Huddersfield student Chloe McAteer was inspired by the tattoos sported by several friends to design a line of T-shirts she calls ‘tattees’. HILARIE STELFOX reports
THE CHALLENGE for any young fashion designer is to come up with something new.
For 20-year-old Huddersfield student Chloe McAteer the solution to the problem was staring her in the face.
Inspired by the tattoos sported by several of her friends she began to design a line of T-shirts that she calls ‘tattees.’
She said: “A lot of my friends have tattoos – they are really popular. Three of the boys have full sleeve tattoos.
“Being around them all the time made me think there was a way to use tattoos on T-shirts.”
Ironically Chloe doesn’t have any tattoos herself. “My mum would kill me,” she says.
And so the BA fashion design undergraduate decided to take the plunge and launch her own label which she has named CL03 MAC after the personalised number plate on the car she was given for her 17th birthday.
Chloe is currently on an enterprise placement year during which students can seek work with an established business or develop their own ideas.
She was successful in acquiring a place at the University of Huddersfield’s Business Mine, a special service that provides advice, mentoring and assistance to graduates and students.
Originally from Rossendale in Lancashire, Chloe now lives in Huddersfield town centre and works from home as well as the Business Mine.
At the end of her enterprise year she will return to her studies which include fashion marketing and production, but plans to keep CL03 MAC up and running so that she will have a job when she graduates.
The tattees are just one range in Chloe’s collection. Others feature images of her friend, drama student Grace Parker (Amazing Grace) and boxing girls (Fighting Fit). She uses a wide range of artistic skills in her designs from photography and computer art to drawing and has taken a decidedly unfeminist approach to fashion.
A new collection she is working on will include images of scantily-clad women.
“The men like that sort of thing,” she says.
Chloe is also on the lookout for young women with full sleeve tattoos who are willing to model for designs.
“I’ve had to buy the basic T-shirts from a variety of suppliers and then check them for quality and see how they washed,” explained Chloe.
The Business Mine advisers have helped her avoid copyright and other legal pitfalls and she describes her experience as an entrepreneur as a “steep learning curve”.
As well as researching the designs and marketing her brand, Chloe has also had to track down a specialist printer.
She said: “Traditional screen printing would have been too costly because there are so many colours. It would have involved 12 or more separate screens. But in the end I found a printer in Sheffield who can do direct-to-garment printing and I’m really happy with the results.”
Through the Business Mine she has also accessed the help of mentor Hardy Punglia who runs the Left Bank in the Byram Arcade.
As well as selling Chloe’s T-shirts he has given her invaluable help, based on his own struggles to establish a successful brand.
“I wanted to make the T-shirts myself but Hardy advised against it and said it would take up too much of my time,’’ said Chloe. “Buying them in is more cost effective.
“I’m now thinking about extending the range to include vests and sweatshirts and I’ve got to find outlets outside Huddersfield.”
So far Chloe says she has sold around 50 T-shirts, which retail at around £22, and has yet to make her fortune, but is enthusiastic and ambitious.
Although there are designs for men and women in her collection, she is finding that buyers are adopting a unisex approach.
Her original start-up costs were covered by her parents and she says she still has a long way to go before her brand is as famous as designer Henry Holland’s.
The fellow Lancastrian is now an established name with his own department in Debenhams stores.
“I did some work experience at 16 with Henry Holland,” explained Chloe, “ and he started off with T-shirts. Now I’ve got to make people aware of what I’m doing, to build my label up.”
Tattoo art has been with us for thousands of years. Otzi the Iceman, found in the Alps and dating from the fourth to fifth millennium BC, had up to 60 carbon tattoos consisting of simple dots and lines on his body.
Tattoos have gone mainstream in recent years. Even Barbie, the world’s most famous doll, was sold in 2009 with a range of tattoos that could be applied to either the doll or its owner. The move attracted criticism.