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