I hope you’re all well and recovering the from the two day hangover the weekends seem to bring us as we get older…still we never learn!
Tonight’s feature see us focus on Erik Holmberg’s company @starkmade. Erik is a huge believer in American-made goods and pours his belief for this into every product he designs, manufactures and sells. Focusing on functionality, Erik gives the impression that fashion comes secondary, which is cool, apart form the fact that all his products look badass. There’s not a bad one on his books! Erik you’re a natural, good sir, and thanks for doing what you do!
MEET THE BRAND BEHIND THE MENSWEAR
NAME: Erik Holmberg
COMPANY: J. Stark
LOCATION: Charleston, SC
SIZE OF TEAM: 4
SPECIALITY/COMPANY FOCUS: Bags, Accessories and Home Goods
1. Straight forward, please tell us, how did your company J. Stark start out?
J. Stark was founded on my desire to create something tangible. I’d spent the previous decade building digital representations of things – ghosts that would vanish the moment they were unplugged.
It began as a rediscovery of my own potential and became something much greater. I learned it wasn’t about me. It’s about all of us. All of us connecting through physical means and handcraft.
2. Tell us. What does a day in the life of yourself look like? What’s your daily work routine?
6AM – Wake up
6:15AM – Run / Weight Lifting
8AM – Coffee with Eggs and Avocado
8:30 – Walk my dog Crockett with my girl Jess
9AM – Cut, Sew, Email, Burnish, Chisel, Stitch, Fold, Iron, Snip, Tie, Meet, Train, Deliver
6PM – Dinner and let Crockett out
6:30PM – Cut, Sew, Email, Burnish, Chisel, Stitch, Fold, Iron, Snip, Tie, Meet, Train, Deliver
10PM – Netflix and Chill
11PM – Bedtime
3. What are your top 3 bestselling items? Why do you think this is?
Tremont Wine Tote
I looked at making a product that would work well in the Charleston ecosystem – we have wine stores, boutiques, and many kitchen and grab and go places, and I thought this product could sell in all of them.
I then looked at what was out there and two things stuck out to me, they were over designed and they tilted toward feminine in their aesthetic.
The design I landed on works with 1 or 2 wine bottles, a growler, or a whiskey bottle and rocks glasses. It’s dead simple, durable as hell, and extremely unisex.
I think the success of this bag has a lot to do with the dimensions. I wanted to create a bag that could work for a daily carry or a weekend trip / airplane carry on.
If the bag is too big, it’s too cumbersome. Too small and it’s not a help. I toyed with a bunch of different sizes before settling. Then I add just the right amount of pockets.
I purposefully and selfishly don’t use a lot of pockets, so people will stay minimal.
I think people were looking for a minimal replacement for their traditional bifold or trifold fat wallet. Another very simple design, where I let the hand stitching and leather shine on their own.
The hand stitching and thick leather will allow the wallet to last decades.
It goes against the way most businesses think today, but I made a wallet that won’t wear out, and therefore won’t need to be replaced with a new one in a few years. I want people to have the best, and I sleep soundly at night knowing I gave them that.
4. What’s your personal favourite garment when it comes to the items you manufacture?
I’ve carried a Franklin Tote every day since I started making them, whether it’s to my workshop with my laptop in tow or to the airport filled with a couple changes of clothes.
5. What are your thoughts on the rise of Instagram fashion and the chaps that post their clothing on there to help spread the word of their fave brands?
Well I think that’s almost two separate questions. I don’t really spend too much time thinking about fashion, to be honest. I think we as a whole have much bigger problems to solve.
For me, I’m trying to lead the renaissance of American manufacturing, and trying to grow my business so I can provide jobs for people to make a living wage by working with their hands.
In order to do that I need to create products that people want to buy. For me, function is always useful, always attractive, much more objective.
So I design things around function, and make them with the best fucking materials out there.
My designs and materials are classic and timeless, and thus can fit with whatever you decide to wear.
As a brand, chasing trends will never be a part of our ethos.
I love that you can use one of my bags 10 years later and it still feels new, still works seamlessly.
