From street art to street wear

Kristian Biega, Staff writer

Local screenprint artist Roman Glass, owner of No Dress Code Studios, is bringing new meaning to “street art” with his original line of t-shirts taken straight from the streets of Erie.
Glass’ project was funded and managed by Kris Wheaton and a team of students through Mercyhurst’s Quickstarter Project.

Glass came to find Wheaton much like all other entrepreneurs — through recommendations and word of mouth about the success of Quickstarter. Glass is already well established in the Erie area for his screenprinting and art, but he saw this as an opportunity to expand his customer and retail base beyond Erie with an innovative new style.

Glass and the No Dress Code (NDC) team travel around the city in Erie screen printing T-shirts and button-up dress shirts using manhole covers, grates, and other urban textures around downtown.

“NDC Street Wear is all about my love for art and T-shirts and going out of the studio and creating fashion from the grit of the streets, literally,” Glass said on the Quickstarter site. “Turning shirts into something that tells the story of the streets.”

There are other artists attempting to do similar screenprinting techniques, but Glass’ is something completely unique. Glass will print on the street and then overlay other colors and textures back in the studio, making the shirt a one-of-a-kind creation.

“I intend to go beyond what has been done to date and explore the challenges of color, style and composition as simply and directly as I can,” Glass said on the site.

Thanks to the help of the Quickstarter team, managed by graduate Intelligence Studies major Christina Eusanio, Glass’ project is already fully funded with still about two weeks left in the campaign to continue to raise funds.

“It has been a lot of fun working on the project, and working with Roman has been great,” said Eusanio. “He is really passionate about what he does and already has that reputation as a hipster and innovator.”

What makes this team at Quickstarter so successful and unique is the use of an entirely student-run project team. This team utilizes students from Mercyhurst, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and surrounding colleges who are proficient in their respective areas of study. By bringing together diverse teams, the projects come together in a new, efficient and creative way.

As leader, Eusanio first had to figure out how to market Glass’ product to a retail market outside of just Erie. Since the project was fully funded, she observed that the goal of expansion remained stagnant. The team set to work on techniques that would help.

“Our goal was to expand his customer base to a wider national audience, so we started with a comparison analysis,” said Eusanio. “We looked into successful T-shirt campaigns on Kickstarter in the past and tried to find why they were successful. We used that as a jumping off point to learn what Roman wanted to do.”

Through advanced Google Searching techniques, social media hits and local foot traffic, they conducted analyses on what cities would be considered “hipster friendly” and ranked them on a 1-3 scale for fit of the product and success in projected popularity.

“I have never done anything like this, but I really enjoyed this change of pace,” said Eusanio. “It just shows how you can apply the skills you learn in the Intel program into really any market situation.”

Working with Wheaton and the Quickstarter program as a university student allows for real-world experience and connections with local entrepreneurs, while also receiving payment.

“This is a prime example of experiential learning, working with real clients on real problems,” said Wheaton. “These entrepreneurs are putting their dreams in your hands, so it is pretty serious work.”

Wheaton has been running the Quickstarter project at Mercyhurst for nearly four years. It is designed to connect skilled college students to local creators who are in need of those specific skills. They attempt to increase the chance of a product’s success by using crowdfunding campaigns.

“I want to hire students to get them on board with projects, but I also want them involved with creating the project,” said Wheaton. “After all the years I have been doing this, I’ve only had a few projects originate with Mercyhurst. If you have an idea or project and don’t know where to take it or how to make it real, we are here to help you innovate.”

All of Quickstarter’s services are free to aspiring entrepreneurs. As a subset of the Ignite Erie initiative, Quickstarter receives funding and support from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.

All of Glass’ shirts can still be ordered from Kickstarter to fund his project. Each pledge level receives a T-shirt, button-up shirt or thank you from Glass and No Dress Code Studios.