Fabric of the Future: Clothing Culture in Flint

The city of Flint has been in the spotlight for years now, unfortunately for less-than-stellar reasons. However, creative minds have emerged from the rough with their diamond-like ideas. One of the gems that has shifted the paradigm for Flint has been clothing.

As a culture, clothing is known to be popular in huge cities like New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. But for a much smaller city that has had its fair share of industry and changes, clothes can be the last thing seemingly on people’s minds.

However, not in Flint. Many brands have emerged to bring positivity back to the city, as well as some fun. Founded in 2014, Goodboy Clothing, created by Flint native Oaklin Mixon, has offered residents another reason to smile.

Mixon fostered the idea to start a clothing line through having a support system comprised of his wife, kids, and positive energy. Located at 522 S. Saginaw Street, an industrial, monochromatic space accompanied by great vibes and vibrant colored streetwear emits an artistic appeal. In the back of the studio is the maker space where Mixon himself is sewing, packaging, and tailoring assorted goods.

“This business is for creatives, the culture, and for the vibe, ” said Mixon. “As Flint progresses I want to see everyone’s ideas and what they can bring to the table to help and build the culture.”

Mixon’s vision is full of hope and promise for his company. He wants to expand and make Goodboy Clothing a staple of the city. From humble beginnings of making a few items here and there to a storefront downtown, Mixon has a vision for Goodboy Clothing and the community.

“I feel great about what’s happening now, people are expressing their ideas and for some it’s clothes and for others it’s music and other mediums. Goodboy Clothing is making a contribution to the community with clothes, which is the true extension of yourself,” said Mixon.

Goodboy Clothing is open Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday at noon until 5 p.m. For information on the company, you can check out their website at goodboyclothes.com. It is also on all major social media formats with the same moniker.

Another company that has been pivotal to the culture prints shirts for schools, churches, and more. Flint City T-Shirts, a exemplar of high-quality, low-priced garments has been in the community for 15 years, owned by Andrew Watchorn, Kym Roldan and William Hurteau. At Flint City T-Shirts, you can get garments screen-printed, buy from their regular retail, or even get something embroidered.

Started in 2003, from an empty space that was available because of connections to a downtown flint garage band promoter, the company has built its business through three different ownership changes. The first set of owners learned to print the shirts in another community but wanted to apply their talent in Flint. In 2005 the second ownership change took place and in 2007, a remodeled storefront increased their retail business. Then the third ownership change happened in 2014 improving embroidery equipment  and increasing  production capacity and customization options.

The long journey this company has faced can definitely show you that it is well-loved and supported by residents. From the recession in 2008 to the boom of restaurants downtown in 2014, Flint City T-shirts has stayed around through it all.

“There were just eateries and this one empty space that we really wanted to check out, and we wanted to provide a legitimate service for everyone in the community,” said Watchorn. “We’ve been here giving Flint and the downtown area a place where they can get great prices for high quality t-shirts for over a decade, and I wanted to see what else can happen with this.”

When you walk into the store, you see a spectrum of colors through the long room filled with many types of shirts. The shirts have statements that are humorous or full of pride for Flint. Shirts saying “I love Flint,” “Flint River Dive Team,” and some other great prints lay on shelves you have to see yourself.

In the back of the store is where the magic happens with multiple screen printing presses and embroidery machines. This is also where all of the retail shirts that are sold in the front of the store are produced. While Flint City T-Shirts may be a small business in Downtown Flint, it is very well setup for large quantity screen printing of 1000 pieces or more. We take pride in being a full service design shop and also supporting the community.

“One of the best parts of running a downtown shop is interacting with customers face to face and allowing them choose garments, feel the fabrics, and consult with them on design choices so that the branding makes them or their event look great,” said Watchorn.
Flint City T-Shirts is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information and quotes on shirt customization, try their website at www.flintcitytshirts.com. You can also check them out on all major social media outlets.

Another business adding to the culture is Parvizi Clothing Company, a suit tailoring, alteration, and dress shoe business that has been around since the spring of 1991.

The idea of this business came from Perry and Fred Parvizi. The brothers had always envisioned owning their own business. Both had started as handymen at Blackstone’s in Flint. Before its departure in 1990, the store was one of the best in Michigan, selling men’s suits. By the early 1970s,  both Perry and Fred had worked all the way up to senior management positions.

