This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 9.12.
“Tough, durable, and comfortable.” Greg Stegman muttered those three words before his voice grew so quiet everyone in the packed board room leaned forward. A large man with a small voice, Greg was famously shy and socially awkward. Yet with his company, aptly named Stegman’s Clothing and Uniforms, rapidly expanding, CEO Ahanti Riordan convinced him to address department heads and elaborate on his vision for its clothes and future. Following those three legible words, Greg mumbled a few more half-heard sentences than sat down.
As always, Ahanti took the reins and implemented what became “TDC” tests; phases in both the design and production pipeline that expressly considered how tough, durable, and comfortable that item was. Thanks to Greg’s fine eye for industrial-yet-comfortable clothing and Ahanti’s strategic vision and passion, Stegman’s Clothing and Uniforms became a manufacturing empire beloved by blue-collar workers that remains in family hands to this day.
Born in 2615 to young parents, Greg Stegman grew up in the underground tunnels of Urial (Oberon system). His family clan was relatively small and politically weak, which relegated them to the coldest tunnels. Darien, his father, hand delivered crates while Bess, his mother, worked in tunnel maintenance. One day she slipped and slid down a small gravel embankment on her knees. Her cheap pants with built-in knee pads shredded in seconds. Greg helped treat her nasty wounds then tried to patch what remained of her threadbare pants. Though he wasn’t able to salvage the clothes, his mother encouraged him to keep trying. Instead of playing, he preferred to check the family clothes for wear and tear and fix what we could.
After recovering from the accident, Greg’s mother hopped a cargo ship to find better fortunes for the family. She crewed haulers, sent a steady stream of meager remittances, and passed through Urial as often as she could. For his birthday one year, Greg’s mother surprised him by bringing him along on a run to Locke (Idris system). She not only wanted him to see that a wider universe existed but see if he took to hauling. Instead, he fell in love with Tanys, Locke’s beautiful capital city experiencing an economic boom fueled by Aegis factories fat on government contracts. With blue-collar jobs plentiful and wages considerably higher than Uriel, Greg convinced his mother he could do more good for the family there. Months later, Greg moved into a small place in Tanys and landed a factory job. His mom helped get him situated then hopped a hauler, leaving him on his own. Greg had just turned seventeen.
Ahanti Riordan came from a family who helped colonize Locke and then survived the devastating orbital bombardment during the First Tevarin War. After the war, her family built a restaurant on the Lost Quad, Tanys’ central plaza. It became immensely popular and allowed her family to open multiple franchises and expand their business interests into real estate. Ahanti was managing that very restaurant in 2633 when she noticed a young man spending a lot of time in the plaza. He’d eat the same meager meal and sew patches into clothes while watching people pass. Supremely curious, she introduced herself and treated Greg to dinner at the restaurant. Greg explained his journey to Tanys and how he patched the clothes of co-workers to make extra credits to send to his family. Touched, Ahanti offered him a free daily meal, which Greg accepted but insisted he repay by doing upkeep on the outfits of the restaurant staff. Once Ahanti saw his sewing skills, she knew his talents were being wasted in a factory. She convinced him to quit his job then hired him to make uniforms for her restaurant.
Ahanti set him up in a small storefront her family owned. There he created the uniforms for her business and several others while also doing repair jobs for factory workers. His talent and competitive pricing, only possible due to Ahanti not charging him rent, quickly turned the shop into a success. Greg soon earned enough to move his parents to Tanys to work for him. While Greg was content working out of the small shop, Ahanti pushed him to focus his talents on designing clothes rather than simply repairing them. The two had grown close over the years and fell in love. They would remain partners in life, love, and business for the rest of their lives.
In 2643, the operation moved to a massive factory to focus on manufacturing and became officially named Stegman’s Clothing and Uniforms. By then Ahanti was CEO and used her deep connections to Locke’s business community to land uniform contracts. Steady growth continued until 2650 when Aegis came knocking with a contract that sent Stegman’s into the stratosphere. This allowed Ahanti to scale the business again, open their first factories outside of Idris, and begin their pivot to selling the consumers. By the early 2700s, Stegman’s items would be a staple on job sites across the Empire and the brand an industrial clothing empire.
Greg and Ahanti retired in 2704 to focus on her declining health. While building a manufacturing empire, the couple also raised six kids and trained them to take the reins. The quality, comfort, and durability of the clothes kept Stegman’s strong for decades but growth eventually stagnated then declined. In the 2840’s Nasiah Finney, CEO and greatgranddaughter of Greg and Ahanti, attempted to revitalize the company by expanding into industrial armor. After a lengthy and expensive R&D process, focus groups hated the armor, calling it “clunky” and “uncomfortable.” Knowing the armor would need a significant rework, Nasiah shuttered the division instead of sinking more capital into it. Though the endeavor brought Stegman’s to the brink of bankruptcy, Nasiah’s decision to stop then probably saved them from it.
Nasiah consulted the wider family for ideas and ultimately decided to refocus the company on what got it there. After years of subtly tweaking their products, Nasiah reverted several of their best-known products back to Greg’s original designs. Called the Generations Collections, the company also launched a famous marketing campaign that featured modern workers wearing one of the pieces next to a photo of a family member wearing the same items decades or even centuries earlier. This return to basics, alongside market forces that saw several competitors consolidate or shutter, led to a rebound for the brand and their fortunes.
Centuries after its founding, you’d be hard pressed to find a work site where someone wasn’t wearing Stegman’s. Yet the company’s impact extends beyond the industrial sector. While the company made its name with hardhats, safety glasses, uniforms, and more, the comfort, durability and rugged aesthetic of their clothing has also made it popular for everyday wear. Whether at a landing zone, jobsite, or aboard a ship, there’s always a chance some nearby will be wearing Stegman’s.