While earning a bachelor’s degree at Appalachian State University, Mitch Purgason, 29, started a clothing design business for an entrepreneurship class with two fellow students. His friends moved on to other pursuits, but the Greensboro native’s itch for design never wavered.
His Charlotte-based Mitch Purgason custom clothing brand has produced more than 1,500 suits for a clientele that includes celebrities such as Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and social-media influencer Gary Vaynerchuk.
The brand, which goes by Stitched by Mitch on social media, contracts with apparel makers in New York, Los Angeles, India, Italy and Mexico to produce the threads. He works with eight tailors and two operations staffers, specializing in men’s suits that range from $2,500 to $20,000 depending on fabric, amount of work involved and other factors. He also makes shirts and bespoke leather jackets for women and men.
His suits feature a tricolor Milanese buttonhole, which conventional suit makers cannot duplicate, he says. For himself, Purgason prefers a wide peak lapel with a soft shoulder, as little construction as possible and a cashmere, silk blend. “It feels like a cloud and drapes wonderfully.”
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My parents did a great job encouraging all my siblings to pursue creative stuff. My mom was an actress. She did set design, and she now does interior design and real estate. Our house was just ridiculous. My mom would find antiques at old spots. Our house looked like a set design. I grew up in a really creative home — a really colorful home.
In college, I took a design class, which combined creativity, personal business and fun. My whole life, I figured I had to do banking or marketing. The art of design reframes your mind on how you think about products. But it reframed how I think about my life, by me saying, “Hey, I really could do something creative, and if I got good at it, I could make it a career.”
I took an entrepreneurship class in college. We had to start a business. One of my buddies was in a program at Appalachian where they went to China and learned about supply chain. There was a tailor there that would tell people who went on the program that they could bring a couple hundred dollars for custom suits. My friend told the tailor, “If you teach us how to do this, we will sew these suits back in the U.S.” That’s how it started. We made custom suits for college kids as our project.
The first year [in 2015], I made $18,000. The second year, I made $20,000. The third year, I made, like, $23,000. Those years were not glory years — they were sleeping on couches, couldn’t afford rent, sleeping in my car. Each year that passed by, it got a little bit better. It was really year four when things started taking off. It was that year I got my first NFL client. It really exploded in year four and year five.
It is all really word-of-mouth. I have never made a cold call in my life, which is why it was a slow growth. But my philosophy on that is if I am good at what I do, it will speak for itself.
I want to know as much as I can about the client. I ask questions to help me understand their personality, their association with color and what they want to exude when they are wearing clothing.
In the past seven years, I see that people care less about Prada and Gucci, and they want to work with creative individuals. Though accidental, I could not have timed being a personal brand better. ■