By Lindsay Nichols
One of the most public displays of personal expression is clothing. It is a form of art that many probably take for granted – after all, you can learn a lot about a person just by their appearance and what they wear. Adam Barnhart and Paul Alfano, two local Fort Collins artists and CSU business majors, believe that clothing can express who a person is – without having a brand name attached to it.
These business partners decided that they wanted to put what they learned in their entrepreneurship courses into practice: They started a business that’s not only about creating art and expressing style, but also about going against major trends and producing art with an individualized feel. Their T-shirt company, Unbrand Yourself, demonstrates their grassroots effort to produce clothing that features designs by local artists and defies the image portrayed by clothing that comes with a major ‘brand’ name.
“Our goal is to stay away from the mainstream nine-to-five job and do what we love to make a living,” Alfano says. “There are a lot of people in Fort Collins with great art, and we’d like to give them a chance to share it,” he continues. “We started looking around at the shirts that people are wearing, and they are all name brands. We wanted to get back to the roots of it all – the artwork. We want to appeal to the individual, whereas major brands appeal to the mass consumer,” he says.
The business partners were strategic about choosing the art designs for their first batch of shirts.
“We went out and collected art from a bunch of people; [we had] 40-some designs. We put it in a packet and surveyed over 50 people to find out which designs they liked the most. The top three choices were our first three shirts,” Barnhart says.
Barnhart and Alfano are working to spread their message of “unbranding” to folks in Fort Collins and beyond.
“No matter how hard we try, Unbrand Yourself is still a brand. But it’s not about trying to fit in; it’s an opportunity for all age groups to show their own ‘brand,’ or style, and wear what they want to wear,” Barnhart says.
Over the last few months, these two guys have learned the ins and outs of starting and running a business, and have made great progress in launching a company that lives up to their vision. Alfano, who is studying graphic design as well as business, created a website, unbrandyourselfapparel.com, to share their designs and sell their shirts. For now, the company is partnering with Go West (an environmentally friendly screen-printing shop in Fort Collins) to print the shirts. Barnhart and Alfano are looking forward to purchasing their own printing press in the near future, so they “can print more variety, play around with different designs and get more artists out there,” Barnhart says.
Interested in learning more or buying a T-shirt that was designed and printed locally? Check out unbrandyourselfapparel.com. Also, “Like” Unbrand Yourself on Facebook, where you can see their latest designs. You can email them with questions and design inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.