Anyone who frequents Vendor's Row outside of the Viking Union has seen them. They sit behind small metal counters, playing music as they show off hoodies, crew-necks, stickers and T-shirts to students making their way through campus. Make no mistake, though, these vendors are far more than just students and alumni simply selling T-shirts.
They are legitimate, established companies, brands and entrepreneurs. While local pride and a passion for apparel connects the clothing companies of Wes J Clothing, Disidual, Overcast and INNATE, each has managed to diversify and brand themselves in different ways.
Wes J Clothing
Live life, love local. While these words represent one of Western alumnus Wes Jagod's many hand-drawn and printed designs, they are also reflective of the purpose of his company, Wes J Clothing.
A 2005 graduate, Jagod began designing as a hobby in 2007 based off ideas he had throughout college. With some financial help from his mother, Jagod was able print his first run of two designs through Redboots Design, a local printer.
“I didn’t make anything for the first six months and then I got my first online sale from Minnesota,” Jagod said. “Random,” he said.
Since then, Wes J Clothing has become an established local brand, selling in Four Stars Boutique, Sportsman Chalet, Urban Boutique, Fairhaven Bike and Ski, Yeagers Sporting Goods and through his website, wesjclothing.bigcartel.com. As the sole owner, designer and administrator for Wes J clothing, Jagod has immense responsibilities and personal investments within the framework of his company.
“I'm immersed directly in every aspect of the business,” Jagod said. “It has definitely been a pleasure because, more than anything, I'm able to know that a lot of the work at the end of the day, I at least had some part in it.”
Jagod said his intent with his designs and apparel is to keep everything as “purist as possible.” He hand draws all of the designs using pen and paper techniques while trying to minimize any computer manipulation that is common in modern printing practices, he said. Jagod states that Northwest pride is a big aspect behind Wes J Clothing as well as the influence behind many of his designs.
“Everything’s beautiful here and in every season,” Jagod said. “Being able to portray that and find that in relation to others who love the Pacific Northwest for what it has to offer, that's what means the most to me.”
As for the future, Jagod wishes to expand the company throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“My goal is to continue to grow and put out more designs in addition to providing the most eclectic and unique designs to the masses without making it mainstream,” Jagod said.
The concept for Disidual, derived from “distinct individual,” came about when Western seniors Brendan Pape and Christian Harkson met in a communications class winter quarter 2010. With Harkson's prior screen printing experience with Tacoma-based company Imperial Motion and a mutual desire to print T-shirts, the two attempted to use the Western graphic design department's printing press, but were denied since neither of them were design majors.
“We were like, 'that sucks. Let's just start trying to buy some of our own stuff and print some cool T-shirts for fun,' ” Pape said. “It has really progressed from there.”
Disidual's emergence into the local clothing company scene happened rapidly. In less than a year and a half, the company was able to purchase all of their own equipment and move their shop out of Pape's bedroom. Since their distribution through the AS Bookstore began last year, it’s common to see a multitude of Western students with either a ham shank or a sun-glassed George Washington printed on their shirts, courtesy of Disidual.
“There’s not one particular type of people that wear the Bham or Washington-grown shirts and that’s cool how it is that kind of demographic,” Pape said.
While the popularity of these two shirts being sold through the AS Bookstore enabled the funding and rapid growth for Disidual, the company has several other unique designs.
“I think there's a lot of stuff that people would really like,” Harkson said. “They just think 'oh, you only make these two [designs] since they're the ones that have blown up. It’s a big goal of ours to get more shirts, more things and get the word out.”
With their backgrounds and interests in board sports, Pape and Harkson aim to provide casual wear that both extreme sports advocates and the general public can wear and enjoy. While Northwest and local pride has been a theme in some designs, Pape and Harkson try to avoid becoming locked into a market that, in their opinion, is sometimes “repetitive and cliche.”
“That’s why we did the 'Washington grown' one,” Harkson said. “It still represented the Northwest, but it wasn't the word 'Northwest' or the Space Needle skyline.”
