The Garfield Galleria is home to many talented artists, including three fashion-forward designers. I sat down with a T-shirt creator, jewelry maker and a gown seamstress and got an up-close look at their operations.
Brian Cresson, 28, is the sole designer and curator for Alter Ego, his handmade T-shirt line that is expanding quickly in the Downtown community. He uses completely original designs and stencils on each shirt, and even makes his own tags with his vintage typewriter.
Downtown Phoenix Journal: How did you come up with Alter Ego as your brand’s name?
Brian Cresson: At the time I was still at my other job, which was managing some restaurants at a local resort, I kind of started doing this and I decided to make the move down and get a little more involved in my art. So at the time it was sort of my alter ego, later on I realized that out there was my alter ego but in here doing this was the real me.
DPJ: When did you first begin creating art?
BC: It is something I have always been into. I have always been making things, building and painting things. As far as really getting into this it has really been over the past few years.
DPJ: How long ago did you decide to become a full-time artist?
BC: It has been about 3 months now. A lot of things have really happened in just a couple of months. I was juggling both of them and it felt like my other job was taking away from my creative time. It wasn’t fair to keep doing that.
BC: My main focus is the clothing right now. I was painting for a while . . . I had been pushing that for a long time trying to get people to catch on to what I was doing. I then started cutting sleeves off of my T-shirts and jeans into shorts and I decided to make a stencil to put my studio on my shirt then I thought oh I can add a little more to that and I added a few photos of them on Facebook and within two days I had about 10 requests for shirts. It was just like this is it. I have always been into fashion and I have stood out at times, so when that hit it was a light bulb moment and so I hung the paintings up and started figuring out how to do clothing. I just taught myself and I learn something new everyday.
DPJ: How do you choose your fabrics for the shirts?
BC: Everything is handpicked. I collect vintage shirts from around town; thrifting all around from the Downtown shops to Mesa. I pick depending on the feel of the shirt, how worn is it and what the print is on it. I like a lot of local stuff and I find really neat pieces that are of different things that have happened in the past in Arizona and the world, like one from Arnold Schwarzenegger running for California governor to beat the heat shirts from the heat wave in Arizona in 1991. A lot of my time is picking the right shirts and colors.
BC: First I hand pick the shirt for the design, from there I am hand drawing whatever symbol or design that is going to be on there and then making that into a stencil, which I also hand cut. Then working right on the floor, I use actual screen print ink and I paint it by hand with a paint brush. It is quite a tedious process.
DPJ: How long does each shirt take to make?
BC: Anywhere from one to four hours, but that varies with each shirt. The thing is I am not doing the same thing over and over again, so it changes every time. I just keep on trying something new, which is my fault. It is evolving really quickly.
DPJ: First painting and now T-shirts, what is next for you?
BC: I want to expand to more types of clothing, more feminine cuts for shirts and tanks, creating shoes, bags and dresses. I will also use more interesting fabrics in the future.
DPJ: Are you involved in the Downtown community?
BC: Yeah, I really have fallen in love with the people and scene down here. The whole community I have come into is a great feel. I have been involved with Roosevelt Row CDC and the Valley of the Sunflowers, from the planting of the seeds to maintaining the field and the harvesting this weekend. Everyone Downtown is very supportive of what I am doing.
DPJ: Other than in the gallery, are the shirts available anywhere else?
BC: They are featured at GROWop right now, but it is all so new so finding the right places to carry them is still in process. I also have my ETSY shop. I will be having a First Friday show on Friday, July 6 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at GROWop as well.