N.J. ó Shelton, founder of the East Rutherford-based
menís apparel company Todd Shelton LLC, is trying to
do something many in the garment industry would call
mission impossible. He wants to sell clothes made in the
United States, and more specifically in the Meadowlands,
rather than manufactured in China, Vietnam, Pakistan or
the other countries that produce the bulk of the
clothing sold in America.
also said he believes that his venture can demonstrate
the benefits of making clothing in New Jersey, and he is
hoping that the state will eventually see the value of
encouraging the development of a new garment district in
the Meadowlands or elsewhere in North Jersey.
company is trying to capitalize on the quick turnaround
times by having a U.S. factory that offers e-commerce
customers ways to personalize their button-down shirts
or jeans with multiple-fit choices, such as straight or
tapered leg, or the length of a sleeve, or shirttail.
we do this right," Shelton said, "this is a
competitive advantage for us. Because our factory is in
the United States, we can offer that kind of service to
of the companyís sales are made through its website.
However, two months ago Todd Shelton began testing how
its personalized fit system works in a retail setting,
placing its shirts and "fit kit" ó sample
sizes shoppers use to select the right fit ó at Brower
Club, a menís clothing store in Hoboken, N.J.
Tomasini, an owner of Brower Club, said the response to
the Todd Shelton jeans and shirts has been very
positive. Customers, he said, havenít balked at the
wait for a customized fit ó usually a week to 10 days
ó or the prices, which are higher than mass-produced
clothing, with jeans costing $200 and shirts $175.
you want the quality and you want the perfect fit, I donít
feel 10 days is a long time at all" to wait,
Tomasini said. The prices for Todd Shelton, he said, are
comparable to the other upscale fashion brands carried
by the store.
who lives in Hackensack and has been a retailer for 16
years, called the Todd Shelton concept "a very easy
and modern way of shopping. Itís not a dated way of
40, a Jersey City resident, launched his clothing line
in 2002, at first selling his T-shirts on the street in
Manhattan, and later offering jeans, shirts and khakis
online through his website.
first he used a supplier in China, but moved production
to the United States in 2006, using small clothing
factories in California, Virginia, New York and New
Jersey to fill his orders. In 2012, he began renting
space in a former clothing factory in a warehouse in
East Rutherford, and by last year the company was making
all of its clothing there.
said he first moved production back to the United States
in order to be more connected to how his clothing was
made. But he found that as a small designer, he was at
the mercy of the manufacturing contractors he dealt
with, who could delay his orders if larger jobs arrived.
you donít have a lot of orders, you donít have a lot
of leverage," he said.
with overseas factories, if the company doesnít have a
representative on site, "things slip through the
cracks," he said ó not good "if youíre a
perfectionist, as I am."
growing up in Tennessee, Shelton, who still speaks with
a slight Southern drawl, became fascinated by the J.Crew
catalogue, and decided at an early age that he wanted to
one day have a clothing company. He majored in retail
and consumer sciences at the University of Tennessee and
learned the clothing and direct-to-consumer business by
working for Weehawken-based catalogue company Hanover
he made while at Hanover Direct first led him to a small
West New York clothing manufacturer that allowed him to
use space, and then to the warehouse in East Rutherford
where he rents 5,000 square feet. The company has four
full-time sewing machine operators and three marketing
and customer service employees, and produces about a
dozen pairs of jeans a day.
Shelton declined to disclose the companyís finances,
he said it has yet to turn a profit but has been able to
grow because of an investor. The company, he said, needs
to produce and sell 500 garments a month to reach the
scale needed to turn a profit. "Weíre about
halfway there," in terms of volume, he said.
this point we can start scaling this operation," he
said. "What we lack in impressive sales, we match
or surpass it in infrastructure."
is a board member of American Made Matters, an
association of U.S. manufacturers.
trying to educate consumers about how buying American
can strengthen America," he said. He has been
trying to connect with New Jersey lawmakers about
efforts to make the state more friendly to manufacturing
in general and particularly garment manufacturing, but
thus far hasnít seen much interest in the issue.