April 27, 2012
SU students create clothing buzz
Such was the case for Susquehanna juniors Marcus Cheatham and Ryan Rossi, the co-founders of Paradigm Wear. Inauspicious beginnings involving crossing paths in Art History and a T-shirt featuring an upside-down chicken of all things are where this story takes its start.
A mutual respect for each other's style led to Cheatham sharing his brainchild of Paradigm Wear with Rossi, who saw a lot of room for creativity and potential.
"[Cheatham] is one of the most creative people I know," Rossi said. From there, a speed pitching contest the duo won put the possibilities into perspective and fueled their desire to start a clothing line.
"The Engagement" was Paradigm Wear's first foray into the world of fashion and street wear and it mainly consisted of two T-shirts.
According to Rossi, they made some rookie mistakes in selecting designs and fabrics for The Engagement that sent costs above their targets. He said it was a lesson learned though, and they didn't let early setbacks get them down.
Rossi said Paradigm Wear followed The Engagement with "Plus 5060," a line inspired "from elements of life during the late 1950s and 1960s." Taking cues from old Cadillac and Airline advertisements as well as a positive, progressive way of thinking, Plus 5060 included four T-shirts, a long sleeve shirt, a crew neck, a hoodie, snapbacks, and a collaboration with the good people at Good Wood NYC.
After Plus 5060, Rossi said he was invited to participate in the Entrepreneurs Organization Convention where another speed pitching competition would be held.
Started by Steve Jobs, it is one of the most prestigious entrepreneurial clubs in the world. It was held in Atlanta, where Rossi was among the six finalists invited.
Rossi managed to place first among the East Coast competitors and second in the country in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.
The reoccurring speed pitching theme has garnered attention from many sources, including one of their main customer bases, Susquehanna. Besides sales though, the Susquehanna community has supported Paradigm Wear in a variety of ways.
Cheatham and Rossi have recruited fellow students like Jamie Eggleton, director of branding and culture; Robert Bourke, advertising designer; Sarah White, model; and Jacob Farrell, photographer, to assist them with promoting their brand and managing the company.
Professor of Communications Randall Hines made Paradigm one of the companies available to one of his classes, which assist companies in the areas of public relations and social media.
The Paradigm Wear's blog says that 1700Gold was inspired by a book on the Palace of Versailles.
The line consists of several T-shirts, snapbacks, and even a tank which will be sold by LeBron James at his Miami store "Unknown."
The crew had more resources and time at its disposal this time around, so they are expecting big sales.
In fact, since December 2011, Paradigm Wear has made about $15,000 in revenue, which they have plowed straight back into their company when they aren't covering costs.
Moving forward, Paradigm Wear hopes to continue to work with the likes of Mitchell and Ness, fellow Susquehanna alumni who have supported and guided Rossi and Cheatham to where they are today.
A few more collaborations with Curren$y, Good Wood NYC and Mitchell and Ness may even be in the works, according to Rossi.
He also stressed that Paradigm Wear will continue to manufacture their products domestically with the goal of creating jobs and giving people meaningful experience in the working world.
Jamie Eggleton agreed with this and added, "It's hard to go back to classes after doing this."
If all goes according to plan, Rossi said they would like to open a store in Pittsburgh in two years. This blue collar town embodies what the duo refer to as a "Digmer's mindset."
The store would even feature a second floor where customers could see the manufacturing process and maybe add their own spin to designs.
With inspirations ranging from classics like "Take Ivy" all the way to the Build-a-Bear Workshop, we may in fact be witnessing the humble beginnings of a true Horatio Alger story.
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