BY JENNIFER BELLANTONIO
Digital Ink Creative Services Inc. has helped many Orange County surfwear companies take off with edgy graphics and art.
Now the company is making a push with its own line of clothing.
The Santa Ana-based design company has made custom graphics for Irvine-based Rusty, Lake Forest-based Sole Technology Inc.’s etnies skate shoes, Ocean Pacific Apparel Corp. in Irvine, K-Swiss Inc. and Reebok International Ltd., among others, said lead designer and owner Eric Foss.
It also does work for several retail chains, including Anaheim-based Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. and its d.e.m.o. urban-style clothing unit, Industry-based Hot Topic Inc. and Los Angeles-based Forever 21 Inc., Foss said.
“These companies come to us for inspiration and ideas on what’s hot in their markets and we work together to generate sellable clothing,” Foss said. “Our specialty is hand-drawn, intricate artwork.”
On The Edge
Now 7-year-old Digital Ink hopes to break into the apparel scene with its own line of edgy clothes featuring vivid graphics of skulls and other images on vintage fit T-shirts, polo shirts, long-sleeve thermal tops and zippered hooded sweat shirts, he said.
The clothing will sell for $28 to $60.
“Most of the shirts you see in the market today are scanned in from books or computer-generated collages,” Foss said. “But we try to give our customers something different and better.”
Digital Ink, which has six workers, said it plans to target males 16 to 30 years old for its clothing line. That’s the demographic that most of Orange County’s surf and skate companies go after.
The company’s marketing features tattoo-clad guys wearing the clothes.
One black T-shirt has giant daggers piercing through a skull with splashes of blood. Another graphic features gothic-like angels flying with weapons, such as swords, a hatchet and bow and arrow.
The line’s name, “Affliction,” means “a state of great suffering and distress due to adversity,” Foss said.
“We felt that this fit very well with our art direction,” he said.
Foss said he wants to “market to young men who are interested in standing out from the crowd and being noticed.”
“We have combined punk rock imagery with garments that are soft, comfortable and provide a custom fit,” Foss said.
The Affliction line is cut and sewn in Los Angeles. The clothing is hand-distressed and dyed before being embellished and washed again.
“The second wash is what really gives them a super soft feel,” he said.
Foss said he’s shopping the line to higher-end boutiques and hopes to get it carried by some of his clients, such as Pacific Sunwear, and other local surf shops.
“Surf and skate shops are beginning to cater to a pickier clientele, so we feel they will be open to buying our products as well,” Foss said.
But breaking in won’t be easy. Orange County’s surf shops and boutiques, such as the Closet in Costa Mesa, are jammed with T-shirts from a slew of brands. The clothes range from Irvine-based Lost Clothing, which also uses some edgier graphics, to Huntington Beach-based Quiksilver Inc.
The company could face some resistance from current clients to Digital Ink’s own clothing, which would compete for store shelf space.
T-shirts often are used to help brands break into the apparel market.
Digital Ink had opportunities to launch a line in the past. But Foss said “the timing and product was just not right.”
“We decided that now was the right time because we finally have the ability to produce the quality of garments necessary to make an impact in our market,” he said.
Digital Ink used its own money to launch the brand and worked out agreements with some of its vendors that are “willing to work with us along the way,” Foss said.
“We have made great contacts in the industry,” he said. “I think these people are more willing to work with us because they have seen what we have been able to do for their customers.”
But Digital Ink also has another hurdle: carving out time to work on the line.
Foss said the company still is growing, so dedicating time to the new line “has been tough on us.”
“I work on other clients’ jobs all day and work on my own designs all night,” he said.
Jennifer Bellantonio writes for the
Orange County Business Journal.