Here at The Height of Style, Ted and I have shared the exceptional pleasure of connecting with Jenni and Ed Lallier of local brand TEAL Apparel, purveyor of premium, made-in-the-U.S. chinos for long and tall men. Founded in 2010 on the west coast (spurred by 6’7″ Ed’s inability to find a pair of non-custom twills on a family vacation in Las Vegas) and since brought east, the Lalliers I first connected over a year ago because of a shared interest in tall men’s style—I have been happily following their upward growth (no pun intended) and evolution ever since. 2014 is shaping up to be a banner year for TEAL—Jenni and Ed recently debuted an expanded spectrum of Italian twill dress chinos in their traditional and slim fits, and are planning to launch a new “All-American” line, complete with their hallmark emphasis on quality, local manufacturing, and impeccable fit at an affordable price point. We’ve been talking tall men’s apparel challenges, successes, and what makes TEAL exceptionally special for this demographic for a while now, so I couldn’t be more delighted to launch the tall men’s stream by sharing an exclusive interview with Jenni and Ed to celebrate our relaunch (plus Ted’s first, much anticipated review of the traditional fit going live next week).
Without further ado, here’s the full story of TEAL Apparel—the brand specifically for the long, tall guy.
- tHoS: Tell us the story behind why you started TEAL…
JL: TEAL was born out of necessity. I couldn’t find clothes for my 6’7″ tall husband, particularly pants that fit well and were made with better fabric. So I solved the problem by launching TEAL, a brand that specifically targets long and tall men, with a slim fit chino. I have a deep personal interest in seeing this line fully realized because I need to dress my husband, my brother in law, my father in law and eventually my son.
- tHoS: After doing market research, what challenges did you find that long and tall men were facing in the apparel marketplace?
JL: Prior to launching in 2011, I did research to understand the market and found out why long and tall clothing was so difficult to find. Per the CDC, men 6’0″ and taller make up 20% (31MM men) of the total market where as big/obese market is 33% (51MM men). It makes perfect business sense for companies to target and make clothes for the big market because it’s more profitable. The long and tall men’s market is niche, but it still needs attention.
I also did competitive analysis to understand what existed in stores and online. The results were dismal and not surprising given the extreme difficulty shopping for my husband. A few years ago there were practically no brands selling to the long and tall man. Now, there are a handful of e-tailers that make clothes for this market but they generally sell one category such as dress shirts, or t-shirts, or sweatshirts or jeans. There is still no brand that delivers an affordable, premium option except TEAL.
- tHoS: How would you describe where you fit in among apparel brands?
JL: The TEAL collection is made up of essential closet staples that long and tall men need for work and play. My goal is to create affordable premium pieces that are well made using quality fabrics—and provide great fit.
- tHoS: Why pants, as opposed to shirts? Or shirts and pants?
JL: To quote my husband “You can roll up sleeves that are too short, but you can’t hide floods.” I launched with pants because they are the most difficult piece of clothing to “fake” and they are essential—you wear them 7 days a week.
My goal is to create exceptional pieces that are designed specifically for long and tall proportions. We widened the pocket openings to accommodate larger hands, deepened the pocket bags so that items wouldn’t fall out of them when you sit, adjusted the knee opening for longer legs and left every chino’s inseam unfinished at 40” so that it can be hemmed to the perfect length. Each pattern and sample has gone through countless iterations in order to achieve the perfect fit. I collaborate with a highly experienced designer in Manhattan, who also develops menswear for the men’s Marc by Marc Jacobs line. Our creative process is a blend of my directives, based on firsthand tall men’s input, and their design expertise.
I am not interested in rushing through the design and production process just to put out an entire collection. I’d rather develop exceptional products with great care and grow the brand organically—one piece at a time.
- tHoS: I love the idea of slow, thoughtful growth. It makes a lot of sense. So tell us about your sourcing, design, and manufacturing processes.
JL: We source, design and manufacture ourselves, which allows control over the entire process. My only sourcing criteria is quality. I scoured the globe to find the most incredible cotton twills for the Italian Cotton Twill chinos; gorgeous, real horn buttons and colorful, sturdy zippers. Everything is imported to the USA where it is eventually cut and sewn in Everett, Massachusetts.
