How an Unlikely Clothing Brand Is Sewing Up an Untapped Market

Published date: April 28, 2017
Modified date: April 28, 2017
  • Location: Europe

Ask most fashion designers to create a line of clothes for the “Midwest lifestyle,” and it’s likely that they’ll come back with a flannel shirt and a pair of sweatpants with a special pocket for a can of Skoal. But that’s not the image St. Louis native Jimmy Sansone was after when he began conceptualizing a wardrobe that would make sense for the way he lived his life. “The Midwest has a duality,” he explains. “Life happens in the city and the country. I can be downtown now, and 20 minutes later I can be in a duck blind with friends.”


The problem was, the investment banker couldn’t find clothes that bridged the gap between those two worlds. Work attire wouldn’t stand up to games of touch football, and outdoor gear wasn’t suited for the office. So Sansone, who says he comes from a family where dressing well was always a priority, mocked up what he wanted in a wardrobe. Working with a designer friend in Los Angeles, Sansone came up with a closetful of bespoke shirts and pants that he could wear on the job, but that had a little stretch and stitching and trim strong enough that he wouldn’t have to change before visiting a friend’s farm. When he started wearing his new duds around town, people noticed, and it occurred to him that he could turn his Midwest-inspired gear into a business.


“As I dug in, I saw the opportunity,” the 28-year-old says. “There are more than 23 million young adults in the Midwest. I realized they were probably looking for the same things I was.”


 

Now his apparel line, The Normal Brand, sells its $46 long-sleeved T-shirts, $92 button-down dress shirts and other men’s and women’s wear online and at 75 retailers in 20 states, with more and more outlets added each week. Sansone launched the brand in early 2015 with expectations of bringing in about $70,000 but ended up generating roughly $500,000 in sales. This year, he estimates The Normal Brand will bring in more than $2 million in revenue. 


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