Boston gets a bad rap in the fashion space. Has for years. From pop culture freezing us in time wearing boot-cut jeans and Sox hoodies, to a certain gentleman’s magazine once calling us the worst-dressed city in America, our affinity for classic boat shoes, a crisp polo shirt and a stiff gin and tonic has somehow been lost on the masses.
Which is really too bad. Because not only did Massachusetts help birth the athletic footwear industry, playing home to this day to the likes of Converse, Saucony, Puma, Reebok and New Balance, but it’s spawned a host of innovative apparel startups in the last few years, some of which have made quite the name for themselves on the national and global scale.
I know, because in addition to writing about them for this publication, I’m actually trying to be one of them along with my co-founder Jess Garbarino.
“Honestly, some of the things we text or email these people … “
I’ve worked here at BostInno for three years this October. For the past year, I’ve been working on Brunswick Park in the nooks and crannies between a full-time job, a wife, a dog and a kid on the way. Really, I’ve been able to do the fun stuff, like design our men’s line of smarter apparel, while Jess took care of the women’s line and, you know, the rest of the business.
“I thought about going back to school to learn how to run this ship, but ultimately decided to dive right in and learn in a more hands-on way,” Jess told me. “So far, no regrets. I stand by the fact that there’s nothing you can’t learn in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to MBA Basics. Seriously, I read the whole thing.”
Everything we’ve done, every mistake and u-turn, every late-night meeting and 15-hour flight to Hong Kong (ok, that’s only happened once), has been for this very moment: We just pushed play on the Kickstarter campaign we’re hoping will launch our company.
Our concept is simple: Right now, athletic wear is huge, but it’s relegated to the gym, the weekend or that super-casual office. We wanted to bring the benefits of performance fabrics into your everyday professional lives. By blending classic designs like hoodies, blazers and bomber jackets, with a Merino Wool blend made just for us (that’s machine washable, boom), we’ve made a line of clothing that can take you from alarm clock to last call, no matter what. Because that’s what our lives demanded, and what we couldn’t find anywhere else.
From the beginning, we looked at our Boston roots as an advantage. Too often, the fashion narrative falsely dictates designers or brands must move to New York to make it. But there’s a burgeoning apparel cluster right here in our backyard. And Jess and I couldn’t have gotten to this point without the help of some of these people, from Aman Advani at Ministry of Supply to Mark and Elizabeth McGarry at McGarry & Sons, Matt Taylor of Tracksmith and Lou Joseph of Alps & Meters to Kevin McCarthy of VENTUREAPP, the support has been unwavering and instrumental. And that’s just to name a few.
“The apparel community here in Boston is small but mighty,” Jess said. “Honestly, some of the things we text or email these people … I don’t think we could’ve made it to this point without their support.”
Jess worked in PR for years before wading into the startup world, and I remain immersed in startup coverage here at BostInno. Both professions taught us a lot about how to communicate the message of what we’re trying to do, how to speak to other entrepreneurs, and how to know a good idea, and a bad idea, when we see one.
But the people in this community, those out hustling every day to launch a successful company, or pivot to a new idea, or mentor the next great entrepreneur, those are the people who helped get us to this point.
Honestly, we were relentless in the early stages of founding this company. And we still are. Chase Garbarino, Jess’s husband, the founder of this website and now VENTUREAPP, often repeats the same refrain, whether talking about his startup, ours, or someone else’s: “Beg, borrow or steal, baby.”
We haven’t stolen anything (yet?), but the message is clear: If you don’t ask for help from anyone and everyone, scrape and claw and get it done no matter what, you’ll never know what could have been.
We don’t know where we’re headed, but we’re proud of how far we’ve come, and we’re proud of where we’re from and who helped get us here. We wouldn’t have founded Brunswick Park anywhere else.
Images via Brunswick Park