However, Blackstone’s, after serving the Genesee County area for decades, closed in December of 1990. That stemmed an opportunity for Perry and Fred to open and continue serving the suit and dress market in the area.

“The fit of the suit is paramount. Good tailoring can take suits to the next level,” said Perry. “Suits must work in harmony with the body and form. We pride ourselves at Parvizi because Parvizi’s carries a fine variety of traditional, slim, custom, and tailor-fitted suits, as well as exceptional tailoring.”

He believes that if they keep the same energy and hospitality, they’ll continue to thrive. And how do they feel about the change in retail and how the culture is metamorphosing? Just like Parvizi’s service, the answer was exceptional.

“Retail around the world is changing and that is evident in Flint–Amazon and big box stores are able to get products to the front door today,” said Perry. “What makes Parvizi’s unique is our expert style and wardrobe consultants, customer service experience, and our selections of the best quality products. To reflect the changing retail norms of today, Parvizi has added social media accounts and strengthened its web presence, but our integrity to our customers and clients remains constant.”

Parvizi Clothing Company is located in the Macy’s wing of Genesee Valley Shopping Center. They are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. through 9 p.m. and Sundays noon until 6 p.m. For more information, check out their website www.parviziclothing.com. You can also check them out on all major social media outlets.

The fourth brand is quite new to the clothing scene in Flint, but has been charitable to the city since 2016. Unsung Threads, started by two friends Cameron Wolf and Ian Roberts, is a clothing brand for the community. The company held a soft launch with ABC 12 in March of 2017 and is going to be open to the general public this month. The idea of the company started from their desire to give back to the community that has given so much to them.

The Flint Over Fear (FOF) project is a hand of gratitude to the community that is bigger than just clothes. Through FOF, which both Wolf and Roberts are in the planning phases of starting, they hope to focus on the people and successes of Flint versus just selling merchandise for the city. Through this project and the businesses, Unsung Clothing plans to donate, volunteer, and provide other resources to those in the city who need it most.

Unsung Threads is still a prominent entity in itself, but FOF is simply a branch to the tree Wolf and Roberts have planted.

“Flint is a super unique city in the sense that price tags on things seem to have a minuscule value to people. Both culturally and on the retail sphere, I’ve noticed that the cost of a product doesn’t tend to hold someone back from supporting our brand or other brands,” said Wolf. “Flint has an extremely tight-knit bond, no matter what walk of life people came from. At the end of the day, we are seemingly all from Flint. People know the struggle, we’ve all been affected by its positive aspects and its not so beautiful ones alike.”

Unsung Threads is only available online right now, and their website is unsungthreads.co. Unsung Threads is also available to follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Last but not least, when talking about clothing in Flint, you have to acknowledge the newest company affecting the culture: Keye Apparel.

Keye Apparel was started in November of 2017 by Parker Nevicato, a 19-year-old hockey player from Grand Blanc. Nevicato started the idea from a hunger of wanting his own brand and to help others around the city.

With assistance from his girlfriend Mackenzie, Nevicato connects his apparel company to combat the evil world of human trafficking and sexual abuse. How? Through donating.

A portion of every sale goes toward Voices of Consent, a non-profit sexual abuse prevention program. Through a Teen Ambassador Program that accompanies the brand, Keye Apparel also takes part in volunteer projects, showing what the community means to the company.

The program is for the enthusiastic, passionate people that want to spread word of the cause that Keye Apparel is supporting, all while still representing the brand. One of the incentives to being an ambassador isn’t only to broadcast the brand and its mission, but also a 10 percent discount that can be shared.

Those with the most discount codes used and top performance every assigned period will win awards and prizes. The ambassadors will also take part in volunteer projects, showing what the community means to Keye Apparel.

“I see Keye Apparel as a nationwide apparel brand,” said Nevicato. “Our goal is to bring Flint to the people and bring our culture to everyone. Not only do we strive for success, but we strive to help and change peoples lives of everyone that connects with us.”

Nevicato talked about the clothing culture with vigor, and with confidence when talking about the city’s future.

“There is a sense of pride to be a part of the city again, and that’s something I think will help bring the city back and better than it ever was,” said Nevicato.