As part of a series written by MODERN MIDWEST.
WEAR YOUR PRIDE, ONE LOON AT A TIME
Few places can top the tiny town of Hayward, Wis., for Spencer Barrett.
“Some of the best times of my life were up at the cabin,” said Barrett, 23. “I’ve been fortunate to travel all around the world, but Hayward, Wis., is still probably my favorite place because of the memories.”
That unique north woods way of escaping to the lakes is a lifestyle Barrett and his friend David Burke wanted to celebrate. But with few existing options available to wear their Midwest pride, the duo decided to create their own apparel line, Great Lakes Collection.
With a successful Kickstarter campaign backing their year-old company (they raised more than $24,000), the friends are about to take another step ahead by ditching wholesale t-shirts and partnering with two North Carolina manufacturers to create a custom line of apparel.
“We both just graduated college, are broke and kind of living on the edge a little bit,” Barrett said. “We started with just an idea, and to see an actual market for it and [have] the ability to go to this cut and sew is pretty rewarding.”
From the weight of the cotton to the color of the shirt, Burke and Barrett won’t be limited by the minimal stock their wholesale manufacturer carried. With newfound creative control, crewneck sweatshirts and long-sleeved tees with pockets are in Great Lakes’ future.
Burke and Barrett at their manufacturing plant in Chicago that creates their Hudson polo.
“We’re building these shirts from the yarn stage, which means sourcing all the way to the ground level,” Burke said. “The options are unlimited for us.”
Currently, Great Lakes partners with manufacturers in Hopkins, Minn., Chicago and North Carolina. It was important to Burke and Barrett to keep their products American-made to support local craftsmanship and get to know the people behind their products.
“We wanted to be more collaborative, involved and really learn about the process,” said Barrett. “It was really nice working with younger guys that were super passionate about creating products,” he said of the Chicago company that manufactures their polo.
“At the ground level, what we’re really doing is celebrating the Midwest,” Burke said.
After all, what could be better than spreading that love of the lakes?
Great Lakes Collection is one of several Midwest brands sold through William Rogue. Learn about them all, here.
“Looking at our website, you probably wouldn’t know it was two college guys running it out of a bed-room-sized office,” said Barrett, 23.
“We wanted to create simple logo, but one that resonated with all Midwesterners,” Barrett said. “The loon is probably one of the most iconic birds of the Midwest. When you hear a loon call, you stop and pay attention to it.”
“If you’re not from the Midwest, chances are you don’t know what a loon is,” said Burke, who’s had clients outside of the Midwest compliment the cute “duck” logo on Great Lakes’ shirts. Welcome to the insider’s club, Midwesterners.
Working with a dye house in Raleigh, N.C., Great Lakes now has control over the exact color they want to dye their shirts. “Working with these dye houses, it’s a different feel to the colors,” Burke said. “Almost a rugged, but refined look to [them].”
Great Lakes donates 1 percent of its bottom line to two organizations that support lake conservation. “We wanted to provide future generations with the same great experience we had growing up on the lake,” said Barrett.
Through their Kickstarter campaign, Great Lakes Collection generated enough money to launch their Hudson polo and Northwoods belt.
The Northwoods belt.
A t-shirt collaboration with Winona, Minn. company, Sanborn Canoe Co.