Finding a favorite shirt, a favorite brand or that go-to outfit – that’s one thing. But designing your own clothing line when no other brand has exactly what you were looking for? Now that’s fashion forward.
Yet that’s exactly what local public relations professional Andrew Yunker did – and the clothing line American Island Co. was born. Yunker, 24, partnered with his sister Alison, 22, and the Cincinnati natives and Ohio University graduates got to work almost a year ago.
“I wanted to create something for my friends that represented what we’re all about. And that’s having a good time,” Yunker said.
We caught up with Yunker to learn more about the brand and why it’s poised to be the next go-to shirt in Cincinnati wardrobes.
9 questions for Andrew Yunker
1. Why did you start American Island Co.?
I’ve always wanted to start my own clothing brand; it’s been an aspiration of mine since high school. But more than that, it was about my friends. I’ve always wanted to work on a project that could incorporate my friends and showcase the things we like to do.
When it really kicked off was last Labor Day weekend. Some friends and I went to Seattle on our first post-graduation vacation to see Dave Matthews Band and The Avett Brothers at The Gorge and camped out the whole weekend. My friend and I went out a few days earlier and played this golf course, Chambers Bay, in Tacoma. It was unbelievable. I was just so relaxed – I’d just come off eight months of nonstop work, and there was this moment on the course when I had this feeling of complete relaxation. I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot around America, so I thought of “American Island,” this idea of being any place where you feel totally comfortable. That’s really where the idea came from.
2. How long have you worked on this project? What were some key steps in the startup process?
I came back from the trip and began concepting, so I’ve been working for about a year. Some key moments? Finding the right product. I didn’t want to just find something a stick a logo on it. I wanted it to be high-quality, which all of these products are.
The next step was developing the brand identity. We worked with Curtis Gable, a creative director, to create our logo and font. The font is hand-drawn and exclusive to us. The biggest thing was finding the compass as the logo. We wanted something that reflects the brand, American Island, that wasn’t associated with one geographic area. When you think of Vineyard Vines, you think of Martha’s Vineyard. When you think of Southern Tide, you think of the South. American Island is something that stretches from Seattle to Put-in-Bay to Cincinnati.
3. Who or what inspired this style of clothing?
It’s definitely a “fratty” style. It represents what we did in college, what we did on weekends. It’s something my friends and fraternity brothers would wear. A lot of the inspiration came from my friends – campfires, fraternity formals, bars. Wherever we’d go, we could wear this and be comfortable.
4. Who would some of your competitors be?
People who buy our product would probably shop brands like Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide. But I don’t think anyone has the same kind of long-sleeved shirt with this feel. We’re unique in that aspect. We didn’t look at a competitive analysis, though, because this was more of a side project. It’s more about having fun.
5. Tell us a little bit about the product itself.
One thing I’ve always loved was a long-sleeved T-shirt, but many companies don’t make a good one. We found a good, high-quality shirt and ran with it. It’s faded, a bit distressed, so it looks and feels like that favorite T-shirt you’ve had for years. We’re nineties kids too, so the colors have a bit of a nineties feel to them.
We have a line of pocket tees and crew neck sweatshirts, too. Our shirts come from a supplier in Vermont and we have them screen-printed locally by a Cincinnati-based company. We’re also working with Croakies to develop a few products with colors that correspond to local colleges and universities.
- WHAT ARE CROAKIES? http://www.croakies.com
6. tell us a little bit about the American Island Co. target customer. What’s this person like?
Basically a comfortable, fun-loving, laid back person. Right now, the product is unisex but the marketing is geared toward guys – the thought behind this being, if you put it out for guys, girls will want it too. Girls have already sampled some stuff and love it. We’re marketing to people age 18-24, kind of that college and post-grad age. Basically they just enjoy the company of their friends, like to kick back and relax with a few beers. They just like to be comfortable.
7. How are you getting the word out about American Island Co.?
We’re starting out with Facebook and Instagram and word of mouth. We gave some products to friends around the country and had them take pictures in the shirts and noticed that people really wanted to be featured. That’s how we’ve done a lot of marketing – getting people to showcase the brand where they’re most comfortable.
8. What are some goals you have for American Island Co. in its first year? What about long-term goals?
Honestly, we hadn’t really put any goals on this. The biggest goal my sister and I have is to have fun with it, for our friends to have fun with it. We’d like to sell out of our inventory then order more product.
9. If you could let potential customers know one thing about the brand, what would it be?
American Island is comfortable where you are. It’s a comfortable product, but more than that, the brand is about the people. It’s about the guys and girls who just like to have fun. Wherever you’re comfortable, the clothes will be too.
Diving in to a debut
The online clothing brand launched its website – americanislandco.com – Thursday at noon, and based on the social media reaction they’ve received, Andrew and Alison are predicting an exciting first day.
For now, the siblings are just excited to pour their passions into something that embodies them and their varied experiences and opportunities.
“This is a hobby for me,” Yunker said. “Some people brew beer for fun. I make frat clothing.”
- VISIT AMERICAN ISLAND CO. www.americanislandco.com