparel.”
Patrick says it’s been a novel experience explaining their vision to industry experts. Many were taken aback hearing the duo planned to be fully open and transparent and even celebratory of the mills and fabric partners being used to create Manual Outfitters, and the fact they planned on doing so was a crazy notion by classic industry standards. Patrick says that’s where they hope to stand out in the pack.
“We were shocked at how shocked they were,” he says. “To us it was like, what are you hiding by not telling people all about your sources?”