Student Josh York always wanted to have his own line of clothing. “In high school, I actually made a few iron-on shirts as jokes and sold them to my friends,” said York. However, it turned out to be more than a joke, and grew into something more than York ever imagined.
This past summer, York got the idea to purchase his own hobby-sized silk screen press and use it to make shirts for his band, “Yours Truly.” “I actually tried to start a silk-screen business,” stated York. “I did end up getting a few jobs printing for sports teams and other bands in the area, but that never really picked up.”
In December, York got into contact with Schoolcraft students who were trying to get a clothing line outfit (pun intended) off the ground called “Originality is Dead.” “They wanted custom tags and labels, so I started experimenting with how to make them.” York sewed custom tags and labels to the bottoms of the hoods of sweatshirts. When he figured out how to do this, he purchased a hat at ACO Hardware, then handwrote his name in very small letters on an old t-shirt, then cut out the name and sewed it onto the hat. “I thought it’d be cool to wear it around,” he said.
Expanding the brand
“That night, my band was playing a Christmas show in Canton to about 100 kids,” York said. “When I wore the hat there, so many people were commenting, saying how cool it was and that they wanted one.” This gave him the idea to make more hats for friends and maybe make a couple bucks, so he bought a bag of 20 or so hats.
At his bands next show, York gave his original hat to his band’s bass player, Adam Vuletich, to wear on stage as a promotion. Vuletich ended up posting a picture of it on Instagram, which caused a surge of people demanding hats. To draw more attention, York started a web store on Storenvy, a site that allows users to create their very own online store.
“Initially, I sent out messages to friends of mine that were in notable bands in the area,” explained York. “I’d get them a cheap hat if they promised they would wear it and post a picture on it on Instagram or Twitter and tag my page on it.” With every picture posted, interest increased. “Every time I sold [a hat online], I included a hand-written ‘thank you’ card that also said, ‘Be cool and Instagram/Tweet me @yorkapparel12.’” Every customer ended up becoming free marketing. “It became cool to post a picture of your York Apparel, and people liked doing it.”
Doing some good
As York began to realize how large his business was getting, he came to a second realization that others could benefit from his success. “Instead of just selling hats, I decided to help those in need as well.” York said he has always been fascinated by homeless people, and fully admits at how weird that sounds on the surface. “I always want to know their story, like how they became homeless, what they do every day, where they sleep and just how they live.” York credits TOMS Shoes, a charity that donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased, as his model. “I always thought that there are so many national organizations, like TOMS or Invisible Children, that send millions of dollars a year overseas.” York sees a better investment in simply sending those funds down the street to help people in the area. Just like TOMS Shoes, York donates one item for every item sold, be it hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts. “For warmer months,” said York, “I’ve decided that I’m going to donate socks and underwear instead of hats.”
Now–a-days, whenever York takes hats to where his band plays, he usually sells out, and can go through over 200 hats in a week. “Every product sold is hand-printed in my basement, hand sewn by either me or my mom and then shipped out with handmade packaging.” York Apparel is also in the process of becoming an LLC (Limited Liability Company). York is hopeful his charity will become something great. He continues to try and push his brand through social media, as well as publicity through musicians and bands. “I really believe in the cause and think that, if marketed properly, it could take off.”