These Yale Grads Are Growing the Organic Clothing Game

Conventional cotton has a staunch effect on our environment, as the fluffy fiber is responsible for 10 percent of global pesticide use and 25 percent of insecticides.

This underlying problem is what motivated two Yale University graduates to help combat this unjust production by starting Tuckerman & Co.who produce organic upscale men’s dress shirts.

“The environmental problem in the apparel industry was one of our main motivations for starting Tuckerman.” Jonas Clark said, part owner alongside his wife, Amanda Rinderle. It’s not something that gets talked about much, but clothing has an enormous footprint… it’s an obvious area to go after.”

After meeting in Cambridge, Mass., Clark, 34, and Rinderle, 30, ventured to New Haven, ending up in the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Summer Fellowship program where they cultivated the idea for Tuckerman & Co. in 2014.

Following a launch later that year with a little help from a Kickstarter campaign that earned $30,267 from 255 donors, the Yale grads were well on their way to changing the clothing game as we know it.

Image: Tuckerman & Co.

Image: Tuckerman & Co.

A simple Google search for organic dress shirts lists Tuckerman as the first provider. There you will find Tuckerman organic dress shirts listed at roughly at $145. By comparison, Herringbone French Cuff produces a similar product at $325.

Following a public conversation at Yale, Rinderle grabbed Patagonia’s (an outdoor clothing company) Director of Philosophy, Vincent Stanley, to pitch their idea to him.

Stanley was excited about the proposal and agreed to support Tuckerman as an advisor.

“For us, it was a huge boost. When you have someone who really knows the industry and who you really admire, it’s a big confidence booster. You think, ‘OK maybe we’re on to something here,’” Clark said.

New to the industry, Clark and Rinderle focused on getting up to speed to avoid silly mistakes and abbreviate the learning curve. With this in mind, Tuckerman was able to acquire the knowledge from Anne McDonald, former CMO of Macy’s and John Margaritis, former COO of Tommy Hilfiger, as advisors.

“Our advisors have been a huge help,” he said. “On a personal level, they are all people that we really admire a lot so it’s been a real pleasure working with them.”

The company has also worked in part with Director Adam Muniz, of Startup Grind New Haven, in designing a business plan.

With the help of their new super-team of advisors, Tuckerman began focusing on an even mix of strategic and tactical growth. “That kind of thinking is really easy to skip over but it was really helpful for us to spend some time on that in the early going,” Clark said. “On a tactical level, a lot of advice has been in how to reach customers and get the word out about what we’re up to. It’s a noisy market out there and being able to tell your story and get it out there isn’t easy.”

Image: Tuckerman & Co.

Image: Tuckerman & Co.

When evaluating the market, Clark said they were surprised to discover the neglect by the industry’s leaders in cleaning up their supply chains. He then outlined the processes of growing organic cotton, and as it turns out, it’s pretty similar to conventional growth.

“Conventional cotton uses extraordinary quantities of pesticides—it’s awful for the environment and terrible for workers involved in the process,” he said.

Industrial cotton fields are huge ecological dead zones, he says, as their organic cotton production using innovative techniques to harvest the product in similar goals of pest management.

“It’s a far better, and frankly, more innovative approach,” he said.

The small group operates out of New Haven, receiving great support from the Elm City. They are looking to expand the Tuckerman family in the near future as their organic brand continues to turn heads, Clark said.

For Tuckerman to make the impact they expect of themselves, they will continue using the model that established the company—clean and innovatively conceived clothing production.

They are planning to unveil a women’s line of shirts, as the company as received a swath of requests since launching their men’s dress shirts.

Tuckerman is subtle by design about other future announcements, as the couple is excitingly waiting to announce their next line of inventive apparel, Clark said.

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1 comment

  1. Angela White

    Wonderful idea, the less GMOS and pesticides in the world, the better! I see you are aiming at a “higher end” group of people and not the huge majority that could never afford those prices for shirts. As usual, the majority of people won’t be able to wear clothes without large amounts of Pesticides because they aren’t rich and can’t afford to buy clothes at those prices. Cotton minus those Huge amounts of Pesticide should actually cost less, not more. Maybe having a social conscious isn’t your “thing” but I’m asking you to please consider to not only cater to the rich minority. Not everyone can afford Harvard, or even Community College but everyone should be able to wear safe, pesticide free clothes. Good luck on your business.