Currently, Disidual is operating out of the garage/basement of their residence on 21st street. Along with the AS Bookstore and the University of Washington Bookstore, Disidual clothing can be found at Sportsman Chalet and on their website.
“We like to have fun with it,” Pape said. “It is a business, and it has gotten to the point where we need to be professional, but we like to have fun while we're doing it and make it a fun working environment.”
To label INNATE as a clothing company would be a mistake.
Since it's creation in 2008, founders Corey Warren and Dylan Warnberg have managed to create a multifaceted cultural hub for screen printing, photography and just about every other form of artistic and creative expression imaginable.
“We wanted to build a brand that promoted a generally positive and inspired outlook on life,” Warren said. “Kind of taking inventory on every individual's innate abilities, whatever they might be, and encouraging them to believe in themselves.”
The company’s website serves as a shop, blog and community center. It is regularly updated with upcoming events in music and art, as well as original photos, updates on the company, and as a networking site for fellow artists. While INNATE encompasses many forms of media, the backbone of the company lies in its screen and design printing. INNATE has its own clothing line, but it also acts as a printing service for the community.
“We recognize that the T-shirt is the common denominator of every global citizen,” Warren said. “Everyone wears a T-shirt. We want to take advantage of that and use those as billboards for positive messages.”
On Oct. 7, INNATE celebrated the re-opening of its 1420 North State Street retail location, after taking a nine-month hiatus for reconstructive and redesign purposes. The store is open to the public Friday and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Our M.O. for the shop is pretty straight forward,” Warnberg said. “Print, promote and provide for people, for pleasure, for planet and for profit.”
In the three years since INNATE's creation, Warren and Warnberg have occupied two different retail locations, created an extensive line of apparel, and managed to bridge the gap between a clothing company and multimedia networking and creating service.
“We're here to share our creativity and ideas... just broadcasting some of those real, good vibrations,” Warren said. “Aside from that, we just want to nurture and build with the community we're so blessed to be a part of.”
From the company name to the happy-face cloud logo, an homage to the area's usual weather, Overcast Clothing is Northwest all the way.
Not only does Overcast represent the Northwest and its people, they give back to them as well. Overcast Clothing provides printing services to people that want custom shirts and designs no matter how small the job, Collin Hamey said, one of Overcast Clothing’s developers. A main aspect of the company is its charity donations, which provide funds to help alleviate homelessness in King County.
“We actually donate $1 for every shirt we sell to help the efforts at the Union Gospel Mission down in Seattle,” Hamey said. “It is really important for us to give back to our community, even in this small amount.”
While the brand was not developed until April of 2010, the idea for Overcast Clothing, started by juniors Hamey and Elliot Snyder, had been in the works for years. Snyder produced the company's popular “Roots of Seattle” shirt, depicting the Seattle skyline atop a network of tree roots, as a regular, everyday sketch. When the drawing gained attention, people began suggesting that the design be printed on a shirt. That is when Snyder approached Hamey with the idea.
“It was always a dream of mine to have my own company, and we had a mutual friend that did screen printing,” Hamey said. “We dipped into our savings and bought a round of 'roots' tees and hoodies and they sold pretty well.”
Since then, Overcast Clothing has produced a series of original designs, all targeted toward anyone who has any sort of connection with the beautiful Northwest, Hamey said.
“We really just like to see people enjoying our creations,” Hamey said. “We are not really out to make a huge profit, just the joy of walking around and seeing someone you don’t know wearing a shirt that we created.”
Along with occasional sales at Vendor's Row, Overcast also sells apparel through their website, overcastclothingco.com. Hamey and Snyder hope to distribute their clothes and brand to more local shops and potentially acquire a store of their own. For now, they said they enjoy bringing people together through their clothes, music, snowboarding and above all else, dancing.
“Pretty much any WWU event with dancing, you will see Elliott and I rocking our neon Overcast gear,” Hamey said.