Freenote: Denim-Driven Menswear With a Focus on Authenticity
Brothers Matt and Andrew Brodrick spent 10 years building an accessories brand, steering it through an acquisition by a major surf company while expanding product offerings and managing offshore production.
When it came time for the two to launch their own menswear brand, Freenote, the brothers opted for a tightly focused concept and 100 percent made-in-America production.
“Our vision starts with the very best ingredients—the very best denim, the very best textiles, the very best trim—and [we] create pieces that are built to last,” Matt Brodrick said. “We wanted to design a collection that could outfit your head-to-toe—and not go too deep into one category.”
The Freenote collection includes jeans made from American and Japanese selvage denim, woven shirts made from Japanese fabrics, T-shirts knit in Los Angeles, and a few specialty leathers. The details are subtle, including horn and bone buttons, a bar tack on a T-shirt pocket, or a little hint of red selvage on the gusset of a brushed-cotton woven shirt. Pants are inspired by a 1930s vintage workman’s trouser updated with a modern fit. There are three pocket styles on the denim, including one with four dome rivets inspired by a vintage welder’s pant. Freenote’s ultra-soft T-shirt is knit from a Japanese yarn spun on a defective machine that creates a distinctive slub look of a well-worn, “lived-in” vintage tee.
The Brodricks are sourcing some of their denim from Cone Denim Mill’s White Oak plant in Greensboro, N.C., and are working with the mill to develop a signature Freenote denim fabrication, which will be added to the line for Spring 2015.
Based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., the company is close enough to Los Angeles to allow the brothers to closely monitor production, but it’s far enough away to keep them focused on their vision.
“We want to be authentic,” Andrew Brodrick said. “That word, ‘authentic,’ is something that follows through in everything we’re doing. We want to specialize in men’s clothing. We don’t want to stray too far from the core. We don’t want to be just a denim brand, [and] we don’t want to be something for everyone, productwise.”
Retail prices range from $50 to $70 for T-shirts and $180 to $230 for woven shirts. Chino pants are priced from $180 to $200, and jackets are about $200. The starting retail price for denim is $200 and goes up to $300 for styles made from Japanese denim. The highest price in the line is $900 for a leather jacket.
The collection will officially launch at the Jan. 7–8 run of the Agenda show in Long Beach, Calif. Then the company will exhibit at Project in New York and Liberty in Las Vegas.
Both Brodricks got their start in the apparel industry at Electric Visual, the accessories company that was acquired by Volcom in 2008. Both started at Electric in 2003, helping grow the startup company and attract the eye of Volcom. At the time of the acquisition, Matt Brodrick was Electric’s director of finance, helping to oversee cashflow and company finances leading up to the acquisition. After the sale, he changed course, becoming the brand’s director of apparel and accessories. For five years, he designed and produced Electric accessories, including bags and luggage, as well as apparel such as woven tops, including button-downs and jackets.
Andrew Brodrick spent five years managing Electric’s East Coast sales, opening accounts with department stores and boutiques, as well as sporting-goods stores and e-commerce shops. In 2008, he was promoted to director of North American sales for the company, overseeing 10 staff employees, 40 outside reps and 19 territories.
The decade at Electric gave the brothers a firsthand view of a startup, a growing brand and a division within a much-larger company.
“We were a small company in a big company, but we had to operate like a big company,” Matt Brodrick explained. “I was spending so much time traveling overseas or sending a tech pack. You lost that authentic and personal experience.”
For Freenote, Andrew Brodrick will oversee sales and operations while Matt Brodrick will lead design and production.
“We want to make stuff we like to wear and that our friends like to wear,” Mat Brodrick said. “We want to make pieces you can keep for a long time.”