It's Time to Rethink How We Buy Clothes, says New York Brand Stòffa

Co-founder Agyesh Madan explains the brand’s slow production and slow consumption ethos.

Fashion 
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Stòffa’s name gives a pretty strong indication of its priorities. The New York label’s moniker can be translated to mean fabric or cloth in Italian, something that has been central to Stòffa since it was founded in 2014. “That’s where the name came from and that’s how the whole thing was born,” explains co-founder Agyesh Madan, “out of a reverence for materials.”

Madan’s idea for the brand came from his experience working in the fashion industry and in particular a previous role in which he met his fellow Stòffa founder Nicholas Ragosta. “The whole idea was to slow down the design process,” Madan continues. “We came from a place where we were making so many collections – about seven a year, a thousand pieces per collection – it just felt like we had so much more to give as a design team. How can we do something that’s a little bit more modern, a little bit more relevant to the lifestyle of our generation, but do it at a slower speed?”

“If you slow down how you purchase, and if you make everything a little more intentional, the connection is deeper”

To answer those questions, the duo established Stòffa. The decision to slow down the design and production process also allowed the label to place materials at its core. The central tenets of the business are its made-to-order and made-to-measure categories, while clothes are manufactured by specially selected partners with a focus on single-unit production.

“They all specialize and have been designed together to do one unit at a time, rather than be standard assembly line production,” Madan says of Stòffa’s production partners, some of whom the brand has invested in while also taking an active role in others. “We wanted to be that involved in the day-to-day running of how the product is made,” Madan continues. “It was a very organic process. Outerwear and trousers came first, then shirting came next because we found a really good partner and knew we could build something there.”

Since launching those initial categories – alongside its more tailor-made elements – Stòffa has branched out into more surprising ventures. Recent collections have included deadstock vintage sunglasses or handmade Tuscan ceramics. “All those other elements are a way of showing behind the scenes without actually showing behind the scenes,” Madan says. “A lot of our designs are not informed by looking at other clothing, they’re informed by looking at design, or ceramics. It’s a way to bring those references forward. We wanted to give people a glimpse into what informs our designs, and it felt most natural to do that as a small edition.”

Both the vintage sunglasses and coffee cups are inspired by the team’s passions – they collect both – and Madan hopes that giving a look behind the design curtain will help strengthen the brand’s relationship with its customers. “If we express this design philosophy further, it brings people closer to the world that informs everything we do.”

People can further engage with that world at Stòffa’s appointment-only New York showroom, an approach that is also shaped by prior experience. “Nicholas and I both did a lot of trunk shows, and we felt the connection the client ended up with with their garment was way deeper,” Madan explains. “A part of responsible production – or just being conscious of your consumption – is not just slowing down the design cycle but also slowing down the purchase cycle. If you slow down how you purchase, if you make everything a little more intentional, the connection is deeper. Our hope is that the chance of you throwing that garment away is then much lower.”

“If we can communicate an example of slow making and slow consumption, hopefully, that can help spawn more versions of Stòffa”

Stòffa’s message of intentional consumption is central to how it operates, and its commitment to trunk shows aims to spread this message far beyond just its New York showroom. This idea also works hand in hand with its made-to-measure and made-to-order programs, which help to further foster ties between consumer and garment.

“We realized that while there were a lot of options for someone to have a made-to-measure suit, for the other categories which now make up more than three-quarters of a modern man’s wardrobe, they don’t have an option,” Madan says. “We wanted to bring that to the rest of the categories, and as we started doing it more we fell in love with it more because we saw the reaction. We saw our clients grow with us; we saw our clients convert the majority of their wardrobes to this type of intentional purchasing. It has also affected how they make buying decisions in the rest of their life: where they go to eat; the questions they ask about materiality when they buy home goods or furniture. That’s beautiful. That energy is what we want to surround ourselves with.”

As beautiful as this is, Madan is realistic. He knows that this approach won’t necessarily work for each and every consumer, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a wider impact. “If we can communicate an example of slow making and slow consumption, hopefully, that can help spawn more versions of Stòffa – in womenswear, or with a sporty aesthetic, or a more classic aesthetic. I just hope it makes a better example for other people.” Madan works closely with younger designers to spread this message, helping them learn about single-unit production, how to work with workshops and how to establish their one-on-one client experience.

The brand’s slowed-down philosophy continues into its recently released Collection 05, which includes ceramics, jewelry, and vintage sunglasses alongside clothing. The collection includes jackets that have been in development for three years, as well as a specially developed cotton canvas, Italian deadstock fabrics from the early 2000s and an upcycled cotton made in Guatemala using pre-consumer waste fabrics. In addition, core Stòffa fabrics have been reworked into different silhouettes, showing how the brand slowly perfects its formula. “Collections, from one to another, are never really a reimagining of all things,” Madan says, “but a gradual evolution of where we’re going.”

The next stage in Stòffa’s gradual evolution has been a London trunk show, realizing a plan that almost came to fruition in March 2020, before global events intervened. That pop-up, taking place until September 25, will allow Madan and the team to meet more customers, invite them in for a coffee, show them the collection and establish deep connections between buyer, brand, and garment.

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