One morning David Schottenstein spent 15 minutes trying to cut stainless steel collar stays to size with a pair of scissors. He was unsuccessful and ended up leaving for work in a bad mood. But the incident also sparked his curiosity.
He spoke with several clients at Columbus-based Astor & Black Custom Clothiers, of which he is founder and CEO, and discovered they all shared his frustration. Once he started thinking deeply about the problem, it didn’t take long to formulate a solution.
“The idea of an adjustable collar stay came to me in a day because it was almost obvious to me what needed to be done,” says Schottenstein.
Sketching the idea took just a couple of weeks, but the development process took months.
“Swiss Stays are crafted with such precision and such an incredible amount of care that it is almost an exact science to make them perfect,” he says. “It was like trying to make the perfect soup. It tasted great, but something was always missing, something could be better, and this was how our process went− of constantly trying new materials and new ways to get our product perfect.”
After more than a year, the final product was just right.
“One Swiss Stay can adjust to fit all 24 different collar sizes on the market today,” he says.
Swiss Stays are crafted from either PVC, stainless steel, brass, or sterling silver. They are sold in sets of three that cost about as much as traditional collar stays, he says, ranging from $5 for plastic stays up to $150 for sterling silver ones.
Feedback about Swiss Stays has generally been very positive.
“I’m impulsive, so in the beginning I sent out some of our first, rough samples to people,” he says. “Although the product was still in development and far from perfect, people were really excited about Swiss Stays and on board with our idea. Just the idea of solving the problem made people overlook the imperfections.”
Swiss Stays will be available at retailers across the country this fall and at SwissStays.com starting in October.
There are also plans to sell them in China, Germany, Holland, India, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
Additionally, Swiss Stays customers can join a VIP club −Collar Stay Concierge− that will automatically ship collar stays to members each month and provide emergency replacements that are guaranteed to arrive in 24 hours.
Swiss Stays aren’t going to make the front page of any newspapers, but they will be the kind of product that gets a lot of use, Schottenstein says.
“It’s like that little piece of plastic at the end of your shoelace that you take for granted, but it essentially allows you to lace your shoes up properly,” he adds. “It’s one of those things that, ten years from now, no one will realize that there was a time when you had to buy collar stays in three or four different sizes.”