In an age when shoppers flock to chain stores and outlet malls in search of discounted garments churned out in overseas factories, launching a fashion business isn’t for the faint of heart. Creativity and craft quality matter, but more than that, artisan-entrepreneurs must have drive, passion, diligence and absolute dedication.
Meet three local men who definitely follow this pattern, and for the design businesses that they’re building, Tarrant County is only the beginning.
W Durable Goods, Fort Worth
With his Brylcreem-perfect hair and quiet, polite manner, accessories designer (and fourth-generation Fort Worth resident) Daniel Wright brings to mind a bygone era — just like the bags he handcrafts in his north-side Fort Worth studio.
That’s because Wright makes his bags the old-fashioned way — by hand — and often incorporates vintage fabrics like World War II-era Army-issued canvas. He even looks to the past for design inspiration, studying old photographs and vintage bags, especially military gear from the 1930s and ’40s, for tips on technique, detail and design.
“These bags were designed solely to be functional,” Wright says, “and design based on function never goes out of style.”
Wright bought his first sewing machine in 2003 and started experimenting with construction, putting together pouches for personal items. As he honed his technique, he started devoting more time to the craft. Eventually, he started selling his wares, most of which he made from reclaimed and surplus materials.
Word spread, sales increased and Wright soon realized his hobby had turned into a business.
About three years ago, Wright got serious about building the brand, and together with his wife, Stephanie, they launched the W Durable Goods website and began standardizing products and incorporating quality new materials like Martexin Original waxed twill and Wickett & Craig English bridle leather.
This year, the duo opened a charming showroom and studio near the Stockyards to showcase the range of W Durable Goods designs, along with home accessories crafted by local artisans.
W Durable Goods products range from $60 for a classic canvas Dopp kit to $500 for a one-off duffel bag made from WWII-era military mailbag canvas. Each piece, regardless of size or price, comes with a lifetime guarantee.
“My designs are classic and long-lasting,” Wright says. “I want you to be as happy to have it now as you will be in 20 years.”
1543 N. Main St., Fort Worth, 925-272-8465, www.WDurableGoods.com.
Make Eyewear, Fort Worth
David Minich has a vision. Which is a good thing when you design eyeglasses. “I want to change the eyewear-buying experience,” Minich asserts. He wants to make the process more exciting by introducing a revolutionary new line of eyeglass frames — frames that Minich designed, developed and sells through his company, Make Eyewear.
“Make Eyewear is a design-driven company with a focus on function,” Minich explains. Central to that function is a patent-pending hinge that works without screws or welded joints.
Minich developed the hinge while studying industrial design in Vienna. (A graduate of Trinity Valley School, Minich started studying automotive design in Germany but made the change after deciding that the discipline was too niche, and that he was too entrepreneurial.)
In school, Minich discovered that he needed glasses, and when he couldn’t find a frame style that he liked, he used 3-D printing technology to design one, incorporating his nifty hinge in the final result. Energized by the process — and the possibilities — he decided to create an eyewear company.
Minich’s innovative hinge gives all Make Eyewear frames an astounding pliability and durability, and he also added silicone nose pads and temple tips to improve comfort. All frames are made in the USA — Minich works with a select manufacturing team that helps maintain quality while keeping costs competitive (all frames are $199).
That’s not to say Make Eyewear frames aren’t stylish — they are. The ultra-thin, lightweight, stainless-steel designs are sleek and modern. They’re also unisex. Not surprisingly, Minich wears them, and with his lanky build, shock of thick hair and sophisticated personal style, he makes a compelling model for his favorite design, the Lore.
Make Eyewear launches this month, and consumers can order frames from the Make website and have them fitted with lenses at any professional optician or optical shop. The goal is to become wholesale-only, allowing consumers to purchase frames and lenses at the same place.
Minich is confident in his vision and has success in his sights. “I created the frames from the ground up,” he says, “to create a better-performing product and a better everyday experience.” www.MakeEyewear.com.
Beaus & Ribbons, Arlington
When Eric Renteria was a student at Texas Tech University, he lived on the same street that Buddy Holly once called home. Exciting for anyone, of course, but when you’re a budding clothing designer, it’s nothing short of inspirational, and Renteria turned the fresh, innocent style of Holly’s time into a signature theme that has informed his work ever since.
Renteria is perhaps most known for his custom vintage letterman sweaters, which he began selling in 2010. The sweaters, which he still offers, start at $300 and can run into the thousands of dollars, depending on the rarity of the letterman patches that he scouts, repairs and carefully reunites with classic cardigans from the 1920s through the 1960s.
This spring, he has launched his most ambitious project yet, a capsule collection for men and women called Beaus & Ribbons.
Each Beaus & Ribbons garment is custom-made and sewn-to-order from a collection of original designs that blend the spirit of the 1950s with modern styling.
“I am inspired by the music and the movies of the 1950s,” Renteria says, “but then I close my eyes and think about the type of woman I’d like to take on a date — I ask myself, ‘Where would we go?’ ‘What would we do?’ and ‘What would she wear?’ ”
Clients choose not only the design but also the fabric, and Renteria often can offer a selection of vintage prints for added authenticity. For men, he offers bow ties and pocket squares. He’s even diving into women’s bathing suits, basing custom-fitted one- and two-piece suits on the original patterns made famous by Marilyn Monroe.
Always impeccably styled in his own designs, Renteria is a ball of energy, his conversation flitting among the fitting, the future and the celebrities he’s dressing at that particular moment. (Among those he’s dressed: Allison Williams, Kendall Jenner, Donald Glover and the singer Betty Who and her band).
Renteria loves working with artists and actors, and he’s well known among stylists who work with up-and-comers. He’ll whip up a tulle skirt for a reality star in an instant, but he’s also happy to do the same for a local who reaches out to him via social media, where he says he makes many of his sales.
“I want to take chances,” Renteria says. “I want to mix and match, use vintage and new fabric, I want to do photo shoots, to throw parties, to tweet, to reach out and have everyone get excited.” www.BeausAndRibbons.com.