The Man Who’s on a Mission to Make Everything He Wears from Scratch

Dan Stumpf is a San Francisco-based human resources professional by day, and a creator of bespoke menswear by night. Here he is checking out the wares at Britex fabric store in San Francisco. (Photo: Isara Krieger/KQED)

By day, Dan Stumpf is a human resources employee for a corporation in downtown San Francisco. But by night, he designs and creates incredibly stylish men’s clothes, from tailored button-down shirts with delicately embroidered cuffs to form-fitting, casual pants.

Stumpf is on a mission to make all of the things he wears. He thinks it’ll take him five years to get there. So even though he’s sometimes exhausted after spending long days at the office, he still manages to put in a few hours of work at his sewing machine.

“It is a bit of a discipline coming home at night feeling a little tired; and you just want to have a glass of wine and watch TV,” Stumpf says. “But I know that at the end of the week, if I haven’t made some progress or buckled down in the evening and spent three hours making something, I’m going to feel the loss of it or the lack of it.”

Stumpf has always possessed a creative streak. He’s played piano since he was a young kid and studied theatre in college. But he’s never thought about art as something he’d do for a living. He views his day job as inspiring and as a way to support his life in the Bay Area. And getting to wear his handmade clothing at work sets him apart from the pack.

“Now I go to an office and I can’t perform necessarily theater in front of people or play music with people,” Stumpf says. “But I can wear my clothing at the office and it makes me feel like I’m taking a piece of that creativity with me. I can stand out.”

Stumpf started making clothes eight or nine years ago, shortly after a co-worker introduced him to the menswear boutiques in downtown San Francisco. He loved the way the clothes looked on the rack. But he was appalled at the high prices and realized that he could potentially make things himself at a far lower cost. So he started visiting fabric stores, borrowed his mom’s sewing machine, and gradually learned his craft through reading library books, watching YouTube videos, and attending a pattern-making class at Apparel Arts in Oakland.

Stumpf shops at Britex Fabrics in downtown San Francisco. The store is not only a place to buy fabric, but also offers public classes, and even hosts fashion shows. (The next one is happening on Friday, Sep. 23).

Friends and family have asked Stumpf to make clothes for them. He thinks he could make money from his designs. But for right now, given the limited amount of time he has, Stumpf says he’s sticking to outfitting himself. Besides making him look a cut above most other Bay Area men of his age, Stumpf’s fashion habit feeds his soul.

“When I finally do get to that sewing stage, that’s kind of the Zen-like place,” Stumpf says. “It’s definitely soothing and when you’re in the right zone, the world kind of falls away.”

Video by Isara Krieger; story by Chloe Veltman

The Man Who’s on a Mission to Make Everything He Wears from Scratch 2 September,2016Chloe Veltman
  • Stephanie

    Awesome! Kudos to work extremely well done. I’m on a similar mission, and over the past year I’ve made about half of what’s in my closet now. I tend to make more simple knit clothing: loose tops, a-line skirts, etc. so none of the tailoring challenges he’s dealing with, but I understand the engagement in the process and the pride in wearing what you’ve made. Very impressive!!

    • Dan Stumpf

      Thanks Stephanie for your kind words and glad to hear you are making it happen for yourself. I need to do more knits – on the list. Take care!

      • Stephanie

        Dan – do you have an Instagram? Mine is plussizedyogi (my POV is very comfortable clothing that works around town and straight into yoga class :)) – I’ve posted a fraction of what I’ve made, but it would be fun to keep up with your clothes. Absolutely love them! And hope you start selling at some point. 🙂

  • Nick Thorogood

    Dan, you are fantastic,
    I make lots of simple mens (i.e. for me!) clothes – and have attempted a few more complex shirts, jackets and trousers (with varying success),
    I love the engineering of the it, the construction and the planning (which bits of lining need to be to inside out etc), but my finished sewing is not that neat – not like yours!!
    really thrilled you are flying a flag for men who like to sew,
    best wishes
    Nick in London

Author

Chloe Veltman

Chloe Veltman is senior arts editor at KQED.

 

Author

Isara Krieger

Isara is a visual journalist studying documentary production at UC Berkeley's Graduate school of Journalism.

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