- Buyer's Guide
CIVIC: Bringing Merino Basics to the World
I’ve been both a fan and customer of Taylor Stitch for a number of years now, and it has been amazing to not just witness their evolution, but also be invited along for the ride. Hailing from the fast-paced city of San Francisco, they have consistently impressed me with their ability to pivot fast but move slow when needed. They produce a small amount of quality products at a time, but always have a handful in the wings, ready to be refined and voted on.
Their latest venture is CIVIC, which specializes in Merino wool goods. Taylor Stitch has offered wool items in the past but they are definitely more textile agnostic, offering everything from recycled poly/cotton blends to suede goods. CIVIC allows the brand to have a singular focus – designing and producing great Merino wool clothing. The brand launched with basics (tees, Henleys, boxers, etc.); staple items that are perfect for the city and travel. We spoke to their brand manager, Steven Keyes, to learn more about the brand and the direction it’s headed.
What’s the essence of your brand?
In a word, Merino. We’ve long been fans of Merino’s innate performance abilities and wanted to incorporate the wonder-fiber into our everyday lives. For us, it’s not about reinventing a silhouette or pattern. It is about taking uncontested wardrobe staples and improving upon them, iterating if you will. We love the outdoors but we spend a considerable amount of time in the city so we thought why not adapt our favorite Merino garments for everyday wear?
“We would rather produce something that people genuinely want or ideally, need, as opposed to producing something and hope that it sells in a specific season.”
How do you connect with and understand your core customers?
We are constantly thinking of ways to involve our customers with the brand. Case in point, our weekly feature of user-generated content on our Instagram, as well as our rotating photo series highlighting local photographers. We also think about our products both holistically and over their life cycle. Our product assortment will always be tight because that is what we believe in. We would rather produce something that people genuinely want or ideally, need, as opposed to producing something and hope that it sells in a specific season. Creating a relationship and feedback loop with our customers allows us to produce a simpler, more efficient product assortment, and we believe that is a great way to create more simple and efficient lives.
What sets you apart from the other brands selling Merino wares?
Our team grew up skiing, hiking, cycling and camping and has always had a connection to the gear and clothing associated with those pursuits. The background knowledge of outdoor performance apparel, coupled with our parent company’s garment-making expertise is what makes us different. We thought it was silly for those high-end garments to sit in our closets only to be used a handful of times per year or per season. So we combined our understanding of performance fabrics with what we’ve learned about fit and construction to create a pared-down line of essentials that work for our everyday lives. We’re not here to sell the most clothes—we’re here to offer what we find essential and offer it in a better way by using one of the world’s most functional performance fabrics: Merino Wool.
What things won’t you do with your brand?
We won’t ever put down our competitors. Everyone in this space brings something unique to the table and we would rather build relationships with talented brands, to bring real value to our customers. We also won’t be that brand with a seemingly never-ending product offering. Merino Wool won’t ever go away either, it’s the reason for our existence and we find it’s the best material available to fulfill our desire of working with natural fibers that possess performance properties. And to be honest, it’s just a really cool fabric, on a granular level. Hence our tagline, You Can’t Beat The Sheep.
“We spend a disproportionate amount of time looking over fabric swatches, buttons, snaps, zippers, thread and more fabric swatches.”
What key insights drive your stuff?
CIVIC was born in the mountains, on a backpacking trip, and we hold our product to a standard commensurate with the outdoor industry. That said, we’re obsessed with materials. We spend a disproportionate amount of time looking over fabric swatches, buttons, snaps, zippers, thread and more fabric swatches. Having found inspiration in an industry connected to the outdoors as well as a natural material, we fully understand the impact we have around the globe. One of our core tenets is to use any and all tools available to mitigate that impact. Beyond that, most of our product inspiration comes from our environment. We’re lucky (very lucky) to call San Francisco home and we’re never short on unique experiences here. Foggy summers and sweltering Septembers always throw us for a loop when it comes to product design. As a result, our line is seasonless and produced with colors that work year-round. This is something we hold very close and we won’t stray from these values.
Who else is doing rad things in the world of apparel? And why do you think they’re important?
Outlier wins the innovation award, and it’s not only their product but also their fabrics, they obsess over them. We’re continually inspired by their work because it’s authentic. They love the fabrics they work with, and they built their brand on this authenticity. It’s refreshing to see a brand stick with the values they were founded on.
“…we’re excited to see more brands holding themselves accountable for their impact around the globe”
We’ve also been wowed by ADAY, a women’s line focused on simplifying wardrobes, a core value of CIVIC as well. Whether it be their product design or their creative approach to product bundles i.e., uniforms, we’ve been quite impressed with their ability to tell their story in unique ways.
Last but not least, brands like Patagonia and The North Face. Realistically, without initiatives like TNF’s Cali Wool or the overall stance that Patagonia has taken when it comes to their supply chain, CIVIC probably wouldn’t exist. TNF and Patagonia have set the groundwork that allows a start-up like ours to compete.
Are there any things other brands do that you think are great or could be improved?
Being that our product assortment is and always will be very tight, we tend to look outside the apparel space. Brands like Floyd, Casper and Soma Water have pretty innovative marketing strategies in place, especially on the performance side.
Moving forward, we’re excited to see more brands holding themselves accountable for their impact around the globe, because we think a major benefit could be seen. That could manifest in improved factory conditions, longevity of product/style, or community give-back efforts.
As of the publication of this post, CIVIC is offering 20% off your first order from their site!