• PressureCast
  • Teach These Devils

[intro-text size=”25px”]Whether you are at The Q, Progressive Field, FirstEnergy Stadium, or a bar watching a game on TV, you are going to be surrounded by fellow Clevelanders proudly wearing shirts supporting their city that they purchased from local shops.[/intro-text]

Due to the increasing popularity of clothing promoting civic pride in recent years, the number of brands selling these shirts has grown in both number and prominence. The secret to the success of the most popular of these tees is the artists behind them. They’re Clevelanders. They grew up here. They live and work here. They have a finger on the pulse of Cleveland, and because of this, they make the shirts we all want to wear.

We caught up with the men behind two of these brands, George Vlosich of GV Art + Design and David Gruss of We Bleed Ohio, to discuss their art, their successes, and the hometown they proudly represent.

[pullquote]“We grew up going to 30 plus Indians games a year in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when they were losing 100 games a year. I think that is why people respond so well to our shirts and artwork. You can tell how in tune with the city and how passionate we are for our sports and it comes through in our designs. ”[/pullquote]

This Land is Our Land

GV Art + Design Has Stayed Loyal to Cleveland Through the Good, Bad, and Ugly

More than just a T-shirt shop, the Vlosich family truly loves the CleveLand they celebrate with their apparel and other artwork.

PressureLife: What are some things you draw your inspiration from?

George Vlosich: We try to be involved and in tune with what is going on in the city and the world we live. We draw inspiration from everything around us. From the start we always wanted to create unique art and designs whether that be with the Etch A Sketch to our more traditional artwork to our apparel and T-shirts.

Our dad is an artist and was in advertising and growing up [he] was constantly teaching us. Even now we are fortunate to all be working together and are constantly brainstorming and thinking about what we can do and what ideas we can come up with that will be different than all of the same stuff that’s already out there.

What does it takes to be a success and what does it take to maintain that success?gvlove

It takes a lot of hard work and hustle. It wasn’t easy from the beginning, so you constantly have to sacrifice to get it where you want it to be. But I also think you have to separate yourself from everyone else that is trying to do what you’re doing. You have to constantly ask yourself what separates you and your work and what you’re trying to accomplish. When we started our company, there was really no one else creating positive pro-Cleveland apparel, and from there, we continued to grow and push our designs. T-shirts were just another canvas for us to work on and share our work and passion. We have never sacrificed quality in our work or the products we produce. We know what we want to wear and what type of quality we expect and know others feel the same way.

When you stop and look at the waves you have made and the support you get from people all over the country, are you surprised you’ve had this much of an influence on the culture?

We are truly appreciative and blessed to be able to use the talents God has given us to do what we love. We have an amazing fan base and it’s because of their support we have a busingvstorehirezbigess. If you’re a creative person you train yourself to never stop thinking—there should be no problem you can’t solve creatively.

I don’t think it surprises us because we’ve always pushed ourselves and what can be done creatively and have designs you won’t see anywhere else. You need to be different to stand out and I think people recognize that. It’s crazy to think we had some influence on Cleveland and the mindset people have towards it now. When we started in 2008, we were extremely proud of Cleveland and felt others were too. They just didn’t have a way to show it, and therefore we started the CleveLand That I Love brand.

What do you feel has caused your merchandise to become popular with your customers?

Everything we do, we want it to be our best, and I think people recognize and appreciate that. We don’t just slap stuff together, but try and be as creative as we can with our designs and our work. It’s not the first three ideas we think of, but the fourth, fifth or sixth that make it different. We don’t just do T-shirts. We’re artists first that happen to use T-shirts as another canvas for us to work on.

We also appreciate our customers and the people that support us. We try and make people feel welcome when they come into our shop. We have people that come in that remember going to our parents’ house to buy shirts and are proud of our success because they realize how far we’ve come. They feel they have had a part in it, and they have.

