View Full Version : Local college students start clothing line

08-31-2007, 07:48 AM
Grassroots efforts help Tree and Leaf grow

By Sara Ganus
Business Writer

Any male teenager or twenty-something is prone to forming a band out of an old garage — or at least thinking about it — during his youth.

But less than two years ago, friends Dusty Gilpin, 21; John Milner, 22; and Bryson Panas, 22; chose to start a business and launched a T-shirt company and apparel line they named Tree and Leaf Clothing Inc. out of a friend's vacant two-car garage in Edmond.

The reason — and the result — may surprise you.

"We're not out to make money,” said Gilpin, the company's designer who is also a full-time student at the University of Central Oklahoma. "I think that's why we're catching on with college-age individuals. Our core values are hope, love, truth, art and music, and we do our best to stay pretty connected with that.”

In a short time, what began as a small word-of-mouth operation has expanded into a full-service screen printing company, a line of fashion T-shirts and a 1,500-square-foot store at 8405-1 N Rockwell Ave., which opened Aug. 9.

With local artists' work adorning the store walls and a newly constructed stage in one corner, the new space exudes the company's ideals, which have helped it attract customers — mostly the college-age crowd — with little more than a philosophy and a laid-back attitude.

"Normally when people order shirts, you call in, they give you a price quote, they design it, e-mail it, it's done — much like the experience of going to Wal-Mart,” said Milner, who handles the company's finances. "This one's a bit different where you just know what you're going to get. If you want to watch us print it, come on in, and hang out with us. There aren't many things I can think of that we have said, ‘No' to.”

Unlike some of its competitors, the young Tree and Leaf founders have turned to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to fuel their grassroots-based business. Printing on sweatshop-free American Apparel T-shirts, Tree and Leaf frequently asks bands to wear their apparel in exchange for promotion on the company's Web site or page.

"We've never paid for advertising,” Gilpin said.

The result has been free exposure and support for other local artists.

"I would say our vision works right in line with expressing Oklahoma and expressing ourselves or just providing truth, really spurring local art,” said Panas, the company's Web site developer who studies entrepreneurship at the University of Oklahoma.

Mike Decker, owner of apparel store and salon The Ridge in Stillwater and Edmond, said he started carrying the Tree and Leaf T-shirt line about eight months ago because he liked the founders' message. It is now one of his top-selling brands for that style of T-shirt, which retails for $22 to $28.

"They had a lot to offer, not just in their T-shirts, but it seemed like they were well-rounded,” Decker said. "They had a good look, a good image, and when you put it up to some of our national representatives, it was definitely a brand that stood out.”

Still, college-age hipsters and concertgoers aren't Tree and Leaf's only customers. While the apparel line attracts a younger customer base, the company's screen printing services are its main source of revenue.

"We're in a period now where we don't know where (business) is coming from, but we get it,” Milner said.

Now with the new store, the Tree and Leaf co-owners hope to expand both of their business ventures and continue to spread their message and support local artists.

"I think it's definitely a breath of fresh air to the screen printing industry and the music and art scenes in Oklahoma,” Gilpin said. "I'd like to think we're starting to build a name for people here.”

Tree and Leaf Clothing Inc. co-owners, from left, Dusty Gilpin, Bryson Panas and John Milner, are shown Wednesday inside their office at 8405-1 N Rockwell. By jaconna Aguirre, The Oklahoman

08-31-2007, 07:55 AM
I'm wondering how much more effort it would have been for the author Sara Ganus to add the company's website to the article. Oklahoman journalism at its finest right? Anyhow, I googled it and here it is:

Tree and Leaf Clothing ~ authentic threads made to fit (

08-31-2007, 08:49 AM
Looks like their website is under construction.. maybe that's why she didn't include it.

But what a positive inspiring story. Very cool. - Tree and Leaf Clothing Inc. - 22 - Male - OKC, OKLAHOMA - (

08-31-2007, 02:49 PM
Good to see that my friends band, The Legend of Junior Sapp is on their homepage.

Oh GAWD the Smell!
08-31-2007, 10:25 PM
I wonder if they could make me a new Rage Against the Machine tshirt. Mine is pretty worn and they don't make them any more. If not...Maybe Pantera.

j/k :)