by Megan Young


With exceptional attention to detail, an inviting atmosphere, and years of experience, Centennial Trading Company is exceeding boundaries in the world of American-made men’s apparel on a daily basis. The company’s commitment to pushing limits in the industry is clear, as is evidenced by the fact that they remain one of only two companies in the U.S. to construct handcrafted trucker hats.

When Centennial Trading Company founders Erik Stephens and Johnny Smrdle first decided to start their own clothing brand they knew it would not be easy since neither had textile experience nor manufacturing resources. However, they were determined to realize their vision of producing a clothing line to call their own, so they decided to first start a retail store from which to sell other brand’s clothing as a means to gain the experience and expertise in the business.

“Manufacturing was always the end game for us. Not only did we want to make things, but we wanted to make things domestically,” says Stephens. To progress into this phase, they began to research production facilities in the U.S., ultimately deciding on a location in California. Shortly thereafter, due primarily to financial limitations and an inability to witness day-today production activities, they reassessed their situation.

“We stepped back and said ‘OK, we want to make garments here in the U.S., but let’s go a step further and produce them in North Carolina,'” Stephens said. “We were lucky enough to make connections and have three or four factories we work with in-state.”

Fast forward four years, Stephens and Smrdle were able to relocate to a larger space (located in downtown Winston- Salem), and now Centennial Trading Company has the space necessary to manufacture its products in-house. While still in the product development stage, the extra area allows them to have both retail and work space to engineer their apparel.

“We eventually will do everything here as far as being able to think it, do it, make it, market it, package it, and ship it,” Stephens said.

To maintain efficiency, they will continue to have their knits produced in North Carolina, but off-site, allowing them to focus more on items with ornate details in-house.

“As far as the pants go, a lot of our manufacturers can’t produce a busted seam (which is what exposes the selvage edge),” Stephens said. Centennial Trading Company hasn’t produced a selvedge pant, yet, for this reason, but now, with their in-house production capabilities, they do plan to add this and many other small details, to each new item they construct. “This way we can take our time to do every little detail we want.”

Stephens has personally described the brand as being a “Heritage lifestyle label,” meaning their collections contain classic staple pieces that can be worn year round and won’t lose their aesthetics. “We have always been more geared toward motorcycle wear, and our largest market is on the west coast. We are now trying to expand and transition into more neutral men’s clothing stores.”

In terms of future plans, Centennial plans to assist other brands, both locally and nationally, with product development and manufacturing. “We look to help other small companies avoid the troubles and hassles we ran into when first approaching manufacturing.”

They will be offering cut and sew small batch production, which includes everything from patterning to material sourcing.

“As a company we are pretty proud of Winston and want to help out wherever we can,” Stephens said.

Interested parties will get their chance to check out the new store this coming Saturday from 7-10 pm. Centennial has been preparing for the Grand Opening to showcase the work they have been doing and give people the opportunity to browse the new retail space. As an event attendee you can expect beverages from Hoots Roller Bar, food provided by Small Potatoes Mobile Kitchen, and legendary Sunshine energy drinks provided by Winston-Salem’s own Buck O’Hairens. For the ladies, Formation Design will be showing its Spring 2015 collection, as well. !

WANNA wear?

New shop located at 214 N Broad St Winston- Salem, NC. Visit their website at or shoot them an email at info@