T-shirts and other apparel have long been a medium used to display one’s personality, interests, and passions, but high-quality city-focused apparel is a niche that is just beginning to take off. And these designs go beyond just slapping a city name on any old T-shirt in a standard typeface and calling it a day. Instead, they’ve evolved into something resembling an art form, boasting high-quality fabrics and intricate, intentional graphics.
This emerging market isn’t just geared toward tourists that want to show other people they’ve visited a specific place. These brands are just as appealing to locals. For example, Flooded Streets — a T-shirt company based in Charleston that gives a nod to the adage that when it rains in the Holy City, it floods — has a design for the Cooper River Bridge Run and another that pays tribute to a Woolworth’s department store on King Street, which is no longer there.
And now that Greenville has become more widely known as a place to both visit and live, there is an opportunity within the market to capitalize on this trend. Within the past few years — months, even — new local brands have launched that give residents a chance to showcase their city pride through what they’re wearing.
The Landmark Project
The Landmark Project, a brand of screen printer Dapper Ink, was founded in 2013. Jen Moreau, account keeper, describes The Landmark Project as the business’ “retail endeavor.”
Jen’s husband, Matt, is the owner-operator of Dapper Ink, which launched in 2007. Jen says when she and her husband first moved to Greenville, they quickly connected with the city’s outdoor community. The couple frequented Jones Gap, Table Rock, and “anything in between here and Asheville.”
“We love these places, and a ton of people connect to them,” Moreau said. That love for the outdoors — and the knowledge that others shared it — inspired The Landmark Project. The brand sells T-shirts for local spots including Paris Mountain, Table Rock, Jones Gap, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Falls Park, and Lake Jocassee.
The Landmark Project debuted at the 2013 Indie Craft Parade, where it was a fast hit. “We started doing wholesale orders almost immediately and started selling to outdoor shops and retailers locally,” Moreau said.
“It gives consumers the opportunity to tell their own story about their time outdoors,” she said of the brand’s popularity. “It’s a conversation starter and builds camaraderie among people who love these places.” Moreau added that “pride of place, good artwork, and supporting local” have also helped The Landmark Project succeed.
Shortly after the launch, the brand expanded from solely “hyper-local landmarks” within the state. The Southeast line soon included destinations in North Carolina, like Dupont State Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway, and a Pacific Northwest line followed thereafter. In summer 2016, The Landmark Project launched a National Park series of T-shirts. This fall, another style of that series will be added to the lineup.
Currently, The Landmark Project sells to 75 retailers nationwide, with many concentrated in the Southeast.
“Expanding from a hyper-local market to a regional and now national market was a really big deal,” Moreau said. “We did our first buy-in with REI last summer, which was fantastic, because now we have products in stores in Washington, as well as in Asheville and Greenville.” She added that the Landmark Project has plans to double their retail suppliers by the end of the year.
Greenville Clothing Co.
Spouses Elizabeth and Mario Brown, along with their friend Willie Hunt, introduced Greenville Clothing Co. just a few months ago in November 2016. Mario and Willie, who worked together on a blog called BuildGreenville, noticed an absence of Greenville-centered apparel in the market. After discussing the idea with Elizabeth, who has a design background, the group came up with a few designs.
The brand has been featured on local TV programs, including “Studio 62 with Jamarcus Gaston” and “Scene on 7,” and most of the marketing has been through social media channels like Instagram and Facebook.
“People who are from Greenville and live in Greenville absolutely love [it], and they’re so prideful of where they live,” Elizabeth said. That idea inspired the brand’s #WearWeLive tagline.
Currently, the brand carries five designs, including a limited edition T-shirt commemorating Clemson football’s national championship victory. Greenville Clothing Co.’s products are currently sold online only.
As for the future, Elizabeth said new designs would be progressively rolled out each month, and she hopes to eventually sell through local retailers.
“One of my goals is to sell out one of our styles, and the 864 one is almost there. We’ve talked about continuing certain styles or colors. We’re still so new that we’re playing around with everything, seeing what works and what doesn’t,” she added.
The Greenville Shop
The Greenville Shop, started by friends Allison Domonoske and Carolyn Haas, launched last month after their logo was certified as a trademark, but the two had been sitting on the idea for a while.
“We’d put it on the back burner and then decided to jump into it,” said Domonoske, an interior designer. The two were inspired to launch the brand in part because “we could never find a [Greenville] T-shirt we’d wear or give to friends from out of town.”
The brand’s logo, a “classic and simple” design, incorporates the iconic Liberty Bridge, as the two pillars suspending the bridge double as the two Ls in Greenville. And the decision not to put South Carolina in the logo design was deliberate. Although there are Greenvilles in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and other states, “there’s really only one Greenville,” explained Haas, a local boutique owner.
Currently, the brand sells T-shirts, mugs, and wooden spoons. They’ll soon add kitchen towels and hats to their lineup.
Domonoske and Haas believe their products will appeal to both tourists and residents of Greenville. “People want to represent where they are, where they’re going, and where they’re from,” said Domonoske. “It’s a way that people can take a piece of our city with them.”
A children’s logo on T-shirts will debut in the spring and be sold at children’s boutique Vann & Liv, located on North Main Street. The design is similar to the original logo, but Greenville is written in Haas’ oldest daughter’s handwriting.
Adult T-shirts are currently on sale at The Pickwick Pharmacy on Augusta Road. The Greenville Shop’s website is forthcoming, but for now people can order over Instagram via @thegreenvilleshop. Bulk corporate orders can be arranged through email. Over the summer, The Greenville Shop will have pop-ups at various retailers around town, and details will be announced on their Instagram page.
Billiam Jeans is better known for their custom handcrafted denim products, but last summer they launched a GVL-branded sweatshirt and hat.
Bill Mitchell, owner, said the inspiration came from visiting other cities and seeing “really cool products” that were focused on location. “There’s a lot of screen-printed T-shirts … but I thought there was something we could do with our skillset at that high-quality $75 or $85 price point,” Mitchell said.
His mindset in designing the two products was to “treat [Greenville] like a big city and have a great high-quality product that people in Greenville can really enjoy.”
Mitchell said the international and national attention that the city has recently garnered from major publications has created a “souvenir movement,” and if a tourist doesn’t purchase a pair of Billiam jeans, they “could walk away with the hat or sweatshirt instead.”
As far as possibly expanding into other apparel, Mitchell won’t rush the process. “Slapping ‘GVL’ on everything, we’re not going to do that. We want to be selective and sell the products that are the highest end,” he said.
If and when Billiam does add to the concept, Mitchell says, “We’ll make sure that whatever it is, we’re putting our name behind it as a craftsman and maker.”