Find GV Art + Design’s clothing, original artwork, and more at either their Lakewood (17411 Detroit Ave.) or Willoughby (38038 Second St.) locations or at gvartwork.com.

[pullquote]“I’ve always loved Cleveland. From going to sporting events as a kid and trips to Tower City during the holidays, it has filled my life with great memories and moments that I’ll never forget. Thousands of people can relate to that.”[/pullquote]

Still Bleeding

David Gruss Is Proud of the Ohio Blood Flowing Through His Veinsimg_5749

Five years after starting off with just two T-shirt designs, David Gruss of We Bleed Ohio is making believers out of everyone.

PressureLife: What are some things you draw your inspiration from?

David Gruss: I always have music playing while I work. It definitely feeds into my creative process. Somedays I use music to clear my mind during artist block, while others days it can act as a soundtrack to my designs. Overall, I enjoy pop culture and nostalgia for things from my childhood, and I think that plays a lot into what I want to achieve. I want to create something that has a timeless and classic look to it that people can wear for a long time.

So far, what has been We Bleed Ohio’s biggest success?

The biggest jump in success was quitting a 9-5 job to do WBO full-time and moving into a brick and mortar right in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Seeing growth from where WBO s008tarted five years ago with only two shirts, to last year when the WBO store first opened, and how that all compares to now, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.

What does it takes to be a success and what does it take to maintain that success?

I do what I love and always want to get better at it. It took me years to get where I’m at now, but I always feel like I can do better.

If you could share a few words of advice with yourself when you first got started, what would you tell yourself?

To just go for it and not to be afraid of making mistakes. Some of my biggest learning experiences came from those mistakes.

What do you feel has caused your merchandise to become popular with your customers?

I wanted to make shirts that I would wear all the time. The vision was for unique, classic designs on high quality apparel. My friends and family thought I was crazy at first for caring so much about what brand T-shirts I used. I tested over a dozen different styles and brands of tees before starting WBO. Finding a consistent, comfortable fitting T-shirt was just as important to me as the designs that go on it. That being said, I think also having designs that can be used year after year and still be relevant make for a classic T-shirt that will become a staple in everyone’s wardrobe.

Find the latest designs from We Bleed Ohio at the store located at the 5th Street Arcades (530 Euclid Ave, Ste. 31) or online at webleedohio.com.

 

“Cleveland, This Is For You!”

When the Cavs won the city’s first title in over half a century, the guys at GV and WBO were working  harder than ever to clothe us all in our championship shirts. George Vlosich and David Gruss reflect on one of the city’s proudest moments, which was also one of the busiest times in both brands’ histories.

What does it mean for the city to finally win a championship?

An unfathomable 1.3 million people had downtown Cleveland gridlocked for about a solid 10 hours. Were you one of them?

GV

I think it showed just how awesome the city really is by how we handled the championship party and the parade as well.  We had lines out both of our stores from 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. the days after the championship, all wanting a piece of Cleveland history. It meant so much more than just a championship. We did not go to down to the parade. We wanted to and thought about it, but we launched five championship shirts and we were so swamped with orders and work that we didn’t get a chance to get there. We still had lines around the block, so we made sure we took care of our business and customers.

WBO

A winning culture is everything. The Browns had their success in the ‘80s and the Indians in the ‘90s—only to fall short of the championships. We put ourselves in that mentality of, Cleveland will blow it somehow. We just never got that break. Now the city has seen our comeback from what was the impossible and we did it. Once that happens, there is no stopping what we believe can be achieved. We got downtown just before 8 a.m. to open our store that day, and the crowds were just unreal. Such an amazing energy the whole day. Even though it was hot, businesses had lines out the doors and people were exhausted by the end and searching for anywhere they could sit or get out of the sun, but everyone was still very upbeat about it. This was a different for all of us—something the majority had never experienced before and wanted to be a part of, a memory we can all share together and pass along to generations of Cleveland fans like the stories of Cleveland greatness before our time that was passed down to us. This was a celebration and experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.

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