Now the second question relates to chaps spreading the word of their favorite brands. I have had tremendous support and help in this area.
Phil Cohen (@thepacman82), Denny Balmaceda (@denny623), and Brothers & Craft (@brothersandcraft) are some of my day one brothers. My company is completely self funded, so advertising dollars aren’t really in the budget early on. These guys repped me for free because they believed in the product and what I was trying to do. After I made a few dollars I hit them back to show my gratitude.
Some other guys I have met of the last year have helped me out tremendously as well…
6. Has it made an impact on your business at all, do you think?
This isn’t a way currently, that I know of, to track sales from their posts. I feel pretty confident that purchases have been made and brand awareness increased due to their support.
In order to be remarkable, you need to make products people want to remark. I think we do a good job of that.
7. Is there any feeds on IG that you particularly like to check-in on regular. What brands are you fond of on there? What menswear feeds to you like to peruse?
All the guys mentioned above for sure.
Anything that involves keeping US manufacturing alive. These guys paved the way.
Other brand founders I really look up to…
And countless mom and pop retail shops that took a chance on me here in Charleston, and across the world.
If I cared enough about fashion, I would probably try to dress like Nick Wooster (@nickwooster), he’s a badass.
8. A quick one about you. Other than the business, what passions do you have in life? What flicks your switch and helps you relax?
To help others to keep progressing and accomplish their dreams in any way I can.
For the first couple of years getting my business off the ground I was a terrible friend. I was hyper focused and obsessed with trying to make it, that I had to sacrifice a lot of time and relationships.
I’ve since really set out to make new friendships and work intently on my current ones.
On relaxation… You could have the worst day in the world but then go put your toes in the sand and stare out at the ocean and it will immediately center you and bring a wave of calmness.
9. What do you consider to be the best thing about your business and why?
When you work for yourself, your growth and fulfillment are limitless. This is not true when you work for someone else.
Also the ability to shift your time. e.g. Work at night instead of the morning.
10. And Lucky Last, You’re going to be stranded on a desert island and you can take 1 outfit (4 items) only with you. And 1 choice of drink.
What would they be? And Why?
01. White Tee (broken in and American made)
02. Denim rolled to mid shin (broken in and American made)
03. Chore Coat (broken in and American made)
04. Boots (broken in and American made)
Drink – Smith & Cross Classic Daiquiri
Erik, that was incredibly refreshing to read buddy. It’s no surprise that your products have been such a hit with the dudes that help front the thread-loving community on IG. You’re also the first to take the classic Daiquiri to the island, there is some good stuff getting beached on there with us lately. And why not?? What else would we have to do except drink and talk denim 😉
Now is probably a good time to mention something I have been working on with some super folks/small business owners who share the same mindset, as Eric in a sense, that handmade is better. Much better!
We have teamed up to create some products by way of collaborations that has created the first @clobbercalm collection.
This tidy little bunch of products focuses on Leather and Denim essential accessories for the modern day handmade connoisseur. All made in America, these products are simply a unique extension of what these guys already do on a daily basis for their customers…except on this project each piece is original, bespoke and available only via the @clobbercalm site. It’s exciting stuff.
The collection goes live officially next Tuesday but, if you’re keen, you will be able to purchase these one-of-a-kind products next Monday evening from 10pm after @3sixteen answer the 10@10.
We will then follow up the release with a special one-off feature next Tuesday where we tap into the minds of the guys who have made the product for this project; @aegishandcraft, @howlandhidesupply, @tannerysouth and @pigeontreecrafting.
Over the next week you can see what we will be offering via my feed @clobbercalm, as I can’t wait any longer to start adding the wears to this stuff, I already know how good it’s all going to look. If anybody wants to know more at this stage just drop me a line otherwise stay close over the next week for updates.
Well that’s Monday and Tuesday of next week covered but lest we forget this Thursday (it’s a busy one). Richard Lin aka @doppki sits in the 10@10 hot-seat and delivers a flood of thoughts on his threads, with a sharp IG feed and an eye for clarity @doppki is bagging followers for fun and it’s no surprise why.
Well folks, thanks for reading, have a cracking week and see ya all Thursday!