Origins (Part I): Making the First Shirt

This week we launched our first full collection, the Japan Collection. We conceptualized the Japan Collection in the early days of Topology. Our earliest mission was to create apparel inspired by cultures and places around the world. We knew from the start that we would begin our journey with an Asian collection, as the unique and vibrant fabrics of these countries begged to be brought home.

We traveled to Hong Kong and Tokyo in January and visited fabric markets in each country in search of a few great fabrics we could use to start testing our concept and prototyping our fit and styling.

Hong Kong

We visited the fabric markets of Sham Shui Po on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong - 5 stops north of the buzzing museums, restaurants, and high-end shops of Tsim Tsa Shui. The market here consisted mostly of small shops showcasing dozens of fabric swatches and vendors selling one-off bolts of fabric. The selection in Hong Kong was unfortunately not at all what we were looking for. The designs skewed towards basic (lots of dress shirting fabrics in solids and plaids) and loud (many of the bright reds and pinks that are favored in China). So, we instead ate our fair share of Dim Sum and left empty-handed for Tokyo.



We had very high hopes for Tokyo. Japan has a long tradition of creating extremely high quality clothing ranging from cutting-edge streetwear to intricate kimonos and meticulous reproductions of vintage American workwear and military uniforms (yes, it's a thing). We headed to Nippori on the north side of Tokyo and browsed the many large and diverse fabric shops where you can buy fabric by the meter or by the entire bolt.  Here we found everything from literally dozens of different cat-prints to the beautiful, high quality traditional Japanese patterns we were searching for. We brought back a few of our favorites.

The First Shirt

In February, we were back in New York with a few fabrics we were in love with. We began searching for an experienced manufacturing partner. We wanted to make our shirts in the US because we wanted top-notch quality and the trust and flexibility that comes with working closely with a local partner. We found a manufacturer with decades of experience and began working on our first sample. We examined dozens of men's shirts and size charts and identified what we liked and didn't like about each one. We ended up with a long-sleeve shirt with a just-slim-enough fit and a timeless button collar that was neither too big nor too small.
When we first saw the shirt, we were confident that we could create an amazing product with a unique story and that it was time to pour more energy into Topology and begin building a brand. Of course, we also realized that you rarely get anything right the first time and we made some revisions and another prototype...

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