Client Interview | Encore Apparel
What is your name?
What is your website?
Where are you from?
Having spent a significant amount of time living in different places all over the East Coast that’s an interesting question. I grew up on the coast of Maine, went to college outside Philadelphia, and then spent time living in Vermont, Boston and New York City. I currently live in Charlestown where my business is based. I’ve taken a little something from each stop, but probably still associate myself, in terms of values and perspective, with being ‘from’ Maine.
What do you do?
I am one of the founders of Encore Apparel Co. a newly launched lifestyle and clothing brand based in Boston. Drawing inspiration from the 1960’s folk rock scene, we design and sell vintage-style t-shirts, hats, hoodies and other accessories. Being that this creative business venture is a completely new career for me (I worked in the world of finance for many years) having the Encore Apparel brand also doing something ‘meaningful’ as part of our operations was very important. We currently partner with several small, grassroots charitable causes under our LOCAL giving program with the hope of spreading their inspiring stories and generating additional financial support.
Where is Encore Apparel located?
Our retail showroom is located at C5 Shipway Place in the Charlestown Navy Yard.
What was the vision behind your new space?
We designed the commercial space to fit with the aesthetic of the brand, meaning it has a worn, industrial and vintage-inspired feel. The original space was an 1980’s office, very closed-off, very sterile, very boring. We opened the entire space up, exposed all the existing concrete in the ceiling and floors and brought in some cool reclaimed barn boards to finish it off. Rock & Roll posters and memorabilia collected over the years cover the back wall. Our bathrooms were painted with chalkboard paint so they are dotted with quotes and signatures from people that visit. And of course we have a record player integrated into the sound system so we can play all our vinyl while we work.
How did Encore Apparel start?
Building a business inspired by the genre of music I love was an idea I carried around for many years. It took leaving my banking job in NYC and moving back to Boston for the pieces to really line-up (i.e. I didn’t have any sort of plan!). When I returned to Boston with my wife and son, I randomly reconnected with an old college fraternity buddy who I hadn’t spoken to in many years. Coincidentally, he was looking to do something new with his life as well and we started talking about ideas. Soon we had come up with an apparel concept, started exploring wholesale clothing options, got introduced to Emulsion Printhouse, built a few initial graphical designs, and then pitched the whole concept to friends and family as a sorta ‘soft launch’. Buoyed by the success of that soft launch we just kept going and eventually launched the business commercially in December 2014.
What is the message behind Encore Apparel?
The tagline for our brand is Life is Short. Play it Loud. While that saying obviously has a music connotation, for us it’s a way of simply expressing how important taking some chances in life can be. While it’s always hard to start on a new path, you shouldn’t be afraid to try and do something different. Everywhere you go there will be people who will tell you to play it safe, that certain things are ‘impossible’ or that you shouldn’t risk following a dream (especially true the older you get). The Encore Apparel tagline serves as a succinct reminder to us, and hopefully others, that if you feel passionate about pursuing something, take the plunge and give it a shot. Each of us gets one ticket on this ride, so don’t put yourself in a position where you regret NOT doing something down the road. Even if you try and fail, at least you’ll know you gave it your best shot.
What informs your work?
As mentioned previously, the Encore Apparel brand was inspired by the folk rock music scene of the past – think Bob Dylan, The Band, Neil Young, etc. I don’t want to say there isn’t great music nowadays, but it was a different world back then and we find the insightful lyrics, revolutionary ideas and just the extraordinary talent of so many bands from that period hugely inspiring. By launching this venture we’ve met so many cool people – people that we probably never would have met otherwise – and those new relationships have helped shape the direction of the business at this early stage. I think for most start-ups, you never really know the ultimate direction your business will go and it takes a lot of time to garner feedback from people outside your immediate group of friends and family. Aggregating tons of opinions and insights from people we keep meeting is really helping to refine our concept and inform our work on a daily basis.
What do you feel about a t-shirt as a medium?
A t-shirt is an absolutely amazing and powerful medium for creative expression! You can express almost anything with a t-shirt – support for a team, a band, a creative concept, a mood, a place, a mission, whatever you want. It’s such a simple piece of clothing that is universal in it’s appeal and comfort. Seriously, is there anything better than an ultra-soft, worn t-shirt?
What has been the most exciting part of your experience with Encore Apparel?
I think the most exciting part of the whole Encore Apparel experience has been taking your own unique idea from inception and turning it into a reality. When you see a final, physical product, that in itself is very rewarding because it’s soooo hard to get to that end result. There are countless granular steps that go into building something like this, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of just how far you’ve come. When people start to ‘get’ what you’re doing and offer support – whether that is buying your product or helping in other ways – that’s pretty damn exciting too. I told my wife from the beginning, that if in a few years I’m walking through the airport in a random city like Chicago and I see someone wearing an Encore Apparel shirt, then I’ll know things were successful!
The largest struggle?
The largest struggle with doing something like this is twofold – getting broad exposure and making it financially viable – both of which go hand-in-hand. It’s easy to underestimate how hard it is to go from 500 friends and family knowing about your business to 5,000….then 25,000. It’s really difficult to get people to know that you exist, and then get them to care that you exist. We’re wrestling with that right now, but hope that by being authentic people will want to be a part of this story. Obviously, any business needs to be profitable (otherwise it’s just a hobby), so it’s just a matter if you can find your niche and build things fast enough (i.e. get the necessary engaged exposure and support) before you run out of capital. I think those are two major struggles all new businesses face, regardless of industry.
What can we look forward to with Encore Apparel in the future?
We are really excited to further expand our LOCAL giving concept, which was initially built to promote and support small, grassroots causes. Being that Encore Apparel is a music-inspired brand that aims to have social-impact, we’re in the early stages of partnering with high schools that have either lost or are in danger of losing their music programs. We feel the elimination of music and arts in schools is a growing issue, not just around Boston, but nationwide. Music can provide valuable structure in the lives of kids, and it’s a sad reality that many are losing that outlet in their schools. Our hope is that we can use some of our profits to sponsor promotional concerts where kids get a chance to play alongside other LOCAL musicians. The overall goal is to showcase the talents of the students and to highlight that the elimination of music programs is a problem that needs to be addressed.
This past October we put on our first open music festival in the Charlestown Navy Yard with the students of Charlestown H.S. – a school which lost it’s music program over twenty years ago. Two uber-talented Berklee School of Music grads are working to revive the program – and we’re doing what we can to help as well. It was an amazing afternoon for the kids and you can see a sample of one of the performances here:
If for some life threatening reason you were forced to choose one piece to best represent yourself/company with, which would it be?
Life is Short. Play it Loud. For our company and me personally, it all goes back to those six words. Don’t be afraid to break from the status quo and pursue a passion, follow a dream. If you can do something, no matter how small, that makes your community or the world in general a bit stronger, all the better. As with anything, it’s all about taking the first step (which is really hard!) and then seeing where the next few steps can take you.