February '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 8 F E B R U A R Y P R I N T W E A R || 79 PRINTWEAR SHOP SNAPSHOT to re-focus on finishing college. Fin- kelman split ways with his partner at the lifestyle brand they had founded. After a short detour into the market- ing world, Finkelman says he circled back to his true calling. "I realized I had wanted to get back into the T-shirt business, and the place where I could make the most impact would be the production side," he states. "Coming from a customer standpoint, I saw an opportunity to fill in a gap, especially from my experience(s)." By bringing the screen-printing side of the business in-house, Finkelman says he saw the ability to overcome the issues he faced as a designer. He began to search around the Chicago area for equipment and space where he could put his skills to work and eventually came across the early incarnation of Fitness Wear. Founder Oren Clanton had built the business up by selling gym towels to local physical education programs in the 1980s and evolved into a customized apparel hub for numerous school athletic programs, as well as other local clients. Finkelman says he got to know Clanton's wife and daughter in the interim. "Sadly, Oren had passed away before I got a chance to meet him, and his family wanted to sell the business he had started," explains Finkelman. I n the entrepreneurial world, starting young means more time to learn and hone your craft. Starting early also affords most business owners more of a chance to navigate the difficult initial startup phases to reach a sta- ble, lucrative point in their careers. For Justin Finkelman of Fitness Wear, that early phase dates all the way back to elementary school. The owner of the Chicago-area full-ser- vice apparel decorator says his first experience in the trade was a school contest. "We had a space shuttle club, and they had a design contest to create artwork inspired by the space shuttle," Finkelman explains. The school awarded the winner by screen printing their design on a shirt for the entire student population. Finkelman won the contest, and after seeing the translation of his design printed onto a shirt he was inspired to explore design for apparel. "All throughout high school and into college I focused on de- sign for T-shirts," Finkelman adds. While honing his design skills at the University of Michi- gan, he built his lifestyle brand for skateboarders. Partner- ing with a fellow student in the school's business program, Finkelman focused on the artwork while his partner ac- quired accounts and helped grow the financial side of the company. During this phase, the duo contracted out the screen-printing com- ponent of the production. As the brand began to grow and Finkel- man's line found its way into a handful of boutiques in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, he found a sticking point in the production chain. On numerous occasions, Finkelman says he encountered un- reliable printers and mixed quality results and considered bringing that arm of the business in-house. Shortly after however, he decided Fitness Wear AT A GLANCE • COMPANY NAME: Fitness Wear • LOCATION: Glenview, Illinois • OWNERS: Justin Finkelman • SQUARE FOOTAGE: 3,500 sq. ft. • PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT: • One M&R Kruzer 6-color manual screen-printing press • One Anatol Thunder 6-color manual screen-printing press • One Self-made 1-Color screen- printing press • One Self-made 4-Color screen- printing press • Three Stahls' Fusion heat presses • One M&R Fusion conveyor dryer • One NuArc exposure unit • One Graphtec vinyl cutter • Two M&R flash units Left: Company headquarters is a 3,500 sq. ft. shop just out- side of Chicago. (All images courtesy Fitness Wear) Right: Fitness Wear owner Justin Finkelman. Below left: The shop's screen-printing legacy dates back roughly 30 years. Below right: Hence the name, cus- tom-printed athletic ap- parel makes up a large part of the company's clientele. continued on page 80

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