How’s it going guys? Hope you’re all well, wherever you are and whatever time it is, there! It’s, obviously, 10pm here in Blighty and you know what that means…
…no, not that it’s nearly my bed time (although it is). No, it means that we have another awesome 10@10 feature and tonight we have a CCSC staple, as American Trench answers the bell 🔔
I, personally, bought into this brand a long time before we opened CCSC and got them in store. I got my first pair of AT socks over a year ago and have since added to my collection, they’re mega! When Ben let me know we were getting them in the supply co. I was super pleased BUT I knew it would end up lightening my bank balance aha!
Tonight, we have the pleasure of having Jacob (Co-Founder & Creative Director) in the hot-seat and he’s full of great insight into the history and process behind this cracking USA-made accessories and outerwear brand. Let’s hand over shall we?
MEET THE BRAND BEHIND THE MENSWEAR
NAME: Jacob Hurwitz
POSITION: Co-Founder, Creative Director
BRAND: American Trench
DATE ESTABLISHED: 2010 (as an idea), launched 2013
LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA
SIZE OF TEAM: 3 people, but soon to expand
SPECIALITY/COMPANY FOCUS: USA made accessories and outerwear
1. Straight forward, please tell us, how did your company american trench start out? What’s the story? How and why does this sort of journey begin?
It started actually with a trip to London in 2009, I took a holiday in London with my wife and bought an Aquascutum trench from a stall in a building across the street from Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly called the Burlington Arcade. Most of the stalls in the Arcade are high end haberdashers or specially makers holding royal warrants. But one stall was empty except for cardboard boxes on the floor with raincoats spilling out. So I paid the guy 40 quid for an overstock Aquascutum trench. I brought it home to the USA and said to my future business partner, who makes this in the USA? We did research. No one. So me and my business partner spent 2.5 years making a raincoat, we had no f—ing idea what we were doing. When we went to launch on Kickstarter we knew we needed a product that didn’t cost $800 and we hated the idea of creating yet another tee shirt of a brand no one knows of or cares about. So we said we would something useful – we would make socks. We called all the mills we could find on google until someone would take our call. We ended up working with a sock mill in NC and another in PA.
We launched on Kickstarter with a trench coat that was over $700 and socks that were $10 and $20. Five solid colours in cotton, a single stripe colour way, and three colours of a herringbone in merino wool.
2. Tell us. What does a day in the life of yourself look like? What’s your daily work routine?
Daily life is a hustle! In the beginning we were just working on one product so there was this laser focus, but now we have 200+ SKUs and 90 retailers and an ever expanding online business in the USA which means customer service emails for returns and exchanges. It’s a bit of chaos at times. We have a small team and we do it all. For me personally, my work days are spent on trying to make sure the most important stuff gets done – phone calls with manufacturing partners and retailers, answering the most important emails, and making sure things are on track. The hardest part now is finding that quiet moment to think about new designs and new products. Work on a small business never really stops, it’s more of question of when you put it down. I have little kids, so they force me to step away. But after they get to bed, the computer opens again.
3. What do you see as being your signature item? The garment to take you forward?
The Kennedy sock has been our best selling style (by volume) since it came out last May. In terms of popularity, it hasn’t lost a step at all in nine months. The military spec socks with silver are probably second, they have a deep dedicated following now. Once people try a sock with silver and take it off at the end of the day with out any stink, they become believers.
The trench, while not a volume mover the way socks are, is our namesake product and something we sell a lot of. We generally do one production run a year with the goal of selling through that run by thenext year. So far so good.
4. What’s your personal favourite garment when it comes to the items you manufacture?
For socks, my current favourite is the merino activity sock, followed by the Kennedy. They are both just so comfortable. For apparel, the trench is just so good. We spent 2.5 years making it, so the amount of detail in the coat is just awesome and it performs so well. Ventile is very expensive (and a heritage fabric of the UK) but nothing compares to it.
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?
Instagram fashion is awesome. The fact that fans of the brand can so easily express their love for the products with a post which can then be reposted is phenomenal. It creates a level of engagement and authenticity that’s never really been available before.
6. Has it made an impact on your business at all, do you think?
Definitely has made an impact. With instagram’s analytics, we can see now better than ever how much traffic is drives. The app now tells you how many profile visits you’ve had in the last 7 days, so you can really start to measure the impact of the posts.
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?
We follow a bunch of menswear feeds, but my current favourites are vintage sellers. There’s a guy in Canada called Saunders Militaria and he find the most amazing stuff. Another Canadian, Klaxon Howl from Toronto shows great stuff and there is an Italian feed from Florence, Italy that has just caught our eye. Vintage garments are just so interesting because it is a mix of style, function and history. It’s definitely become a major influence on our apparel collection. On the #menswear side, there’s some American influencers that have created very unique styles, especially some of the rugged dudes. Whaleysworld comes to mind. Brently is a friend now, having met in person in Las Vegas at the trade shows and he brings such a authentic and fresh eye to his posts.
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?
Outside of the business, I have two little kids, ages 2.5 and 5.5, so that basically takes up all of my time. It’s a good distraction, they keep me from over working.
9. What do you consider to be the best thing about your business and why?
It’s kind of magical to create something and put it out there and see people buy it and interact. It’s both agony and ecstasy, sometimes it all goes right and sometimes there are issues with fit, but that creative process is so fun and exciting. Opening the box on a first sample of something you know that is going to be fire, that is so much fun. Owning your own business and not having a boss, that’s incredibly rewarding but also damn hard. There’s no fall back, no easy way out. Now that we have employees we have a responsibility to them and their families. There’s a weight to that but if you can find your way around that weight it is amazing.
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?
Angling my kit towards warm weather, you said desert island…my Shockoe cotton/linen jeans, a cotton linen shirt from Corridor, AT ventile ball cap, and a some Danner gore-tex lined boots. For the drink…I said goodbye to alcohol many years ago so give me a perfectly clear and fresh glass of water. Nothing beats it.
Cheers Jacob. So, so good! Thanks for taking the time out man and for delivering such great product into the world 👌
We recently got the AT Spring/Summer drop in store which will soon be live on the site but we still have plenty of American Trench goodness to shop HERE.
I know I say this a lot BUT keep your ears to the ground for the latest clobber-cast, which is getting recorded as we speak. Ben & Glen are speaking with Shockoe Atelier tonight so, I would imagine, you’ll all be itching to hear that one? Also, preparation for our CCSC Social event on Saturday 7th April is revving up (pun intended) so check that out HERE.
That’s it from me. Peace ✌️