How One Young Guy Built a Successful Hype Brand from Scratch

Hint: He worked for free.

Meet Timothy Jaw: a designer, marketing assistant, founder and business operations unicorn. He has spent the past three years soaking up any and all information from respected mentors to further his dream of becoming a successful streetwear founder. And, spoiler alert, it’s working.

“I’m really proud of my story,” Jaw says over lunch at a boisterous restaurant in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. “I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t know how I was going to get there.”

Jaw x Jawshop, his clothing company, is hesitant to call itself a streetwear brand. The company understands the mentality of weekly drops and the casual comfort of 2019 fashion, but they don’t want to be pigeonholed. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to sell it, but I knew what I wanted to wear.” Inspired by the lack of stylish options for guys to wear to the gym, Jaw x Jawshop’s first collection drop included hot-pink gym shorts, black-and-white tube socks and tops reminiscent of a Hanes tee.

After attending the University of Arizona to study accounting, Jaw was on a path to work for one of the “big four” accounting firms. He landed a job at San Francisco’s Deloitte, a business management consulting firm, right out of college. His clients were Uber and Yelp.

With this success under his belt at 23 years old, Jaw began to feel jaded and long for the nights he would occasionally spend with creative friends in New York City. So he packed his bags, convinced his parents that he’d be OK and moved to New York with zero job prospects. He tried a few avenues but ultimately realized his heart was in fashion, so he signed up for classes at the New School’s Parsons School of Design.

“Once I’d signed up for classes at Parsons, the flood gates opened. People wanted to connect me with everyone they knew in the fashion world,” Jaw recalls. “A friend from college put me in touch with a guy working for Supreme, the streetwear giant, who has his own side brand called Proper Gang.”

In line with Gary Vaynerchuk’s philosophies, Jaw offered to work for famed designer Max Vanderwoude Gross for free. “I wanted to learn everything about how fashion works, so I worked for free for eight months,” he says. The experience gave Jaw invaluable assets that money can’t buy, like insider connections in New York’s Garment District, at Dover Street Market and at all the top boutiques around the world.

“I learned how to produce clothing. I got to sit in on meetings, and I learned how to design.” After eight months of free work, Jaw began to earn a salary. Then, serendipitously, Jaw met Babba C. Rivera, a leading force in New York’s innovative marketing scene. Again, Jaw deployed his work-for-free tactic and asked if he could contribute to her marketing company, By Babba, in exchange for marketing advice surrounding his impending clothing launch.

To create Jaw x Jawshop’s dream pink shorts, there were two things to consider: making and refining the actual product with sketches and fit testing and building a brand to surround the pieces. “I wanted the pieces to be unique.” Here are Jaw’s nine steps to creating a streetwear brand from scratch:

Step 1: Sketch

“I knew the way I wanted my shorts to fit—gym shorts for guys in a cool cut and cool colors that were basic but elevated. So I sketched how I would want my gym shorts to fit.”

Step 2: Create a Pattern

“Using your sketch, you should decide exactly the way each panel of fabric will be cut. This pattern making is the most technical part of designing and is sometimes outsourced to an expert pattern maker.”

Step 3: Find the Fabric

“If you really want to have access to lots of bolts of fabric for future runs, you have to go to a fabric agent. They’re based in the Garment District of New York and can source from many countries. I get mine from Japan. They didn’t have the exact color of pink that I wanted, so I had to find a fabric dyer, also in the Garment District, to help.”

Step 4: Perfect the Fabric

“Finding the exact color you want is a process. The dyers ask for a small swatch to match your fabric. They do a small sample test and cut the swatch into four different pieces. You give them a reference, a Pantone color or a specific item, and you pick the sample you like the best. Once you’re happy with one to three yards of fabric that has been dyed, you give something like 50 yards to be properly colored.”

Step 5: Cut the Pattern

“Using the pattern you created, your 50 yards of fabric is cut into pieces that assemble to make 100 pairs of shorts. This all happens in the Garment District, where factories line every floor of 30-story buildings.

“In my first collection drop, I cut way too much fabric. I shouldn’t have produced so many shorts at the beginning. I should’ve saved some materials to make other items, like windbreakers. Remember to regulate the number of production units when you’re first starting out.”

Step 6: Sew the Clothes

“Next, you take it to another factory to be sewn. This process is called ‘cutting and sewing.’Once assembled, you have 100 pairs of your pink shorts.”

Step 7: Release with Collection Drops

“Because our clothes are all made in New York in the Garment District, our costs are more expensive than if you outsourced to another country. Roughly, to do this kind of production run of, say, 50 shorts, it would cost around $4,000. That’s from nothing to having 50 finished shorts with trims and everything. So that is reflected in the cost on our e-commerce site, our main source of revenue.”

Step 8: Marketing and Delivery

“When I was at Parsons, I screen-printed a shirt for a friend. I didn’t want to just deliver it in a plastic bag, so I stopped in the dollar slice pizza place across from my apartment. I asked if I could buy a box—that classic pizza box with green and red writing—so I delivered her shirt, hot and crispy, in a pizza box. That became the packaging for my brand and all our orders are shipped in pizza boxes. Get creative with this part.”

Step 9: Social Media

“My social media strategy was to give the product to all my friends. I wanted to approach it like, ‘I have this cool thing and I think you’ll want it too.’ I never ask anyone to post or pay anyone. They just organically love the product. Fortunately, since I work in marketing, my friends have amassed big followings on social platforms.”

The most recent drop from Jaw x Jawshop is a covetable tie-dye long-sleeved tee based on a nostalgic top Jaw found in a beachside surf shop in Delaware. Emblazoned with “I love you” in both English and Mandarin, the tee is a shout-out to the Chinese American factory workers in the Garment District who have helped Jaw literally and metaphorically build this brand. This collection has since sold out.

“I found two mentors: one in marketing and one in fashion,” Jaw says. The skills of sourcing and producing clothes were taken directly from working at Proper Gang. The skills of marketing and social media were taken from working at By Babba. “We’re giving people a story behind their clothes.”

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