Standard Deviation is contemporary menswear with streetwear influences based in Brooklyn. Manuel Gonzales-Luna and Stephanie Park have co-founded the company to offer fresh, yet comfortable aesthetic at accessible prices.
My partner and I recently launched a streetwear-inspired menswear line called Standard Deviation. For two years, we both juggled full-time jobs while working on our brand after hours. (There’s nothing like coming home from a full day of work to measuring hundreds of pairs of pants on your kitchen floor!) Despite the long hours, we’ve both found the process of starting an apparel company to be rewarding. What follows are some reflections on our experience thus far.
Streetwear is having its moment. The confluence of hip hop, fashion, skater culture, and the popularity of street-style blogs has created a broad audience for new approaches to casualwear. In addition to finding streetwear relevant to current fashion trends, we liked its potential for being playful and offbeat. We wanted our brand to have a fun energy, and streetwear lent itself well to that.
WHY MADE IN USA?
Our clothing is made in Los Angeles by factories we found on Maker’s Row. From the beginning, having our clothes manufactured in places where we could reasonably expect fair labor practices was important to us. The revelations of the dire working conditions in countries like Bangladesh in the past several years only further crystallized our resolve.
As upstart designers, the geographic proximity of having our apparel made in California versus in other countries also appealed to us. The time for getting our finished goods to our warehouse in Long Island would be much shorter than having our merchandise traverse oceans by boat. Having domestic production also allowed us to communicate more easily with our vendors and visit their factories to help smooth out issues with production.
The greatest takeaway that we’ve learned so far is to never underestimate the challenges inherent in the process of having a physical product manufactured. It goes without saying that much work is behind developing, sampling, and finally producing a satisfactory pair of pants or a sweatshirt, but we were naïve about the extent of the delays that we would experience as a result of hiccups in our manufacturing process.
Although we intended to launch last September, we found ourselves six months later still without all our inventory at our warehouse and unable to begin selling on our website. While these delays were frustrating, we were adamant that we wouldn’t accept inferior product. In the interim, we tried various strategies to help our factories tackle the issues that they were facing, including flying across the country to Los Angeles to meet with them and help audit the units they had produced. Sometimes a face-to-face meeting goes a long way in smoothing out any communication issues you may be having over the phone and email.
Now that we have all the merchandise, we’re very happy with our choice of having put quality before expediency. And our first customers have confirmed that this was the right decision; many people have expressed pleasant surprise at the caliber of garment they’re getting at our accessible prices. In the end, our reputation as a brand that makes high-quality clothing is what will keep us in business.
For more on ensuring quality product, enroll in Maker’s Row Academy free email course: Quality Control 101
The most important obstacle to tackle next is figuring out how to market our brand with a limited budget. Will we get a higher return from spending money on Facebook or Instagram ads? What is the best structure for a referral program to incentivize people to spread the word about Standard Deviation? What can we do to give potential customers the opportunity to experience our product in person? I’m sure unexpected problems will arise, and we’ll make mistakes along the way. For the time being, though, we are taking a moment to enjoy the milestones we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re looking forward to seeing where Standard Deviation takes us.