Tucked away off of North Main Street in Yardley, Pennsylvania stands the Yardley Grist Mill. On the outside, the Mill stands in much of its original appearance with its red tin siding and old-fashioned lettered sign. But, the inside has been renovated to house multiple modern-day businesses. On the top floor is FZ Media.
FZ Media is a local graphic design company that has helped large and small companies with design, branding and web development. However, in 2014, FZ Media decided to launch a project of its own: Floodzone T-shirts.
"The driving force behind the concept was initially just a creative outlet," FZ Media President, Managing Director and Floodzone designer Charles Barrett said.
Barrett and Adam Trageser, FZ Media Creative Director and Floodzone Designer, came up with the idea for a T-shirt line when the two were at a photoshoot in Georgia for another project. Trageser said the studio works on so many different creative projects for others that they wanted something they could call their own - a personal creative outlet.
Barrett said the entire office of FZ Media is involved in furthering the Floodzone brand. But, the primary designers behind the artwork printed on the T-shirts are himself, Trageser, Lou Stuber and Doug Noe.
The designers said they decided to go the apparel route with their sketches because of how accessible a T-shirt is. Trageser said the canvas is simple and allows the men to see designs they've hidden in their sketchbooks for years come to life, or create something completely new.
Floodzone's designs include the "Kraken," a modified octopus print, "Ampers Aweigh," an anchor and rope design and "Midnight Wolf," a snarling wolf head with bright yellow eyes.
The designs for Floodzone come from a collaborative and creative standpoint.
"A lot of people will just bring their sketchbooks to the table," Barrett said. "We'll just look at certain ideas and talk about certain ones and then we'll just pick on one and go for it and take that one to the next level."
The designers said this was a venture they wanted to be creatively carefree with. Without the bonds of designing for another client, the men are able to sketch without limits and come up with prints they're personally drawn to along with the other designers in the FZ Media studio.
The attention to detail on these shirts doesn't stop at the prints. Barrett said the number one priority of Floodzone is quality and exclusivity.
Currently, each design is made in a limited collection of 50 shirts. Each shirt is made of soft, high quality fabric, and tagless. Instead, on the inside, is a printed tag that includes a number for each shirt. The specific designer also signs the inside of the shirt, adding an even more custom flair.
Floodzone has paired up with the Florida-based printing company Real Thread for manufacturing, but all of the packaging still occurs in the studio. Barrett said each shirt is placed in a bag with a handwritten thank you note. The bag and other elements of the packaging are hand stamped with the brand's stamp.
This attention to detail and personalization, paired with one-of-a-kind designs is the edge Barrett said the company needs to stand out.
"The fashion industry is filled with lots and lots of people doing exactly the same thing," Barrett said. "But it's also when you're looking at the market that you're trying to go after people who are always trying to seek that next best shirt."
While right now the apparel line is small, Barrett said the designers plan on getting some more momentum behind it by releasing new prints and keeping up with their seasonal lookbooks.
Trageser said none of them had handled anything as vertically integrated as Floodzone previously. They've all learned the process of following one small sketch to 50 manufactured T-shirts.
Stuber said this process is extremely rewarding. Seeing one conversation grow into a high-quality finished product is what Floodzone stemmed from and continues to strive for.