Wearing crisp grey pants, a fitted sweater and carrying a briefcase, Lonnie Schreter wasn’t dressed how I expected. As one of the two brains behind the bold and colourful up-and-coming sportswear line, BIHFF DSML, I was anticipating an outfit that was far brighter and far more “out there”.
As we sat waiting for Schreter’s lifelong friend and business partner, Adam “T-Bone” Greenberg to arrive, the 22- year-old Concordia University economics major told me he is currently taking the semester off to work full-time getting his father’s casual clothing and footwear store, Schreter’s, online. Hence, why he wasn’t sporting his typical BIHFF DSML uniform.
Greenberg’s entrance was a little different. Decked out in BIHFF DSML designs: from the Reach t-shirt featuring a gigantic fuchsia arm with stars all around, to the new charcoal sweatpants and a black cap with a multi-coloured barcode, this 22-year-old looked like a walking advertisement &- and exactly how I imagined.
After spending a year at Concordia, Greenberg decided university was not for him and studied film production at the Trebas Institute. Despite their outside interests, the pair say designing and selling BIHFF DSML is their true passion and it’s the only brand they love to wear.
“I can honestly get rid of every piece of clothing except for a few pairs of jeans and honestly be okay just with BIHFF DSML,” says Greenberg. “It is literally all I wear and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“[BIHFF DSML] is our baby,” adds Schreter. “It is us on clothing.”
Inspired by a hate for the types of t-shirts and hats that are plastered with tattoos and studded with rhinestones, the two started designing t-shirts that fit their style in 2008. Their line has since grown to include a hat, sweatshirt and recently sweatpants. Prices range from $39.99 for a t-shirt to $95 for a sweatshirt. Schreter describes their look as a revolt against Ed Hardy, preferring instead the aesthetic of their own shirts, which combine bold colours and graphic designs to create what they call a “structured mess.”
“It all started because we really enjoy fashion and enjoy the culture of it,” says Greenberg. “We both basically decided we wanted to make our own clothes.”
Their t-shirts and sweatshirts have an American Apparel vibe, but the partners say the line of plain t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants they import from California are even softer. An added bonus is all their styles are unisex, so girls and guys alike can order every design offered online and have the option of sharing their purchases.
As for the unusual company name, coming up with it was a whole other story.
“I told [Schreter] that I thought the name did not really matter, just as long as we have nice stuff the name will catch on and the people will follow,” says Greenberg. “But then I was like okay wait, what is important to us that is never going to change?”
The answer was family and that’s when they decided to write out the initials of their grandparents. With the help of an iPhone application, BIHFF DSML was born.
The curiosity surrounding the acronym helped push forward their slogan, “Figure It Out.” The phrase, which started out as a response to questions about the name, eventually stuck because it fit the BIHFF DSML image.
Still, getting their brand to earn a profit and dealing with the business side of things hasn’t been easy. Through trial and error, the boys of BIHFF DSML say they’re figuring it out as they go along.
“There were tons of things we did not know how to do,” says Schreter. “Like how to get our designs onto a computer, then onto a shirt. And then how were we going to get those shirts onto people &- we just have to figure it out.”
Confident their pieces had flare, they didn’t let the competitive nature of the clothing industry psych them out, even though they knew they weren’t inventing anything new. Greenberg says they believed if they liked it, others would too. However, last May when Schreter and Greenberg headed to local boutiques like Three Monkeys, Fly and Off the Hook to try and sell their line &- their timing could not have been worse.
“It was during the recession so stores were very hesitant to take a new brand,” says Greenberg. “Also we were told that our artwork was too fresh and too clean looking for what was currently selling in stores.”
Despite not being picked up by any of the stores they visited, the partners did receive some useful feedback on their prices and the quality of the garments. Worried at first that their prices were too steep, one shop manager told them if people like the clothing, they will buy it no matter the price.
For the last year, the boys have been busy trying to get their designs and brand into the public eye. Creating a barcode logo, using the phrase “Figure it Out” as a slogan and teaming up with party production company, Fresh Productions, were some of the ways they attempted to generate sales.
Yet, it seems their most effective venture was teaming up with Greenberg’s cousin Frances Wilk, to create a limited edition sweatshirt and t-shirt for Jaclyn’s Miracle Foundation, a charity Wilk started in honour of her late sister.
“Making the clothing for the foundation has been my greatest accomplishment,” says Greenberg. “We have raised a significant amount of money and will probably raise more.”
To date, 120 sweatshirts and 60 t-shirts, costing $70 and $30 respectively, have been sold and there’s still time left to buy. Although these numbers may seem low, all the sales have been due to word-of-mouth and BIHFF DSML’s website and Facebook page. At the moment, items can only be purchased by directly contacting the founders.
This setup doesn’t bother the pair, although they do hope to one day see BIHFF DSML selling on its own. “It will be great when we no longer have to push it through every step,” says Schreter.
Greenberg is careful to add that as much as they do want the brand to expand and gain recognition, with the way it sells now, they have a very intimate relationship with their buyers &- something they really enjoy.
“When BIHFF DSML becomes bigger and more grand, one of the goals we have is to figure out a way to keep the brand intimate and personal,” says Greenberg.
For Schreter, developing a company with longevity is also key.
“We don’t want to build something that is going to go quickly and then that’s it,” says Schreter. “We don’t want a fad, we want something that is going to stay around for a while.”
It probably comes as no surprise that BIHFF DSML takes up the majority of both their closets. With the GP- their only sweatshirt design currently on sale, Schreter and Greenberg often leave their houses in matching outfits.
“You don’t know how often he will pick me up at my house and we will both be wearing the GP in the same colour,” says Schreter. “So I have to turn around and go change because it is kind of strange seeing two guys walking around with giant hearts on their back.”
Schreter and Greenberg admit it takes a pretty confident guy to pull off a sweatshirt with a big, bright heart on the back.
“By now, it is perfectly normal for me,” says Schreter. “I have been wearing a heart on my back for a bit over a year.”
For more information: check out bihffdsml.com