After a discussion on the state of men’s socks in Canada, Troy Schmirler and Josh Collens decided to get into the sock business and join Calgary’s vibrant small business community.
In 2017 Plainsbreaker Apparel was born and while business was doing great, Troy and Josh quickly realized the growing demand for made-in-Canada fashion. More and more businesses were designing and manufacturing socks in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world, and they saw an opportunity to make their products Canada-proud and allow them to stand out in the local scene.
Fast forward to 2020, after a lot of research and a few bank loans, the team made the decision to purchase two of their own Italian-made sock knitting machines. They started fully manufacturing their socks in Canada and haven’t looked back.
We sat down with Troy and Josh to discover the journey this young entrepreneurial duo took to create this local Calgary business and find out how knitting their own socks is going today!
Why did you choose Calgary for Plainsbreaker Apparel?
“All of the owners of the company are Calgary born or moved to Calgary at a young age and never left. The company name ‘Plainsbreaker Apparel’ is actually inspired by our home. The sight of seeing the majestic Rocky Mountains towering over the sprawling prairies– they break the vast plains of Western Canada.”
What makes your socks unique?
“We are the only cotton fashion socks manufacturer in Canada.”
How did your business fair during the pandemic?
“We started manufacturing weeks before the initial lockdown which was days after our launch party and open shop event. This led to most of our custom orders that were booked getting canceled due to uncertainty and fear around the pandemic.
Our Italian contacts shared a pattern to make face masks in April 2020 so we were able to be one of the first to market when everything was in short supply. We no longer make masks but it helped sustain us as orders kept canceling. Since then the custom business has picked up again and slowly retail opportunities to sell our socks are rebounding. The summer season was also positive as vaccination rates increased and we’re looking forward to the 2021 holiday shopping season.”
How does Plainsbreaker Apparel continue to contribute to the Calgary community?
“We have been able to support a few local charities and we are very proud of every dollar and sock donated. We’d like to increase our financial support to the community and eventually be able to give our time as well. We have also benefited greatly from mentors in the community and would like to be able to pay that forward.”
What makes your community special and how have they supported you?
“Calgary has a real entrepreneurial spirit and people are excited to support us, especially with the pandemic and the push to support local. Our story alone sometimes makes people want to be our customers and it is so heartwarming.”
How would you describe Calgary’s small-business scene?
“The local maker community in Calgary is inspiring to be a part of. We have made some amazing friends and have seen the different businesses build each other up. We are cheerleaders (and often customers) of each other.”
How do you define the word “community”?
“We define community as the spirit that embodies it. The heart and soul of Calgary are very special and we’re so proud to be a part of it.”
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