Road Twenty-Two Q+A: Sustainably Made in the USA
PL: Can you tell me a bit about what led to the inception and the creation of your brand, Road Twenty Two? You launched in November 2014, correct?
Fif: Yes. We started out with what I have always wanted to create — a luxury brand where the quality of the luxury clothes were things that you would reach for every day, that you could dress it up or dress it down. But it still had an edge to it.
So, what motivated me to start the company was this big desire to help women who have been incarcerated homeless suffer from substance abuse and also wouldn’t touch. So basically, what I did was after I read Orange is the New Black and kind of delved in to the internet and learned more about depravities, well that kind of motivated me to marry the two ideas and create a company that would give these women opportunities and then also create clothes that other people, other women and men, really would love and would wear constantly and would become kind of a staple in their closet.
PL: That is so awesome. You have such a great consumer experience, not only with the t-shirts but also with your packaging and branding. For instance, the mission statement and quotes from the women who create the products that come in the box with the t-shirts. Can you talk a bit about the focus on personal storytelling as part of the launch of your brand?
“One of the things was we want the shirts to have a double edge impact. One is it helps these women get in to a better life and we wanted the customer experience also to be a great feeling. “
So, both the consumer and the producer have a great experience, getting employment, getting jobs, putting food on the table, getting their own home. Then the consumer that is wearing the shirt gets a product that from the minute they receive it, it feels good. It gets them in touch with these women who they are helping and it feels good on their body and they will buy more of it.
As a result, our repeat purchase rate is pretty high. We have close to 60 to 70 percent of our customers come back to our site and repurchase within the first couple of months and our return rate is under three percent.
PL: That is amazing. The shirts are so great.
Fif: Thank you.
PL: Road TwentyTwo is based in San Francisco and I wonder if we could talk a bit about how designing your line in SF aligns to your mission. Maybe you can walk us through your local community and then your sort of other partners on the west coast.
Fif: The fabric is purchased in LA it gets washed in LA. It gets shipped to the Bay Area cut in Oakland sewn in San Francisco and then it gets shipped back to LA for screen printing and dying. So, it goes through basically between LA and San Francisco that the product goes through production. Comes back to San Francisco. We trim it and then get it ready for shipment.
One of the good things about San Francisco is that, compared to LA or New York, it’s a smaller city. So, it enabled us to kind of work with a community that we know and very accepting of our mission. What we did is we launched November of 2014 in San Francisco. We actually had a big event, quite a bit of shirts actually at that event. Close to $20,000 worth of shirts.
So, the advantage is a small community, it had an impact. They open minded liberals are very accepting.
The disadvantages that we are in San Francisco is a small community. So just breaking out of that community and going in to a bigger world is kind of our focus, it’s how do we get outside of the walls of San Francisco. The success has been it launched us in San Francisco, it’s getting past San Francisco, which is what we are focusing on now.
PL: It’s great that you are trying to grow and expand and because of your methods and your mission both employing local production for the t-shirts and local resources and the empowerment mission. You said, “We are the real American Apparel” – in your designing and employment practices – and I’d love to talk have you expand on that a bit because I think it is such an important part of your brand.
“What distinguishes us is that we are a hundred percent produced in the Bay Area and LA. So, it is all US made product, all US purchased fabric. So, the goal is to really help the people in the US who really would not be employed by most companies.”
PL: Can you talk about the designer and the artwork in the collection?
Fif: Our designer is Alice who is my co-founder. She comes up with some ideas, discusses it with one of the artists which is Terrigan Wortel who is on our website as well. Then Terri actually does hand sketches and then Alice and her collaborate and Alice picks up the sketches that she wants to have on the shirt. One of the first sketches which was the deer skull is something that she took off an original painting that she had done from the back of an O’Reilly shirt.
It is all hand drawn and then we send we send it to our screen printer and use that hand art to create a screen which we then use on our shirts.
PL: And the screeners are in the Bay Area in Oakland?
Fif: In LA.
PL: I think what is great about your brand too is you have your staples but it seems like you are always innovating and adding new designs. So, is there a limited-edition quality to what you are doing? Will you retire some of your designs as you bring out new ones? What is your view on design?
Fif: Yes. We are always focusing on creating new shirts and new artwork and we definitely retire some. We don’t regurgitate because we don’t want to have everyone have the same shirts. Everything should have kind of a unique feel to it.
PL: Is there anything else you want to talk about? Any new projects you would like to share with us?
Fif: We actually just came from a pattern maker so we are working on a couple of new sweatshirts and sweatpants. So, we are expanding beyond just t-shirts. We did have sweatshirts anyway but now June product release will have sweat pants and sweatshirts and more designs coming out. So, it is exciting. We are constantly adding more portfolio of product.