Welcome to the 360i #SideHustle blog series, where we showcase the totally awesome side projects, start-up businesses and other ventures created by the always-curious and entrepreneurial crew of employees here at 360i.
What started out as a childhood love of sneakers and skateboarding eventually led 360i’s Jonathan Gogel to create a line of high-quality menswear. After identifying gaps in his own closet, Jonathan, an Associate Director of Insights & Planning here at 360i, was eager to fill them and decided to take matters into his own hands. We sat down with Jonathan to learn more about what it’s like to start a clothing line, where he draws his inspiration from, and what he envisions next for his clothing line, Alrightnik.
360i: Let’s start at the beginning. What made you want to start a clothing line?
Jonathan Gogel: “My love of skateboarding and sneakers is actually what started this. Skateboarding has always been closely linked with style because it isn’t enough that you can do certain maneuvers, you also have to have style while doing them. I would go to the skate store every weekend and eventually became friends with the owner. He told me once, ‘You’re buying sneakers every weekend – now you have to have the right jeans to go with those sneakers.’ Skating really became building a look around the sneakers you were wearing. The idea of building that aesthetic start to finish brought me here. The line started with a unique take on a popover shirt, a classic sportswear piece that I grew to love. My twist on it was creating a popover that had a chopped off collar but also had layering capabilities. On that piece, what I’m selling right now has an 8-inch side slit which is kind of progressive for men, but that’s a perfect opportunity to show off the layers you’ve built into your style. What you have on under is almost as important as what you have on top. The guy who considers that – that’s the kind of guy I’m trying to reach.”
360i: Describe your process. What did it take to get started?
JG: “Even before I got into designing men’s fashion I already knew what kind of materials I liked as a customer, so I knew what I was looking for and I knew where to start, but I had no experience with design or textiles. I had to learn the tools first. I took advantage of every situation. If I met someone at a party and I overheard they were in the industry I might ask a couple questions, or if I had a meeting with a factory I would make sure to maximize that time with them. I wasn’t afraid to look like a novice. I finally found a factory in the Garment District I liked. I bring them my designs, and we meticulously go through each update or change. Once the samples are where I want them to be, we make a full production run. I go piece by piece that way I can really focus and hone in on the details that define that piece. But eventually I would like to move towards more of a full collection.”
360i: Your line is called “Alrightnik” – where does the name come from?
JG: “I grew up around a lot of Yiddish and was fascinated by the early immigrant culture of Yiddish people in New York and New Haven, where my family’s originally from. Alrightnik is a Yiddish term that immigrants used in the turn of the century to describe someone who was breaking the tribe or defying tradition in order to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. Back then if you were ‘alrightnik’ you were an outcast, but now it means something different. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to breathe positivity into the term because now it’s something you aspire to.”
360i: How do you differentiate “Alrightnik” in the clothing space?
JG: “There are so many players in the fashion industry and menswear in general, but I’ve put a lot of painstaking effort to making sure the fit, materials, and details are just right. So for me, the differentiating factor is the passion and intense labor that’s been put into every piece. I want to create something people feel good about when they put it on.”
360i: How has working in Insights at 360i informed your business?
JG: “My consumer insights background has helped me figure out who exactly would be purchasing my clothes and spending their hard-earned on money on it. Asking questions like, what would the brand be saying about that person, what other brands are they shopping, what does their style look like, etc. Being at 360i also helped me figure out which numbers to pay attention to and which numbers are just noise. All I’m concerned about is getting into people’s closets, so I don’t want to get bogged down on some of the metrics.”
360i: What’s next for Alrightnik?
JG: “I just released a new piece that I’m really excited about. It’s another upgrade to a traditional sportswear item, I’m calling it the New Haven rugby – paying homage to the inspiration behind my brand and the place my family has called home since the turn of the century. I just want to make stuff that I’m proud of and that hopefully people will bring into their homes and into their everyday lives.”
For more on Jonathan and Alrightnik, check out the line’s website here.