Young alumnus and team build thriving domestically manufactured clothing brand in Chicago

After nearly two years of trading “invisible products” at the Chicago Board of Trade, Tim Tierney ’08 turned to something more perceptible, clothes.

Tierney is a partner at Chicago-based Stock Manufacturing Company, manufacturing both in- and out-of-house menswear labels. Their work is domestic, which is a win-win for Stock and its domestic designer customers because production is more cost effective. Additionally, nearly all sales transactions are factory direct, which is a win for consumers who otherwise would face the retail price at a store.

An economics major while at Lake Forest College, Tierney said the goal in forming the company was to “weed out all unnecessary hurdles” and to create a “stripped down, efficient business model that’s entirely vertical.” In short, most, if not all, of the work is done in-house.

In addition to cost advantages, consumers are more and more interested in ethically sound manufacturing companies like Tierney’s, according to a recent WBEZ story in which Tierney and Stock were featured. This is especially true in light of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory complex in Bangladesh in late April that killed at least 1,129 people and unleashed widespread criticism of working conditions in similar garment factories.

“The operators are the backbone of the business,” Tierney said, representing Stock and is ethical operations. “I made a shirt from scratch and it took like two weeks. It takes years and years of experience to be a productive operator. We work very closely with them. It’s very important to have a good relationship with the operators.”

The concept of Stock started about a year and a half ago. The company comprises a team of like-minded partners Tierney met through friends and jobs he held in the clothing industry after he left trading. They manufacture their own label, and they collaborate with out-of-house designers.

“We’re lending our efficiencies to other brands to get their products in more hands and to offer their products at a more reasonable price,” Tierney said.

Stock’s website, www.stockmfg.co, has experienced about $60,000 in sales since it launched in February, and further development seems to be on the horizon. They are in the design phase of making new, less corporate-style dress shirts for Goose Island employees, for example. In an effort to amplify brand awareness among consumers, they also are selling pocket squares and hats in nine Bloomingdales stores across the country and are in talks with them about producing exclusive pieces for the holiday season. These are the only stores their products are sold; the rest of the selling occurs online.

Additionally, they have lined up a series of collaborations with a group of four influential menswear figures — bloggers, stylists and photographers — to produce clothing samples for a street photography project; the items later will be for sale. The collaborators have large social media followings specialized for menswear, so Tierney hopes this also will help Stock move up in the world of domestic clothing manufacturing.

Tierney long has had an interest in entrepreneurship. He was a part of the College’s entrepreneur group as a student, and his father owns a construction company. He acknowledges that running a manufacturing company isn’t the most glamorous work, but, “It takes a certain amount of, I don’t know if it’s confidence, but there’s something there.”