Universitee Apparel

April 10, 2009

By Moustapha Camara

We interview Taylor Smith, co-founder of Universitee Apparel.

TM: How did the idea of Universitees come about?

TS: Two of my friends and I created a web/graphic design company called BlokHead Designs. We sold t-shirts at my high school for self promotion. In the end, we sold around 100 shirts and this sparked the idea of starting a clothing line. Rachael was currently attending East Carolina University when she had the idea of breaking into the college apparel industry after noticing the bland style of clothing that her school offered. My sister and I took this opportunity to create our own college apparel line, Universitee Apparel.

TM: I see you guys are brother and sister. What are the benefits and challenges of running a business with your sibling?

TS: One of the benefits is living under the same roof because we can work together anytime we want, especially when one of us gets inspired. Sometimes it’s difficult to communicate because we are family and don’t want to damage that bond, but these challenges also bring out the best in each of us. Not only do we push each other to be better artists, but we learn from one another as well.

TM: Did you (or do you currently) attend any of the universities that carry your products?

TS: I will be attending ECU this coming fall and Rachael graduated from there in may 2008.

TM: So, how do you go about creating apparel for the different universities? Do you create the products first and then pitch it to the universities, or what?

TS: The process for this industry is extremely difficult and very restricted. While trying to be creative, we still have to stay within the universities’ guidelines of how they want their school logos to be represented.

The process goes as follows:
Apply for university – fee.
Apply for usage of logos – fee.
Create Design – Accept or Reject (Back to the drawing boards.)
Talk to printers and make a purchase.
Purchase Collegiate Licensing Company hang tags.
Sell to stores.
Pay royalty fees every quarter – 10%.

Haha, ok well the last part we’re just kidding on. We do make enough for the company but not to support ourselves …just yet. I’m writing this because I don’t think people understand the extensiveness of this process in this industry.

TM: Which colleges are you really looking forward to creating designs for?

TS: Right now, we are focused on the East Coast. We want to design for larger colleges because of the possible profit but we want to work with local schools as well. Some of the Big East schools we’re looking at are : WVU, UF, PSU, UMD, etc. For the local schools, those include: Drexel, Rowan, TCNJ, and Princeton.

TM: What’s the best thing about being young and owning a clothing line?

TS: I know this is what i want to do when I’m done with school, but if for some reason, it doesn’t work out, I still have time to figure out my life because I am still young. It’s all just a learning process.

TM: Where do you see Universitees in 3 years? Are you looking expand and become a huge brand with products everywhere, or stay an underground brand that has a close knit, but relatively large following?

TS: We are still relatively small with a good following but we want the best of both worlds in the years to come. When we expand, we look forward to working with more artists, business entrepreneurs, and other companies to create the most wanted college t-shirts in the industry. Nike, Reebok, Jansport, Russell and all the other college lines need to move out of the way, because UA is coming to town. hahaha.

Educate your style. Understand the brand. It’s UA all day