Talks with Vox: North By South Apparel
Feeling like you’ve got nothing to wear? Like your closet is empty? Afraid of what will happen when sweater weather ends? Not to worry, North by South Apparel offers customizable t-shirts in fun colors and prints.
Last night, Vox sat down with Matt Aronson (COL ’15), creator of North by South Apparel, to learn more about his startup Pocket-tee Company. The company, which seeks to merge classic sophistication with contemporary culture, is the two-year-old baby of this Georgetown entrepreneur.
VOX: What was the initial idea behind the company?
Aronson: The Brand is kind of built on the idea of looking good and feeling good in your every day clothes. So we offer pocket tees where the pocket is made from necktie material, so kind of emulating the bottom v-end of a necktie. And it is completely customizable, people can mix and match with whatever combos they want. So the idea is to give the customers the freedom to express their individual style and let them dress up while dressing down, mix casual and formal clothes, and kind of have fun with it that way.
VOX: What motivated you to start North by South Apparel?
Aronson: The company was really a product of the environment here at Georgetown. I looked around and saw that students liked wearing very nice preppy- type clothing. A lot of pocket tees and vineyard vines, stuff like that. And then they also really liked getting dressed up for formal events, whether for their organization or the corp gala, or stuff like that. So I thought it would be pretty cool to mix those two trends that I saw here at Georgetown, and I thought the pocket tee was a really good vehicle to do that. So I kind of just started off by making a couple of prototypes, and I wore them here when I went out during my junior year, and I got pretty good feedback from it, so that kind of gave the confidence to go ahead and put it into a full company.
VOX: How are you selling your product? And how did you get there?
Aronson: It is all an online platform right now. I intended it that way just because I’m a college student and a lot of college students do their shopping online, and it’s very social media driven. So the business development process was about two years. Started with some legal stuff, forming an LLC and doing some applications for a patent; the patent is for the design of using a necktie as a pocket on a t-shirt. And then from there it was just finding your key partners to make it an actual business.
So it was a lot of trial and error with different partners to see what worked and what didn’t work, all the different moving parts to it. Once I had all those partners, for the blank t-shirts, for relabeling, for the tie material, then it was all about centralizing it for production. I was able to launch small scale back in November, with an initial offering of combinations all on the website.
VOX: How are you hoping to expand?
Aronson: Right now we have been operational for a few months and because it’s wintertime not a lot of people buy t-shirts. So we are kind of in the planning process right now, I’m working with a brand management firm locally. All my partners are centralized in North Carolina where I am from. And I am working with a brand management firm right now to look into search engine optimization on Google to kind of expand the traffic to the site.
I’m also expanding the campus representative network. I started with some friends from high school who go to different colleges, giving them shirts to wear around, trying to spread the word. And now I am trying to formalize that into a full fledged program with a lot of underclassmen who are going to be in college for a while, because I’m a senior and most of my friends are about to graduate.
We are working on the exact details to that program, trying to expand that network, and then also looking to partner with organizations, whether that be fraternities/sororities or any kind of group that is looking to get a group t-shirt. So those are kind of the areas we are looking to expand right now. But really we are just trying to have some fun and grow slowly but surely on our own.
The patent application I was talking about earlier, we hear back on that kind of at the end of this year. Once we hear back on that, we might look to license to a bigger firm that has larger distribution channels and can spread the word a little easier, or we might just stick to growing it on our own. But right now we are kind of just looking to increase traffic and increase the campus rep network to try and build it by word of mouth and social media marketing.
VOX: What is the story behind the name?
Aronson: The North by South name kind of came in the middle of the business development process. I’m from Greensboro, NC, raised in a traditional southern way, but most of my relatives are from Boston or outside of Boston. So I kind of wanted to use my family history, my family ties as the North by South name. It was the idea for mixing the laid-back-luxury feel of the south with the cutting-edge-class feel of the north. I thought that played in well with the mix of casual clothes and formal clothes as well. So that is kind of how the North by south name came about.
VOX: What is your favorite t-shirt and necktie pocket combo?
Aronson: I really like all of them. It has kind of been a family process. My sisters, my mom, and I picked out the combinations, and the colors, and did a lot of trial and error with that. If I had to pick, id probably pick the Southern Sand pocket. Which is just kind of just a classic yellow pocket tie with a black t-shirt. I think it has a pretty cool, fresh feel to it.
I have that one and I have the blue and gray combo for Georgetown. I wear those around every now and then when I go out. Kind of trying to spread the word on my own as well. I actually just hired an intern on campus; we should be rolling out some new plans later in the semester. It should be a lot more visible on campus later in the semester when spring comes because you can’t really wear t-shirts in the winter. Expect a lot of new stuff.
Photo: North by South Apparel