It was three years back when a casual night down at the pub turned into a pivotal moment. The four of us, all having shown up wearing a plain black tee by coincidence (or was it?), noted that we’d all arrived at the same point in our respective fashion journeys. As busy entrepreneurs working on growing our own businesses, we had little time or mind space to keep up with the noise of fashion trends, and were no longer interested in spending 20 minutes every morning putting together a trendy fashionable outfit. We wanted to look good without having to think, and so we had all switched our wardrobes to focus on basics. Tee shirts, sweaters, jeans and trainers. Comfortable and always stylish. What was more interesting was that none of us had a particular brand we associated with basics and definitely not with the quality craftsmanship, ethical sourcing and sustainability that was so important to us. We all bought our basics from companies where these products were an afterthought, just another item in their huge catalogues. It was at that point that we decided that if no one is making the basics we need, we were going to have to make them ourselves - and just like that (after a few more pints) STPL, and our quest to make the everyday exceptional, began. We haven’t looked back since.
At the core our basics had to be made from the most exceptional materials. We always knew we wanted to create something that we’d want to wear ourselves. Something that looked better as it was lived in. With a fabric that was high quality and reliable. Something that we could put on today that would look just as slick in 5 years. And, never ones to settle, STPL had to be made ethically. It was a bit of a tall order, but we like a challenge.
Swatches of material came through the post every week for months, slub cotton, Egyptian cotton, organic cotton, brushed cotton, merino, flannel, jersey, linen, modal... you name it, we saw it! We were searching for the perfect material, soft as a cloud to the touch, durable so that it lasts for years through many wash cycles, not too thin but not too thick, with some stretch so that it fits snug but not too snug. And then we found it, Pima cotton - a superior quality, with longer silky strands than the average, which makes it resistant to pilling, fading, and stretching. A material that gets softer with each wash.
Now that the material had been chosen we started on the quest to find the perfect manufacturing partner. A partner who’s craftsmanship is impeccable, who sources products from sustainable farms, who pays his workers fairly, and who works closely with us to create the perfect product. We wanted our staples to look good, feel good, and do good in the world. From field to wardrobe to street, we’re committed to making sure every material we use is sustainably produced and carefully considered. Fairness is at the centre of everything we do, deepening relationships with every maker and supplier we work with.
We knew that the good ol’ US of A is the most known producer in the world for pima cotton, and quickly identified a clothing factory in Los Angeles. Flights booked, bags packed, potential brunch spots sourced, ready to go.
Unfortunately, although the food certainly did, the clothing and factory did not quite live up to the high standards we expected. It was time to delve deeper into the world of Pima cotton. We’re not about what’s ‘best known’ anyway.
It was time to take a different approach. We started going to trade shows so that we could see what our potential STPLs would look like before we ordered any samples. Taking the more patient route meant that we were able to develop a connection with a manufacturer who we trusted (and, more importantly, who trusted us).
It was at a trade show in London that we met Juan who ran a textile and clothing manufacturing business in Peru. Juan worked with the softest Pima we had ever felt, and was just as committed to ethical sourcing and sustainability as we were. It was a match made in heaven. His factories are Fair-Trade and WRAP certified and he helps us ensure that every item with the STPL label is made under good working conditions. This means paying a price that provides a fair standard of living, but it's one that we’re more than willing to pay.
Once we found The One, it was time for us to take a trip to Peru and see the factory up close and in person. Those airline points don’t collect themselves, after all. We started in Cusco, worked our way down the country through Arequipa, stopped in Huacachina for some pisco sours, and ended in Lima. We saw the facility ourselves, became friends with the people who make our STPLs, made sure the pima cotton they used was buttery soft, and saw the country along the way. Win, win, win.
It’s been a wild ride from idea to sketch to shirt, and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. The adventure has been one to remember and it’s only going to keep getting better. We hope you enjoy your STPL just as much as we love making them. Here’s to the journey.