GTS founder Mike Borisenok seeks to change the culture behind sewing and manufacturing.
GTS Clothing—which stands for Greater Than Sports—is the brainchild of Michael Borisenok and Kelly Sullivan, two Class of 2012 University of New Hampshire grads who believed in the power of well-designed and thoughtfully-constructed athletic wear so much, that they set out to build their own business, eventually welcoming in a third partner, Dan Gejay. But they ended up doing much more than that, teaching themselves to sew, cut patterns and sell, turning standard practices within the clothing industry on their heads and finding success at the same time.
Top sellers like Apex leggings and Touch tees put the brand on the map, but every single item is made to order at their Ballston Spa factory. They sell their product almost exclusively online, direct to consumer, although they’re in eight independent boutiques across the country.
Read on to learn about Michael, a native Saratogian, and his process, as well as the inspiration behind the GTS brand.
In your own words, how would you describe yourself and what you do?
I strive to be a creator, more than anything. Now that entrepreneurship has gotten popular, I sometimes don’t think that [the word] captures the essence of what it’s about. To me, it’s about being a creator of a product, a creator of a team, a creator of a following, or a creator of an organization.
Tell us about how you got started.
As far as the business, the first thing I always tell people is that when we started out we were completely different than what we are now. My idea was to create a clothing line for the active lifestyle, not knowing anything about the clothing business or industry.
And now, our production process is completely different from most in that we basically don’t carry inventory and only stock raw fabric rolls. When an order comes in, we cut it, we sew it and we ship it out which is just completely opposite of the industry.
Tell us about your process. Are you self-taught or professionally-trained?
While I was learning how to sew, Kelly, my business partner, was learning patterns and sizing. She would sit there and put together a pattern. I’d take that pattern, cut, sew and make the sample. We would do it over and over and over again until we got a product that worked.
So, I taught myself basically everything as far as the technical skill of sewing. I did have the help of YouTube and Google, but a lot of time I would use those types of things to get me started and I’d develop my own technique. But there was a point in time when every single item ordered I made.
What inspires you, in terms of your craft?
As we dug deeper into the manufacturing aspect and gained a better understanding of clothing and design, we realized that ultimately, what it comes down to is how clothing makes you feel. If it makes our customers feel confident, then it makes them feel good, and that’s an aspect that has inspired us more and more.
Has Saratoga always been home?
I’m from Saratoga, and I always tell people that when I was getting ready to graduate and we decided to start the business, I knew I wanted to bring it back to Saratoga to start it. Not because it was my hometown, but because I thought it was just a good place to start a business. We knew we would have been gobbled up in NYC, and it would have been risky to set up in a place that didn’t have enough action. Saratoga had a nice balance of what we needed to start a business, and that worked well for us. We were in Saratoga until July 2016, when we ran out of space. That’s when we moved just down the road to Ballston Spa.
What’s next for you and your business?
We’re really just trying to grow our manufacturing and obviously our brand, but beyond that, we’re also looking to explore fabric weaving. We’d basically want to set up our own knitting mill, so that’s something we’re striving for but it’s obviously a big undertaking. We know it’s going to be hard, but we’re going to learn and figure it out, the same as with sewing. And then further down the line, our plan is to have multiple brands—which could include book bags, travel bags, all sorts of different things because we’ll be doing the manufacturing.
To learn more about GTS Clothing or check out their awesome apparel, be sure to visit them online gtsclothing.com.