With a reminiscent mind set and a strong desire to keep memories of college alive on a tangible level, two college graduates, both fresh from their respective Ivy League schools, joined forces and started Hillflint. This would prove to be a different kind of college apparel manufacturing company, however. Feeling compelled to provide other Ivy League schools and their alma mater with college apparel that was not only of heritage-quality, but also felt good and looked magnificent while it was being worn, they began creating beautiful, high-quality clothing keepsakes that would accompany those who wore the pieces throughout their lives, and hopefully bring joy to the lives of those who came after them, without having to sport the drab, typical look of collegiate fan-wear. Now, Hillflint not only creates clothing for Ivy League colleges, but they also manufacture their apparel for more than 120 other colleges with whom they have joined forces. You may be familiar with Hillflint, but there is likely much you don't know about the company. Below are some interesting facts about the company that has taken the college-wear niche by storm.
Here are 20 surprising facts about Hillflint:
1. Since the company is experiencing such an impressive rate of success, you may be surprised that Hillflint was founded only six years ago, in 2013. While it was officially established that year, the very first sweater was actually released in 2012. It was this sweater that got the attention of another recently graduated Ivy-Leaguer and men’s fashion blogger, and the two men soon joined forces. The result of one man’s drive and another’s admiration for his work that produced Hillflint.
2. Co-founders John Shi and Woody Hines both graduated from college in 2012, from Dartmouth and Princeton, respectively. Shi birthed the idea because he ‘…wanted to get something that really captured, authentically, the heart and soul of my college.’ Shi claims that the screen-printed logos and boxy style of college-wear shirts was unattractive to him; he wanted to offer something much more desirable. Feeling that the typical college apparel was ‘…commoditized, heartless, and uninspired’, it seemed that nothing encapsulated the love he felt for his college years, and he believed he could create a solid product of ideal quality that could do that very thing for everyone who viewed, with great affection, their college years, and the memories they produced.
3. Hillflint’s target consumer is considered to be ‘the diehard [college sports] fans’, and consumers who are ‘more sophisticated’. While this may be true, college students who definitely don’t fit in either of those boxes are finding Hillflint apparel, wearing it, and loving it. After all, the Hillflint website does ‘sport’ the motto ‘Break up with your college hoodie’, and with the sweaters that Hillflint offers being reflective of the older Ivy League style, who can blame the average Joe/non-jock for wanting to wear these comfortable sweaters and shirts?
4. The average price of a Hillflint runs between $75 and $100. Sound pricey? Perhaps. But when you consider the facts they are made of Merino wool, they are not too formal, and are as accepted at the office as they are the pub, you can beat it. Throw in the touting that wearers get to do for the alma mater and you have a no-brainer, price aside. While the apparel may look casual, Shi and Hines like to refer to their line as ‘elevated sports merchandise.'
5. In 2014, Shi and Hines campaigned for Hillflint on Kickstarter. What began as what some would consider to be a ‘sentimental’ idea has taken flight, and Kickstarter played a role in making the dream come true…in spades.
6. Currently, Hillflint manufactures a large variety of sweaters and sweatshirts; they even make a bomber jacket! Sweater varieties include cardigans, letters, retro striped, pennant, cashmere, and more. For those who want to stick with sweatshirts, they can choose from classic crewneck, Colorfield, or chenille. Considering the fact that Hillflint started out selling scarves, sweaters, and socks only, it’s easy to see that they have come a long way in expanding their offerings.
7. The founders of Hillflint place a high priority on making sure that college athletic apparel isn’t basic or unattractive, which is contrary to all that we seem to know right now. Even professional athletic teams seem to tout themselves with a commonly known brand name shirt that is mass produced and cheaply made, and then their names and/or logos, or the name, letter, or logo from a college, is either screen printed on or ironed on. In no time at all, the words and pictures are either wearing off or peeling off, and that particular clothing item is retired to the back of the closet, thrown away, or even donated to the next victim. Hillflint, on the other hand, creates apparel that is not only durable, but it is fashionable and comfortable as well, and for an obviously comparable price. To put it simply, they have given us something unique that lasts, and that has come to be important to most any college graduate, regardless of age.
8. Shi and Hines believe that the apparel they make should look the part it is playing better than any other brand. In other words, if a sweatshirt boldly declares HARVARD, then it needs to be in a class that speaks for itself clothing-wise. The Alma mater represents the institution, and wearing a jersey or sweater with your collegiate emblem that you purchased at Wal-Mart simply won’t do…but Hillflint’s awesome-looking, long-lasting gear will.
9. Hillflint collegiate apparel is currently stocked and sold by more than 100 retailers. For a company that officially came about only six years ago, this is astronomical, and it definitively reflects the desire of students and alma mater to have college wear that is worth what it costs.
