Milwaukee Denim Co. to make jeans in Clarke Square

Jump Start

City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux (right)

Milwaukee Denim Co.

Location: Clarke Square, Milwaukee
Founder: Elmer Moore, Jr.
Founded: 2013
Service: Denim apparel
Employees: 1
Goal: Pre-sell 100 pairs of jeans
Experience: Executive director, Scale Up Milwaukee

Credit: Lila Aryan Photography

In 2013, Elmer Moore, Jr., moved from New York to Milwaukee. He learned about Milwaukee’s manufacturing heritage, and a thought occurred to him: Milwaukee Denim Co.

“It just sounded like something that should already exist,” Moore said. “If you think about blue collar folks, you think of denim. I wanted to build a company and a brand that celebrated and captured that.”

Moore is executive director of business growth organization Scale Up Milwaukee, director of economic development at the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and teaches an entrepreneurship course at Marquette University. He plans to continue in those roles while launching a new company.

“I’m bringing a lot of the ideas that allow me to be effective in promoting Scale Up to what I do at Milwaukee denim,” he said. “My work in Scale Up is absolutely about encouraging growth in order to generate economic prosperity. It’s about people raising the heights of their ambition.”

Moore is currently building out a 1,100-square-foot production space for Milwaukee Denim Co. in Milwaukee’s Clarke Square neighborhood. The cut-and-sew operation will have three part-time employees to start.

Milwaukee Denim Co. has found success with its initial product, a denim cap. Now, it’s getting into the business of making jeans.

Moore is currently working to pre-sell at least 100 of the company’s “Founder Series” limited edition jeans for $250 each to fund the initial production run. He’ll fund the rest of the ramp-up costs with about $35,000 in debt.

“The purpose of doing pre-sales is I want to make sure that this is very well validated,” Moore said.

Production will begin this fall, with the goal of making 300 pairs of jeans per month. They’ll be sold via e-commerce, but Moore plans to eventually open a brick-and-mortar shop.

“Milwaukee Denim is about this crazy idea I had that Milwaukee is just an incredible aesthetic and brand opportunity that I want to materialize in the form of an apparel company,” Moore said. “I can do that while paying people and giving people jobs and telling the world how great Milwaukee is—come on, why would I not do that?”

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