I was living in Philadelphia earlier this year when my apartment building burned down. It was a very old building; they think it was an electrical fire. I was home when the alarm went off, and I quickly grabbed my purse and coat and left the building. I left mostly because the sound was deafening; at no point did I think there was an actual fire. I went to run errands and when I returned an hour later there were 6 fire trucks on my block. Luckily no one was hurt – that is the most important thing. That week I had a lot of support from my family and friends, as well as State Farm (thank you Mom for making me get renters insurance!).
The loss didn’t hit me right away. My possessions, if not burned, were irrevocably damaged by water and smoke. Months later when they started demolishing what was left of the building, there was a dumpster outside where workers could discard the waste. I imagined my ruined clothes as a kind of sludge – scooped into the dumpster, destined for landfill.
My beloved teddy bear George, one of the few items salvaged from my apartment.
My circumstances provided a unique opportunity to consider my wardrobe. I am of the opinion that clothing – like most things – becomes better with age and use. My favorite clothes were well-loved and familiar, they were worn in all the right ways, they had been a part of my life for many years. How could I possibly replace the meaning attached to these objects? I couldn’t, but I should have been able to find a suitable substitute. It was incredibly frustrating trying to find replacements for the items I had lost. There are some pieces that I always want in my wardrobe, yet can never find in the market. I needed wardrobe staples – like a white collared button-down shirt – but I wasn’t able to find any that met my standards of quality and style.
It is impossible to find what I want in the current environment of fast fashion. These days we are expected to wear an item for one season and get rid of it. Inevitably, this has led to a decline in quality; clothes fall apart after about a year. Most (85%) discarded clothing ends up in landfills. This problem has received some attention recently (here and here and here), but to date there have been few solutions.
Early prototypes for a shirt collar and cuff.
My solution is quality. If we have garments we love, that don’t fall apart, we keep them and use them and don’t throw them away. I will only create products that will be well-loved and familiar, worn in all the right ways, a part of your life for many years. Quality is a fundamental principle of this company. My first product is the most versatile, iconic article of clothing: the perfect white collared button-down shirt, one for men and one for women.
The entrance to the Bruce Conner exhibit at the MoMA in New York City.
I recently visited the MoMA and ended up in the exhibit “Bruce Conner: It’s All True.” Bruce described making his first film – “A Movie” (1958), 16mm film (black and white, sound) – in this way:
“I waited for someone to make the movie in my head. Nobody did. I thought it was perfectly obvious that this movie had to be made. Nobody made it. So I figured that the only way it would ever be done was for me to do it.”
There is an overabundance of options for retail, but what I want – a trusted source for high-quality, stylish, essential clothes I know I will love – does not exist. So I have to create it.