Stitching It Together
The Globe explores the journey of CHS alum Daniel Shapiro, who now owns his own clothing brand, FourLaps.
April 9, 2017
Daniel Shapiro is no stranger to Clayton, Missouri. Shapiro, a CHS graduate of the class of 1994, grew up immersed in the Clayton community.
“I went to Clayton from kindergarten through high school. Most of the people I went to school with there I’d gone to to nursery school with. I had known the majority of my class my entire life,” Shapiro said.
To this day, Shapiro values the intimacy the Clayton community fostered.
“Growing up in Clayton is pretty idyllic. You play in the neighborhood with your friends. You know everyone,” he said. “There’s something nice about that.”
For Shapiro, there is a very specific, special spirit to St. Louis as a city that he is frequently reminded of, despite now living in New York City.
“There’s just this warmth [in St. Louis]. I have some friends in New York who happen to be from St. Louis and I think there’s this shared experience that you have that, in a weird way, prepares you for living in a bigger city,” Shapiro said. “I just think there’s a way you go about things in St. Louis that translates well to other places. St. Louis people sort of tend to find each other.”
Following his Clayton education, Shapiro stayed close to home, receiving his college diploma from Washington University in St. Louis.
After a short stint at a local St. Louis consulting firm, Shapiro tested the waters of entrepreneurship, moving to Washington D.C. to work for a start-up business.
He then moved to San Francisco to work for another start-up. Ultimately, Shapiro’s unique professional experience shaped his interests.
“I had like five jobs the first five years out of college. The last company I worked for did a lot of work for retailers and I got really interested in retail,” Shapiro said. “I had worked at Banana Republic in college but I didn’t know that retail was really a career.”
Although his interest in retail became more solidified as he got older, the foundation for Shapiro’s interest in business was established much earlier in his life.
“I was always interested as a kid in consumer behavior and why people bought things. I was the go-to person in my family and amongst family friends,” Shapiro said. “If someone wanted to buy something, I would research whatever it was and tell them what the best thing was to buy.”
With his childhood curiosity as inspiration, after college, Shapiro became fully indulged in the apparel industry, working for Gap and American Eagle for several years.
Despite his largely positive experience, Shapiro eventually realized that this kind of work was not for him.
“Ultimately, you’re working for someone else and you’re making someone else money. Out of hard experiences, that’s when you’re forced to really figure out what you want,” he said. “That last year that I had at Gap was really challenging, and really rough. It forces you to figure out what you really want.”
What Shapiro really wanted was ownership – ownership of his own clothing brand and company. And that desire would require significant compromise.
“I came back and interviewed and got this job at a big company, but I just decided that I was going to start my own brand. I ended up turning down a very big job to start this company,” Shapiro said. “I had been thinking about starting an athletic apparel company for years but I just decided to take the punch.”
This past August, Shapiro launched FourLaps, a men’s apparel company rooted in a contemporaneous craving for functionality and fashion. In many ways, FourLaps was Shapiro’s response to the current athletic apparel industry.
“FourLaps is really a reaction to the current athletic apparel market which has seams running in every direction,” Shapiro said. “Some of the items that you see out there look like Star Trek next generation. It’s very futuristic and over-designed. FourLaps is our reaction to that. It’s clean lines, it’s bright colors, it’s color blocking, but we’re still using very functional materials.”
FourLaps’ clothing is tailored to those seeking both flexibility and functionality.
“The products have a lot of functional details. They’re built for someone that wants to go for a run and also might want to wear them after the gym. They might want to just throw on those shorts and go to get a coffee or go about his daily life. It’s really built with the functionality of life in mind,” Shapiro said.
The New York-based company finds inspiration in its very immediate surroundings, taking full advantage of the unique creative spirit of the city it calls home.
“There’s no harder place to start a company, but there’s no better place. The amount of resources and creative energy in New York is just unparalleled,” Shapiro said.
As the principal leader of FourLaps, Shapiro has faced immeasurable adversity. That said, he has learned how to embrace the daily challenges.
“There really is no typical day. 80 percent of my day is spent doing things I don’t know how to do. You have to love the everyday challenge. It’s literally getting up and solving problems and you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s just part of the process. You have to be very comfortable with discomfort,” Shapiro said.
The almost-constant presence of difficulty has informed the culture of the company itself in addition to Shapiro’s everyday approach to his work.
“The culture of the brand is about doing things differently. It’s about being resourceful. It’s about being solution-oriented. You just need to come to the table with solutions because there’s a million problems that happen,” Shapiro said.
Despite the frequent setbacks, Shapiro’s seven-month-old clothing brand has already garnered serious attention. Perhaps most notably, FourLaps was recently deemed GQ’s favorite new apparel brand. Although he is grateful for the numerous positive endorsements FourLaps has already received, Shapiro recognizes that running a successful company requires much more.
“It’s really nice to get those endorsements, but it takes a lot more. It takes a constant determination. Ultimately, building a company takes years. You’ve got to love the everyday challenge because all the press and everything feels great and is really important, but it’s the day-to-day that you have to be able to handle,” he said.
Shapiro’s long-term goals for FourLaps revolve around broadening its reach while still staying true to its fundamental vision.
“I want to introduce new products on a regular basis. I want the products always to be inspired by a combination of functionality and fashion,” Shapiro said. “I’d eventually like to do women’s. I want to create a viable company, create a culture and support myself. I haven’t earned a dollar in three years. That’s the reality of this.”
Shapiro has found where he belongs and envisions himself developing FourLaps for many years to come.
“This is it. People that have worked with me would tell you how passionate I am about product. I’m in the right spot. I’ve loved clothing and I’ve loved consumer behavior since I was a kid. Very few people can say that they’ve started a brand, and I’ve done that,” Shapiro said.