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How an Unlikely Clothing Brand Is Sewing Up an Untapped Market This fashion label is loved by country folks and city slickers.

By Jason Daley

This story appears in the March 2016 issue of Start Up.

The Normal Brand
Sansone and his brothers model the brand. From left, Lan, Nikko, Jimmy and Conrad.

Ask most fashion designers to create a line of clothes for the "Midwest lifestyle," and it's likely that they'll come back with a flannel shirt and a pair of sweatpants with a special pocket for a can of Skoal. But that's not the image St. Louis native Jimmy Sansone was after when he began conceptualizing a wardrobe that would make sense for the way he lived his life. "The Midwest has a duality," he explains. "Life happens in the city and the country. I can be downtown now, and 20 minutes later I can be in a duck blind with friends."

The problem was, the investment banker couldn't find clothes that bridged the gap between those two worlds. Work attire wouldn't stand up to games of touch football, and outdoor gear wasn't suited for the office. So Sansone, who says he comes from a family where dressing well was always a priority, mocked up what he wanted in a wardrobe. Working with a designer friend in Los Angeles, Sansone came up with a closetful of bespoke shirts and pants that he could wear on the job, but that had a little stretch and stitching and trim strong enough that he wouldn't have to change before visiting a friend's farm. When he started wearing his new duds around town, people noticed, and it occurred to him that he could turn his Midwest-inspired gear into a business.

"As I dug in, I saw the opportunity," the 28-year-old says. "There are more than 23 million young adults in the Midwest. I realized they were probably looking for the same things I was."