The owners of a recently-opened print studio hope to make an imprint on the industry by taking a different approach to garment design and production, they said.
Street Wearhouse, co-founded by Alex Trinkle and Tyler Love, specializes in printing and embroidering T-shirts, hats, and other apparel from its North Kansas City production facility.
Trinkle, who previously created the guerrilla streetwear brand Clever Fools, said that Street Wearhouse takes a more artistic and “outside the box” approach to its screen printed designs in comparison to other print shops.
“The majority of print shop owners are not focused on the art aspect of printing,” Trinkle said. “There are more artsy print shops for sure. But, in terms of bringing in the quality and attention to details, and making a print more vibrant, I feel like our younger eyes can give a new perspective to our customers.”
As business owners under 30, the duo places high importance on maintaining a quality digital presence, Love added.
“Even just having pictures on our website, that’s a separator from a lot of print shops,” Love said. “[Trinkle] handles all our social media, and a lot of print shops don’t do that. They don’t market themselves. … [Trinkle] has a personality that transfers through the screen, and that energy goes to the customers.”
Additionally, Street Wearhouse prioritizes quality over quantity, Love said, and chooses to focus on quicker turnaround times as opposed to lower prices.
“We’re not going to be racing to the bottom competing on price,” Love said. “We’re going to be competing with quality and beating out other shops’ turnaround times. … We aim for five to seven business days without sacrificing quality.”
“A lot of shops try to win on pricing,” Love added. “We’re not trying to compete there, but we might win customers over because they can trust us; because they see the faces printing.”
Trinkle and Love’s relationship predates Street Wearhouse; the two were high school classmates — though not close friends — growing up in Overland Park.
They reconnected when Love placed an order from Clever Fools that never shipped, he recalled, leading him to message Trinkle directly.
The shipping snafu turned out to be serendipitous, as each of them provided a skill in an area that the other was lacking: Trinkle had the screen printing chops and the platform, while Love had the embroidery and direct-to-garment (DTG) skills and machinery.
“[Love] was doing DTG, and I needed somebody to make samples for me because when I would do pre-order drops, I wouldn’t have everything printed,” Trinkle recalled. “I saw an opportunity in him.”
Love originally picked up embroidery — and eventually, direct-to-garment — in 2019 after leaving an accounting job at Burns & McDonnell, he shared.
“It was draining mentally because it was the same stuff every single day, but I would have never found [embroidery] if I didn’t take that job,” Love said.
He started his own company called Loves Branding, graduating from his first sewing machine to a semi-commercial machine as his contracts picked up — all while learning embroidery techniques online.
“During that time, I would spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos, and I subscribed to the University of YouTube 100 percent,” Love said. “You can learn almost anything on there.”
Eventually, Love “dipped into” direct-to-garment, a vertical which he said Street Wearhouse doesn’t use all that much. That skill set, however, helped lead to his connection with Trinkle, he acknowledged.
“I learned a lot,” Love said. “I met a lot of people, [Trinkle] being one of them who I’ve been able to build that partnership with.”
Scaling into new challenges
Since opening in January, Street Wearhouse has already seen consistent growth and is poised for more, according to Trinkle.
“We are growing so rapidly,” he said. “The bigger we are, the bigger problems we’ll face, so we have to be mentally ready for that. We’re going to have to learn through that process, which I’m nervous about, but at the same time, super excited about.”
The first items on the growth to-do list include adding a second automatic screen printing setup, expanding to a six-head embroidery machine, and streamlining the back-end processes, Love said.
“If we can build these processes and workflows out where they work for us at this scale, then the processes themselves will scale with us,” Love said. “ We’re not overextending, but we’re allowing ourselves to take fairly decent strides in, hopefully, the correct direction.”
As they scale Street Wearhouse, Love and Trinkle plan to bring on more employees, knowing they can still rely on one another for support and perspective.
“I think a business relationship is kind of like [the poem “Footprints”],” Trinkle said. “If one person falls, you have a friend to lift you back up, but if you do it by yourself, there’s nobody else to lift you back up.”
Love echoed those sentiments, highlighting how the two find common ground when their visions aren’t exactly aligned.
“Even when we bump heads and have disagreements, we always figure it out, and it ends up being the better answer,” he said. “If we never disagreed, that wouldn’t be a good business relationship at all.”
Love and Trinkle are in agreement, though, that Street Wearhouse is just getting started.
“It’s been a fun journey,” Love said, “and the road’s not going to end soon.”