Grungy garments and personalized plaid: Student develops and runs hand-sewn clothing line

by Dina Kleiner / Beacon Staff • September 18, 2014

When walking down Boylston Street, students can be seen sporting alternative looks, from floor length trench coats to gold spanx. But what could be called the classic hipster uniform—canvas jackets and plaid button-downs—may best characterize the Emerson style.

Warren Lotas, a sophomore marketing communication major, is putting his own spin on this grungy trend.

Lotas’s new clothing line Bill, weaves compelling prints of symbols, faces, and words, into items such as flannels, jean jackets, and zip-ups. For Lotas, big visuals and bold images shouldn’t be restricted to the average graphic tee; they he uses them as an enhancement or focal point of Bill’s oversized outerwear look.

Since last winter, Lotas has made 15 garments and has sold seven of them to date. The line has garnered around $5,000 in sales so far, according to Lotas.

Lotas’s dorm room serves as the headquarters of his line. The room is half bedroom, half workshop, with different long sleeve shirts and jackets hanging from the walls and a single rack in the corner. One jacket, made of canvas material, had an abstract white and black print sewn on the back. Another had a skull engulfed in flames. A denim piece had smaller, abstract symbols patched onto the front.

Lotas gestured at the materials in his room.

“This is me, for sure,” he said.

Lotas said he started Bill—which is named for his deceased uncle—around the beginning of last year after realizing that what he wanted in a shirt wasn’t available for sale.

“I wanted to have a flannel with an image on it, and I had no idea how I was going to do it,” Lotas said. “So I found an image of Satan, and I sewed it on. I learned how to use a sewing machine in, like, twenty minutes.”

Customers who purchase Bill clothing have their items custom made, which Lotas said can take five or six hours to create. Everything Lotas makes is hand-sewn and rebuilt from other materials, giving the line of clothing a rough and pieced-together style that he said has a profitable look.

Darien Cornelious, a customer from Chicago who purchased a blue flannel with a cemetery graphic on the back, said he appreciated Bill’s unpolished style.

 “[The clothing] just has a unique touch that no one else has,” Cornelious said. “I think he’s ahead of his time.”

Lotas said he never intended for Bill to become popular. His buyers have come from across the country, though no Emerson students have purchased from him. Lotas said most of his customers discovered the clothing line through social media sites like Facebook.

According to Lotas, maintaining his small and personal focus on Bill is crucial to the line’s existence. Lotas said sales are not his top priority—he is really doing it for himself.

“It’s an efficient way to translate my emotion into a physical product,” Lotas said.

 Lotas said he plans to keep his construction process small and handmade, instead of expanding. He said he wants Bill to remain a creative, rather than entrepreneurial, undertaking—an outlet for self-expression that happens to allow customers to purchase the results.

 It is this creative integrity that makes the clothing line so appealing, according to Cornelious.

 “[Lotas] puts a lot of time in [his work],” Cornelious said. “You can tell he’s just really passionate about what he does.”