Nice (Horizontal) Pants!
Lindland Clothing launched a fashion mini-hit by rotating traditional designs 90 degrees.
By Christopher Null

(Business 2.0) – At a cocktail party in 1998, Chris Lindland found himself surrounded by clothing designers. Afraid he would have nothing to say to them, Lindland gazed down at his corduroy pants. "How come no one makes horizontal cords?" he blurted out.

Rolling their eyes, the designers explained why the idea was idiotic. (Horizontal lines are often taboo because they make clothes--and butts--look wider.) But in ensuing years, Lindland became obsessed by the blasphemous concept. He occasionally bugged friends about it, only to be dismissed with the wave of a hand. Finally he paid a Ukrainian atelier near his home in San Francisco to make a pair. "Everywhere I went, people asked where I got them," Lindland says.

Such reactions convinced him that he was onto something. And though Lindland knew nothing about apparel, he wasn't a business neophyte: During the dotcom boom, he co-founded Web storage company I-Drive, and he later sold a cartoon series to cable's Spike TV. So in the summer of 2004, he founded Lindland Clothing. "It was a stupid idea," he admits, "but it seemed to have appeal."

A year ago Lindland placed his first order for 500 pairs of slacks with a nearby factory--and he immediately learned why clothing can be more complicated than websites. For starters, a panel was miscut on the first batch of pants, making the entire order worthless. "In software, if you blow something, you can stay up all night and fix it," Lindland says. "In apparel, you're sunk." Then, when replacements finally arrived in January, no store would stock them. "Clothing retailers typically buy in February and March for fall and winter delivery," says Lindland, now savvier about the industry's lead times.

But rather than sit on the pants, he launched a website to sell both the corduroys and a horizontal seersucker. Cordarounds.com, still the company's only retail channel, has moved 2,000 trousers at $88 apiece. A cross between Jcrew.com and TheOnion.com, the site celebrates fictional Cordarounds products, such as a zeppelin shaped like the pants, and tells the story of an Alabama man who uses Cordarounds cords to outfit Confederate troops in war reenactments. Though the tales are patently ridiculous, Lindland says he's received numerous applications for staffing the blimp.

Of course, Lindland hopes that pants are just the cornerstone of an oddball fashion empire. He claims to have e-mail from 500 women begging for female versions, and he also plans to make skirts and blazers. But he's in no hurry to cannibalize the cash cow. "Before extending the line," he says, "we're going to extract all the value we can out of horizontal corduroys."