When online shoppers search for clothing, they are faced with seemingly endless options — a simple Amazon keyword search for the term “T-shirt” yields more than 8 million results.
In this competitive market, Matthew Aronson (COL ’15) has founded the startup apparel brand North by South, offering T-shirts with chest pockets to consumers. North by South’s innovation? Its patent-pending T-shirt pockets are made using necktie material.
Officially launched in October 2014, North by South currently offers customizable pocket T-shirts on its website, where consumers may choose from more than 100 different shirt and pocket combinations in a variety of colors and styles.
Troy Tyner, partner and creative director at the Mitre Agency, helped Aronson develop North by South and said the brand’s initial target demographic is young people.
“It’s foundational as a T-shirt, so it works for everyone,” Tyner wrote in an email to The Hoya. “That’s the beauty of it. But like most new ideas in fashion and culture, this is more likely going to initially be embraced by young people [ages] 16-24. That’s the sweet spot.”
Aronson, an economics major, said that the idea for his company came to him during his sophomore year at Georgetown, born out of the style of dress that he found in many students around him.
“I looked around at the environment that exists at Georgetown in terms of what people wore on campus,” Aronson said. “I just saw an opportunity … to blend casual and formal wear, and the pocket T-shirt was a good vehicle to do that.”
In the summer after Aronson’s sophomore year, he took his design idea home with him to North Carolina, where he wrote a formal business plan for his company and made several prototype shirts.
Aronson said that when he returned to Georgetown for his junior year, he began to test his product.
“I took those prototypes back to school with me … and I got really good reactions to them,” Aronson said. “There was a general sense of intrigue that people got when they saw the shirt.”
Encouraged that his product was viable, Aronson then went about locating partners to help him craft his brand and produce his pocket T-shirts, resulting in a new North by South limited liability company and a supply chain that spans the country.
Distributed by a wholesaler in Chicago, North by South’s T-shirts are first relabeled at a facility in Southern California and are then shipped to a necktie manufacturer in North Carolina, where seamstresses affix the pockets by hand. The finished shirts, which sell for $28, are then sent to consumers and ship within around three business days of an order.
Aronson said that building this system while being a full-time student was difficult.
“I would do North by South work early in the morning, in between classes, late at night [and] on weekends,” Aronson said. “I would just find whatever time I could fit into my schedule to dedicate to this.”
While Aronson currently works full-time at a consulting firm in the District and manages his company as a side occupation, he said he is accustomed to such a dual obligation.
“I launched the business and managed it while I was a student, while I was taking classes, and so I’m used to the juggle,” Aronson said.
According to Aronson, his company seeks to expand through word-of-mouth, social media advertising, an upcoming online advertising campaign and a campus representative program for college students that began in the spring of 2014.
North by South does not currently employ any full-time employees and Aronson did not comment on whether his product has been able to produce a net profit, but said that North by South is still very much in the startup phase.
North by South campus representatives are currently located at 16 colleges and universities — including Georgetown — that are in eight states across the country and in the District. Aronson said that he plans to accept additional representative applicants through an online application, with representatives at five additional schools.
North by South sells shirts from its collection online and has sold more than 150 group T-shirts via its custom group-order feature. The brand’s campus representatives still work to create additional student interest in the company, distributing promotional materials and online discount codes in exchange for a commission-based store credit with North by South.
Charles Brown (MSB ’17), a campus representative for North by South, said that he enjoys his role in the company.
“I do really like the shirts and like wearing them around and [being a campus representative] has made it easier for me to get more shirts and so it’s a good deal and I like the system in place,” Brown said.
Christopher DeAngelo (NHS ’17), who purchased a North by South T-shirt, said that he likes the brand.
“I think it’s a really good idea and I love customized frockets,” DeAngelo wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I think it also fits in so well with the Georgetown culture.”
Despite his planning, Aronson said that he does not know what the future might hold for his company, but that uncertainty is an essential part of entrepreneurship.
“As far as the future goes, I wish I could tell you where we’ll be in a year from now or even a month from now but that’s kind of the enjoyment of entrepreneurship,” Aronson said. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s really rewarding to see someone connect with your product that you just had as an idea in your head a few years ago.”
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