During his junior year at N.C. State University in 2012, Jared Childs wanted a wardrobe change. He was tired of wearing jeans, plain T-shirts and sneakers.
“I dressed like everyone else,” said Childs, 24. “I always liked certain styles, but I wasn’t sure I could pull them off.”
He began to experiment with different colors and patterns, and he bought himself a bomber jacket.
While researching clothing brands, Childs recognized a problem: Many men want to look sharp but don’t know where to start, or they hate to shop.
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Even if they do want to browse options, Childs said, retail in downtown Raleigh is limited.
“More young professionals are moving here, and there is nowhere for them to shop,” he said. “At the same time, men’s fashion is growing like crazy. Guys are spending more on how they look than ever before.”
Last year, Childs co-founded Pitch and Primer, a men’s online subscription clothing service with a mobile store housed in an Airstream. He partnered with Lauren Stilwell, a fashion textile design major at N.C. State.
Customers can have hand-picked items delivered to their front door or try on clothes in the Airstream, which sets up at various downtown sites.
The company partners with various brands, including Bonobos and Grayers, to sell tops, pants, outerwear and accessories. When deciding whether to sell a certain item, Childs considers the material, comfortability and colors. He’s also partial to brands with a unique history and tries to keep prices between $60 and $80.
“Our goal is to create an experience and curate goods that give guys the confidence to take on whatever life throws their way,” Childs said.
Childs, who graduated in 2014, spent more than a year sketching out his idea for the company. He became program manager of N.C. State’s Entrepreneurship Clinic, a program run out of HQ Raleigh that provides guidance for students and entrepreneurs. He was also a ThinkHouse fellow, a 10-month fellowship that helps people develop successful business ventures.
After bringing investors on board, Childs launched Pitch and Primer. By next month he hopes to sign up 50 pilot members for the company’s subscription service, along with 5,000 email subscribers. By January, he hopes to send out the first clothing boxes.
Subscribers will fill out a form with their sizing information and preferences, and also include information about whether they’re looking for clothing for a specific event, like a wedding. Stylists at Pitch and Primer will choose pieces from their stock and ship them. Customers can purchase items they want and return unwanted items for free.
“We shop when you would have to,” Childs said. “This service is for the guys who don’t want to shop but still want to look good.”
For those who want the in-person shopping experience, customers can visit the sleek Airstream, where black-and-white patterned floor tiles are accented by navy walls and green plants.
“We wanted it to feel like you’re stepping into someone’s living room,” Stilwell said. “The design is all about being simple with some unique touches.”
Once inside, they can can grab a beer from a small refrigerator while they browse racks of clothing and shelves of accessories. There’s even a dressing room.
“There are a lot of neutrals, like a classic white tee, denim and button-downs,” Childs said. “Mostly navy, black, white and gray items – things you can wear in any season that go with everything.”
Originally, Childs had planned to open a brick-and-mortar store in downtown Raleigh but realized it would be too expensive. Buying and outfitting the Airstream, and buying the first round of inventory, cost about $50,000 – about one-tenth of what he had considered spending on a physical store.
Childs sees a future in mobile storefronts. He drew inspiration from brands like Warby Parker, an online eyewear company that in 2012 bought and retrofitted an old school bus that travels to cities around the United States.
Warby Parker now has 41 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. and one in Canada.
“We can go to where our customers are, instead of the reverse,” Childs said. “We hope to be part of the next wave of mobile businesses.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler