The quest for the perfect fit
Hoboken entrepreneurs, fueled by years of frustration, start custom shirt company
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Sep 15, 2013 | 2856 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE PERFECT FIT – Pictured in two of their custom-fitting shirts, Kirk Keel (left) and Matt Hornbuckle founded Stantt two years ago, and are nearing the end of a successful crowdfunding campaign.
THE PERFECT FIT – Pictured in two of their custom-fitting shirts, Kirk Keel (left) and Matt Hornbuckle founded Stantt two years ago, and are nearing the end of a successful crowdfunding campaign.
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It’s an experience almost every guy is familiar with. You’re at the mall, searching for a new shirt to wear to a job interview, a party, on a date, wherever, but everything is too baggy, too tight, or too short or long. You wonder, is it me? According to a pair of Hoboken-based entrepreneurs, it’s not you; it’s the industry. And because of that, they’re setting out to change it.

Stantt, a custom-fitting men’s shirt company founded by Kirk Keel and Matt Hornbuckle and based out of downtown Hoboken’s Mission 50 startup space, was born out of a lifelong frustration with ill-fitting shirts. It was a problem both men, and according to them, all men, have dealt with, although they never realized the egregiousness of it.

“I was out to dinner a few years ago with a female friend of mine, and I was wearing this shirt that I loved, and I thought looked great on me,” said Hornbuckle. “And then she pointed out how baggy it was, and I haven’t been able to wear it since.”
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“It’s just such a simple way for you to find clothes that you feel good in.” – Matt Hornbuckle, Stantt co-founder
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At the time, both Hornbuckle and Keel worked at Johnson & Johnson, where they became friends and often bounced ideas around and dreamed of starting their own company. After Hornbuckle’s baggy shirt revelation, an idea to revolutionize the way men shop snowballed, and eventually became Stantt.

“This is a universal issue that every guy has,” said Keel. “We had this idea, but we didn’t know if it was viable or not, but the market research was really inspiring. The more we talked to guys and saw their enthusiasm, the better about it we felt.”

Stantt is still in its early stages. Keel and Hornbuckle rent workspace at the Hoboken Business Center’s Mission 50 penthouse space, and are currently in the final stages of a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Their performance on the website so far (their page boasts a testimonial video of a man trying a Stantt shirt for the first time and loving it) is impressive – since Aug. 11, the pair has raised almost $45,000, and is shooting for $60,000 by Sept. 22.

New ideas, new technology

Hornbuckle and Keel both admitted that fashion isn’t their area of expertise, but Keel made the point that men’s fashion, at least for the standard, run-of-the-mill guy, hasn’t changed much over the years. Figuring out what types of shirts to produce and sell was never going to be Stantt’s challenge, they said, but rather how to produce and how to sell them.

After consulting with supply experts, doing market research and meeting with engineers at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hornbuckle set out to create Stantt’s patent-pending piece of equipment that they say is going to differentiate them from the industry. DataFit, as it’s called, creates millions of data points from hundreds of body scans of men of all shapes and sizes.

As opposed to the industry standard small, medium, large and extra large, which Keel argued is an industry ploy to maintain profit while ignoring ingenuity, DataFit created 50 new sizes, some for “outliers” (men with less-than-usual body types) and some for more standard-shaped men. After entering three measurements – chest, waist and sleeve length – into Stantt’s website, DataFit’s algorithm finds the size for you.

“It’s just such a simple way for you to find clothes that you feel good in,” said Hornbuckle. “Maybe you’ve got your favorite custom suit, that you just feel fantastic in because it fits your body perfectly. We want every shirt in the closet to have that energy.”

Focus on essentials

You won’t find any tie-dye or puffy shirts in Stantt’s collection; Keel and Hornbuckle decided long ago that for the company to succeed, they’d need to pitch classic looks. Currently on the Kickstarter, the guys show off button-downs and polo shirts in just a few colors, with goals for a few more.

“What guy doesn’t have a blue and white button-down?” joked Keel. “There’s a simplicity aspect to Stantt, both in the way you shop and what you shop for.”

The shopping aspect, especially, is one way Stantt hopes to attract customers.

“Most guys don’t enjoy shopping,” said Hornbuckle. “This is supposed to be easy. If you’ve got a suit jacket, you can get your sleeve length and chest from that, and you just check your best-fitting pair of pants for your waist, and you’re ready to go.”

Taking on a stubborn industry

In brainstorming Stantt, Keel and Hornbuckle stumbled across an astounding statistic. After measuring their DataFit body scans against industry-standard sizes, they found that roughly 15 percent of men fit perfectly into what’s available at the store.

“Fifteen percent just isn’t okay,” said Keel. “Something needs to change. We’re betting that those 85 percent of guys, who are forced to choose one of four sizes and might even get pigeonholed into one specific brand that fits best, will buy into this idea.”

The same, they said, goes for suppliers, who were initially difficult to find. After months of convincing, have bought into the idea. Like the consumer, Keel said, they’re not pleased with the industry either.

“We were really pleased to be able to have all of our suppliers be domestic,” he said. “And I think we were able to do that because a lot of these big brands have outsourced their work. Initially it took a little convincing, but after seeing our market research, they got excited about it.”

Keel and Hornbuckle said that their biggest confidence booster (and when you’re taking on an industry that hasn’t really changed in 60 years, they say, you need all the confidence you can get) has been the response to their Kickstarter campaign, which has seen contributions from all around the world.

“We’ve got people from Afghanistan, Sweden, Australia,” said Hornbuckle. “It’s exciting to see, and it makes us feel like we’ve got something here.”

So what’s next for Stantt? First, they’ve got to complete their Kickstarter campaign, then they’ll launch their e-commerce by next year, and hope to be taking orders not long after that.

“To fill a guy’s closet with amazing fitting clothing is the dream for us,” said Keel. “We have the technology, and the best part is that it can be applied to just about anything.”

Learn more about Stantt on their Kickstarter page, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stantt/stantttm-casual-shirts-get-a-custom-fit.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

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