10. Not only can Hillflint products be ordered and shipped anywhere in the United States directly from their website, but the brand can also be found at Saks Fifth Avenue, Huckberry, Nordstrom, Fanatics, and more. Collegiate apparel by Hillflint can also be found in partnering campus bookstores, so head to www.Hillflint.com and find out if your college participates.
11. The merino wool used to make Hillflint’s popular sweaters comes from Australia. It is 19-micron count extra-fine grade, which is the reason their sweaters look and feel so good. Let’s not forget that this fact is a contributing factor to its durability as well, actually making it possible, with proper care, to see your grown children wearing your alma mater’s sweater or sweatshirt in the future.
12. The first real sign of Hillflint’s impending success came in 2013 when Shi and Hines were still working to get the company moving. It was during this period that one-third of John Shi’s graduating class at Dartmouth decided to pre-order sweaters during homecoming. Talk about finding out fast that your idea is a hit! Next, the pair took things to Hines’ own alma mater, Princeton. After that, they were able to successfully use KickStarter to get the money they needed to get the ball rolling even faster. As it turns out, the pair was able to raise $10K during the first fifteen hours of their campaign, half of the $20K they wanted to raise, and in the end wound up with $60,000 with which to begin Hillflint and create apparel that was true to their vision.
13. For Ivy League graduates, both Shi and Hines know what it means to live the humble life for the sake of a dream. During the starting phases of the company, the pair had to definitely compromise their living arrangements so they could focus all their energies on Hillflint. John Shi moved back home with his mom and dad, while Hines eventually joined him there. After a while, they were able to afford a house, but it wasn’t in a very appealing part of town. It was affordable, however, and that allowed the men to press forward toward success.
14. Since college apparel sales is a multi-billion dollar market, it was essential for Hillflint’s products to be moved out of their comfort zone; this meant getting other schools to partner up with them and sell their apparel. It also meant turning the industry on its ear, so to speak. They had to show other colleges and the wholesalers that college students longed for a better product, and they had to show the potential in the product they were selling. With such high competition out there, with a major percentage of it coming from stores like Wal-Mart, Shi and Hines knew that they would have to start slowly, getting their feet wet by pitching to only a handful of schools to establish a solid base. This ‘baby steps’ approach was how they were able to climb their way up the ladder and partner up with retailers and colleges all over. Patience and persistence were definitely their virtues.
15. In 2014 Hillflint partnered with a mere 20 schools. While this may seem like a lot (and likely was, in reality, for this fledgling company), it is nothing compared with the number they work with today. The fact is, according to Shi, many of the partnerships they now have took a very long time to develop. He says it was all about being consistent and continuing to show growth to potential schools and retailers.
16. A majority of the support the pair got through KickStarter was prompted directly by individuals who desired better options when it came to collegiate athletic wear. In other words, they wanted better college apparel so much that they were willing to fund a couple of strangers to produce it for them. Fortunately, the vision held by Hines and Shi was all about college clothing that honored their years at college and the memories they built up during their time at their respective schools. They wanted something attractive to help them remember, and most of their funders agreed wholeheartedly.
17. The story of Shi and Hines, their path to Hillflint, and their subsequent success has been documented on several websites and in magazines, including Cool Hunting, GQ.com, Town&Country, valet, and WWD, and many more.
18. If you are a fan of Hillflint apparel and are interested in custom items, you will be glad to know that custom products are available, with a minimum order of 100 items. Along the same lines, Hillflint also has campaign programs for those who are looking into crowdfunding their order; this is the perfect solution for fraternities and sororities, on-campus organizations, or even class sweaters that students may want to have customized according to their desires. Imagine having high-quality, attractive college-wear that has actually been customized to serve an important purpose or to boost team morale even more.
19. It’s easy to become a wholesaler for Hillflint! Simply visit the site, get the wholesaler application, and fill it out and return it. Wholesaler applications will be reviewed once they are received, and applicants will be contacted via e-mail once a decision has been reached.
20. Hines and Shi are fully aware of the potential for a variety of products when it comes to the niche they have chosen, and in time will be exploring more and more options. We can all look forward to impressive products from Hillflint in the future, and it will be interesting to see which routes this pair decides to take!
Because of a visit into a Dartmouth campus bookstore, John Shi found himself fed up with the typical, every-day college apparel that was offered, and how it had declined in quality over the years. With this driving him, and with a partner whose professional concern was men’s fashion, attractive, durable, and fashionable college apparel was soon a reality. Hillflint immediately began to change things in the collegiate apparel industry, and holds abundant promise in regard to continuing this trend. With continuing support from the students, colleges, sports fans, and alma mater of their partnering universities, the success can only grow.
If you’re tired of the same old cheap college jersey or hoodie that you bought at Target or Wal-Mart, or if you are saddened by the loss of the logo on your favorite sweater, Hillflint is the answer you’re looking for. Dress casually while looking sharp, and be comfortable for years to come with beautiful, heritage-quality items that brag about the best times in your life without saying a word.
You can get it from Hillflint.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker