SALEM – Cabell Brand established his entrepreneurial career when he inherited ownership of his family’s direct-selling shoe company; now, one of the Salem businessman’s grandchildren is following suit and is tied up in the fashion industry.
Brandon Kline, whose first name derived from his recently deceased grandfather’s family name, last summer launched Natural Border, a startup company that manufactures short and long sleeve collared shirts made in North Carolina. Kline, who lives in and operates the business from Richmond, explained that one reason he started Natural Border is because he believes clothing of a more locally and sustainable origin will be the next trend.
“Craft breweries and cideries brought new demand to those thinking about growing local hops and cider apples,” he said. “I’m hoping that specialized shirt-making makes a comeback, and that trends in the fashion arena continue trending away from the industrial production and there will be new demand for local sewing and locally cultivated organic fibers, bamboo, or even hemp.”
A graduate of Elon University, Kline first learned about the benefits of using bamboo fiber in clothing when he visited a Georgia museum. He said his 100 percent bamboo fiber shirts are ecofriendly, since bamboo plants don’t require pesticides or insecticides and absorb greenhouse gases. The material is softer than cotton, and is water absorbent and resists static.
The 33-year-old Kline said that despite his grandfather Cabell’s support, he “didn’t necessarily encourage” him to enter the fashion business.
“He thought trying to carve out a niche in the apparel industry was and would continue to be one of the toughest tests due to such competition and complexity within the sector,” said Kline. “But, he knew that anything with unique value proposition had a chance to succeed and, at his own persistence, he became my first customer.”
Kline hopes to achieve entrepreneurial success similar to his grandfather’s, who took over his family’s Ortho-Vent Shoe Company and expanded it to become the Stuart McGuire Company, Inc. before selling it to the Home Shopping Network.
Another way he hopes to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps is by using some of his profits to give back to the community. Brand was a noted philanthropist, founding what is now called Total Action for Progress (TAP) and the Child Health Investment Partnership (CHIP), both of which are agencies that strive to assist those living in poverty.
For his part, Kline said Natural Border shirts are shipped to customers in a waterproof envelope made of stone particles and printed entirely with soy inks. He said that with an embedded packaging slip, it’s all part of a waste-free process when it reaches the community. In addition, some of the proceeds from each shirt sale go toward supplying clean drinking water to children in need or to victims of natural disasters.
Kline said although he has never lived in Salem, he has spent much time in the Roanoke Valley and has many ties to the area outside of his family roots. In addition to spending several weeks each year with grandparents Cabell and Shirley, he said he learned much of what he knows about rainwater harvesting from Salem-based Rainwater Management Solutions, and frequently corresponds with staff from the Cabell Brand Center, TAP and Feeding America Southwest Virginia.
The oldest of 14 grandchildren, Kline is the first of Brand’s descendants to enter the fashion industry, but he said some of his cousins are currently studying at business schools across the country.
While Kline has opened his Natural Border shop in Richmond, he said his primary focus would be online retail. Customers can peruse Kline’s wares and find more information on the business at www.naturalborder.com.