It began with mounds of dirt. An unlikely inspiration for an apparel brand, to be sure. The owners of Moxie & Moss Landscaping, Kate Day and Kyle Begley, wanted clothing that let them get down and dirty in the soil, while also looking like business owners.
“We were in the nursery hauling plants, digging, meeting with clients,” says Day. “Sometimes you need the rugged wear. Other times you need to be professional looking—yet in the next hour you’re going to be covered in mud again. What was on offer was no good. It’s still just men’s styles that are being sold to women.”
Top gripes, for pants in particular: the lack of a pocket big enough for a phone; the eternal plumber’s crack; knees that wear through after just a few weeks. They shared their problem with a new landscaping client, Sara DeLuca—a 20-year apparel veteran with big guns like the Gap and Adidas on her résumé. Day and Begley revved up her yard; DeLuca vowed to help them.
In 2016 Moxie & Moss transitioned from a landscaping company to a badass workwear-for-women company. They first produced their signature pant pattern, the Maven, with Portland Garment Factory, then refined it with a patternmaker out of Nashville with 49 years of denim experience. Once they had a prototype dialed in, they set about testing. And, oh, did they test! Last year the trio brought in 100 field testers from professions far and wide: a firefighter, a woman who builds ADUs with a whole female crew, a welder, a fisher, a chef, a carpenter, a fine artist, and dozens more.
The deceptively simple-looking result, retailing for $79, comes with all the bells and, err, rivets, in three fabrications, from traditional to a power stretch. The jeans’ waist is higher to stop the peekaboo situation. The legs are slim—some testers said traditional workwear was so loose it actually posed a danger of getting caught in machinery. The front thigh boasts a long reinforced panel open at the knee that allows a knee pad to be inserted, and a side pocket gets an intentional hole at the bottom, so sharp tools can poke through without damage.
With their pro feedback incorporated, Moxie & Moss launched manufacturing out of a enviro-friendly factory in Merida, Mexico. The products debuted in June, with big goals ahead. DeLuca says the choice to use an out-of-country manufacturer is a deliberate one, meant to allow Moxie & Moss to scale up to the kind of huge orders they hope to snag from the likes of REI and Amazon someday: “We don’t plan on being a Portland company; we plan to be a national and international company,” she says. Plus, Begley chimes in, “We also want to offer something at an accessible price. We didn’t want to create something that was so costly that most tradeswomen and our hard-working customers couldn’t buy it,” she says. “This keeps it affordable.”