Taylor Stitch co-founders Michael Armenta, Michael Maher, Barrett Purdum
Old friend Michael Maher is what you might call an "energizer bunny." This guy was peddling flowers and lemonade in his front yard as a kid and started clothing company Taylor Stitch with his friends immediately after they graduated from college. Mike and the Taylor Stitch crew work non-stop to create better products for their loyal customers and to forge meaningful partnerships with likeminded brands. In the little downtime he has, Mike likes to get out into the rivers, chase some brookies, and let his creative thoughts flow free. We touched base with him on the challenges of conscious manufacturing and the internal pull that brings him back to the fish every time.
You co-founded Taylor Stitch with college friends. Did you have an inkling as a kid that you'd grow up to be an entrepreneur?
I knew pretty early that I'd be on that track. From about the age of 6 my brother and I were running a lemonade and fresh flower stand at the end of our road in Maine. We'd have my mom cut fresh bouquets out of her garden and arrange them for us and then we would go sell them. The margins were great on flowers... since Mom did all the work and we had no costs. Things progressed to full landscaping companies through high school and college and after studying entrepreneurship in college, I didn't really want to head in any other direction.
Image via Taylor Stitch's Instagram
Sounds like a you had a solid game plan. When starting Taylor Stitch, you sought to solve the problem of poor shirting. What were some of the challenges of accomplishing that?
The first major problem was manufacturing. Finding a manufacturer we trusted was a challenge. Luckily we landed with one of the oldest shirtmakers in the country who's been around for the past 85 years or so. They listened to us and worked closely with us to do things we otherwise wouldn't have been able to accomplish.
Every time we develop a new pattern or work on a new project we have set out to fix something - making something that we want and we think others want. We throw pop-up markets to help get the word out more about ourselves and all the other great makers and artisanal companies out there.
Clearly Taylor Stitch values the importance of a quality product.
Product is king for a longstanding business. You can have mediocre product and great marketing and survive for a while... but that's not a great business. Eventually your true colors show and it's no good. We continue to focus much of our efforts on the details because we know the customers we have will always come back because they trust we will continue to give them great products that we will stand behind.
Aside from your work with Taylor Stitch, you're an avid fly fisherman. What is your earliest memory of fly fishing?
My first 'real' fly fishing trip was when I was 12 years old. My old man and I went chasing big brookies in Quebec, Canada. Big winds were frustrating, but I landed a fish that was pretty special after a week of throwing flies into the wind.
Sounds like a memorable initiation. Do you ever feel that "spiritual" pull back to the water and to the fish?
Aside from the actual thrill of chasing fish and being in some of the most beautiful places in the world, there are a couple things that make me return. The river is a place of refuge for me. Even if you aren't catching fish it's a place where you can clear your mind and have uninhibited thoughts about anything - whether it be work or life related. It's actually a really creative place in that sense. The second thing is family. It's always been what brings my brother, father and I together. We try to take one big trip a year and they are usually to pretty remote places, so there isn't much distraction. We just get to hang out together.
What are some of your favorite fishing spots - near and far?
There are a few small rivers in Maine that we fished growing up that are always favorites. I've been incredibly lucky when it comes to epic fishing trips. As a teenager we'd go up to Labrador, Canada every summer for a week to chase brookies and being able to throw a dry fly to a sipping fish at dusk is a pretty special thing. Getting up into Alaska to go after big rainbows around the summer solstice was always a pretty amazing trip. The sun never sets so you could pretty much fish until your heart's content.
You're from Maine but have been living in San Francisco for the past 8 years. What do you love most about each coast?
I love the weather and food here in Northern California quite a bit. Being able to ride my bike 365 days a year and get to snow in the winter is amazing. The ability to always have amazing fresh produce to cook with and interact with people doing inspiring things in the world of food makes it a damn fine place as well.
I like the changing seasons of the east coast and the ruggedness that comes along with that. It's tough to beat a crisp fall morning with changing leaves on the east coast.
We hear you. Sometimes we get jealous of the West Coast lifestyle... and then that crisp fall day rolls around and we're happy where we are. Can you share with us some exciting projects you and Taylor Stitch have in store?
There's quite a few fun things coming down the pipeline for fall. We are doing an awesome project with Strava as well as doing a Moto Collection that ties in a few of our favorite manufacturers from near and far. Just continuing to push the product to a better and better place.
Thanks Michael for chatting with us! Maybe we'll come out and visit you in San Francisco when winter roles into New England...