At a time that many high-end garment printers were struggling to produce realistic images in CMYK, an artist took an entirely different approach that would eventually take the industry by storm.
Then one day, he got a call from a young artist who explained that he was semi-retired and looking to do contract work with a local printer. Weiss quickly realized that the caller had worked with all of the companies that then held Harley licenses, and asked him his name. “He said, ‘Dave Gardner,’ and I said ‘Oh my God. I’m wearing one of your shirts right now.’ It was the panhead shirt, my favorite.”
They met, trying to find common ground as Gardner explained that he was looking for a set fee for each design and the accompanying separations, as well as a substantial royalty on orders that exceeded 6000 pieces. Realizing that they shared a love of sports, Weiss suggested that they take Gardner’s distinctive look into a new vertical niche.
Dave Gardner at New Buffalo Shirt Factory, in the mid-2000s.
Gardner went home and created a design of the then-Los Angeles Raiders mascot that started with a selfie he took with a dagger in his mouth. He called Weiss with puzzling instructions to buy specific inks from several different manufacturers. “So he came in with this film, and we burned the screens, and we set them up,” Weiss remembers. “I had to put screens in every head and flash in the unload station. We printed three shirts and I was absolutely dumbfounded. By the time he got to me, he had the entire process dialed in.
“I remember taking that shirt, going home at one in the morning, throwing it at my wife in bed, and saying, ‘We’re going to be millionaires.’”
This 1992 shirt from New Buffalo celebrating the back-to-back championships of the Chicago Bulls was worn by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the Bulls victory parade through Chicago instead of the official shirt the players were supposed to wear. A photo published the next day in USA Today of the players wearing this shirt led to hundreds of thousands sold.
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