NEW YORK – Mercedes-Benz Fashion week is underway in New York. Fashion editors and celebrities alike are focused on what the models are wearing down the runway. But what’s underneath their outfits is just as important. That, according to Flint & Tinder CEO Jake Bronstein.
In fact, if Bronstein had anything to do with it, underwear will be the must-have “Made in America” accessory of the year.
“Flint & Tinder started with my wandering around Macy’s and realizing that out of the 20 or so high-end brands they carry, not one was made in this country and it seems strange. It seems kind of bizarre that your underwear may have traveled further than you have.”
Bronstein embarked on a mission to change that. He turned to the fundraising site Kickstarter forgoing the traditional investor route.
“When we went on Kickstarter, the top project of all time had raised $64,000. Ours came in at nearly $300,000 and every project since them makes their product in America because they think 'If Flint & Tinder could do it, we could do it.'”
His original plan was to make and ship 3,000 pairs of underwear in 60 days. But he had more demand than supply.
“I wanted to make a great pair of underwear. And I wanted to make a great pair of underwear in America. But people bought into an even bigger story. They wanted to see America make products that hadn’t been made here in a very long time. And so even though we sold tons more, we were just committed through and through. Everybody involved in the project – from the factories to the cotton growers to the elastic people, everybody felt this was really important to see all the way through.”
Four months later Bronstein had shipped to all 30,000 pairs.
The premium underwear comes with a hefty price tag. Basic briefs starts at $24 – which is about the same price you’ll pay for Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein.
“The only difference is we don’t make as much off of it. We make it here and it costs us 5 times as much as it costs them to make it," Bronstein said. "But we think it’s important. Because what that price difference allowed for is to pay a lot of people a living wage.”
And it’s that idea that helped launch Bronstein’s next Kickstarter project – the 10-year hoodie. More than 9,000 people pledged more than a million dollars, once again breaking Kickstarter records.
It doesn’t cost nearly as much as a Chanel bag or a pair of Louboutin shoes: It’s $89. But if it rips or tears within 10 years of buying it, send it back, and Flint & Tinder will repair it for free.
“I think people are enamored with the idea that 'made in America' doesn’t have to cost more and you can add value on top of it and really make it worthwhile.”
Bronstein’s customers, believe that all of his products are worthwhile…if numbers are any indicators. Flint & Tinder is on track to top $2.5 million dollars in sales this year. They’ve also rolled out a line of jeans and could move into womenswear by Summer 2014.
“I think Flint & Tinder not only has the potential but is really on track to becoming a lifestyle brand with the scope, power and reach of a company like [Ralph Lauren] except we’re going to do it 100 percent in America.”
Living the American dream, one pair of underwear at a time.