- tHoS: That is just awesome—support local businesses, tall guys! Would you mind sharing a few details with our readers as to the upcoming line launch?
JL: Sure, we are in pre-production with a new line called the ‘All American’ line. Think of it as the more affordable option with the same incredible fit and good quality. The entire All American line is also cut and sewn in the USA.
What I found was that TEAL really resonated with tall men and their loved ones, but when they went to purchase online, the price was too high. Given this economy and the nature of online shopping, everyone is looking for a deal. I developed this parity-priced line as an option for working families and men just starting out to still have access to great-fitting chinos and shorts. Beyond the All American line, we are developing Italian Cotton Twill Shorts and Shirts for work and play that will all debut later this year.
Eventually I see TEAL growing beyond a fashion brand and into lifestyle. I’d like to improve everything long and tall men interact with including: furniture, transportation, grooming & lifestyle products. Someday, I can see a TEAL women’s line as well.
- HoS: That’s super exciting to hear about plans to expand into women’s and lifestyle! So what has surprised you most about tall men as customers?
JL: Everything! It’s been fascinating to dive into this subset of the population and understand the struggles that result from their unique stature to their shopping behaviors. One customer told me that when he goes to the store, he doesn’t sift through the rack by the hangers, he looks at the rack from far away to see which pant hangs down the farthest and starts from there. I remember being struck by his strategic shopping method!
I am also constantly surprised by the knowledge, gripes, and comments that every tall man has about shopping and clothes. My general sense about men and shopping/clothes, prior to launching TEAL, was slight indifference. But if you ask any long and tall man or his loved ones about the topic, they will run on for days, asking for tips or brands that you’ve found, sharing where they shop, or what challenges them the most. Tall men also go to great lengths (pun intended), and some questionable decisions in pursuit of that perfect pant. My husband and I have created our own monikers for these:
- Frankensteining/Sew-on-Extensions: Sewing extra fabric on to the hem of pants.
- Plumber’s Butt: Wearing pants low around their hips to make up for the short length.
- Fat pants/Rapper Pants: Tailoring the waist, of really big pants, in by taking it from the back waistband. The result is pants that have really close rear pockets.
The irony is that height is the attribute many men would like to have, yet for those who have it, it isn’t always seen as a benefit. The most resonating feedback that I’ve heard is the lack of confidence, awkwardness, sadness and capitulation that tall men feel. If finding clothes that fit can help a man embrace his tall self then TEAL has succeeded! Our motto is to: Live tall. And extra long.
- tHoS: What is the most inspiring feedback you’ve received from a customer in your first year of business?
JL: Our customers are always impressed by the hand (the feel of the fabric), color, construction, and overall luxuriousness of our chinos. These qualities are difficult to experience online. One of our customers, a husband, father and former Olympic rower, said that TEAL chinos were his first pair of real pants!
- tHoS: I love that—I imagine the idea of your “first pair of pants” is one a lot of tall, long guys can relate to! So now for the million dollar question— part 1: Ed, how do you wear your TEAL chinos? Part 2: Jenni, what are your top three tips for tall men styling TEAL chinos up for business, slightly down for business casual, and also for the weekend?
EL: When I am dodging crotch shots with my fellow commuters during the workweek, I love to wear my salmon Facconable long sleeve shirt with TEAL Aegean Blue Italian Twill Chinos, a mahogany Coach dress belt, chestnut brown Allen Edmond dress shoes, and pink and blue printed socks from Happy Socks.
JL: For work, TEAL Onyx Italian Cotton Twill Chinos with a black belt, light grey blazer, purple tie/neck tie, white button down shirt and a black dress shoe. For Casual Fridays, TEAL Nantucket All American Chinos with a belt, blue oxford button down, v-neck sweater and white suede bucks. And for play, TEAL Chinos with no belt, t-shirt slightly tucked in, rolled hem and boat shoes or Reef slippers.
Thank you, Jenni and Ed, for your awesome efforts in the name of outfitting long and tall men everywhere in premium chinos that offer an exceptional fit. And all you tall guys out there: get over to TEAL Apparel’s website and pick up the pants that may just be the first “real” pair of your life. They’re worth it. We promise.