Young designers making their mark on, what else?, t-shirts


Ever wonder what teenage artists coming up through the ranks are doing? A Sag Harbor clothing store, LABL, a hip shop carrying new lines by several young designers who live on the East End, may provide a window in. A few are still in high school. Others are in their 20s and are trying to make a splash with either edgy clothing or fine art, or both.

But first, you have to find the store. LABL is in Sag Harbor Village but so far off the beaten path that a map seems a necessity. From Main Street, the store is accessible after penetrating the Shopping Cove, where Black Cat Books, Java Nation and a few other shops make their home.

Head down the back stairs and make a left into a small brick courtyard, and there you’ll find LABL. An almost secret entrance from the public parking lot tucked behind Main Street also leads to LABL.

To make a splash (and encourage people to find them), the store holds afternoon pizza and soda parties with music when a new local designer unveils his or her clothing line. Last Saturday, there was an opening for Qendrim Hoti. The Southampton teenager launched a new line under the name Gryle (short for Grimy Style), which includes six t-shirt designs so far. More designs are under development.

Several of Mr. Hoti’s fine art paintings are perched on the clothing racks that hug the store walls. As an artist, he is represented by Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton. As might be expected, Mr. Hoti is happy with the attention his clothing and artwork have been receiving lately. He graduated from Southampton High School last year and decided to devote a year to his art before going to art school.

His artwork depicts urban landscapes marked up with graffiti, and both his art and clothing designs reflect his attraction to rawness and imperfection in the world. His art has been exhibited at the Southampton Artists Association’s Student Art Show and he won an honorable mention for his painting, “Brooklyn Subway,” at the Parrish Art Museum student show.

Mr. Hoti makes his own marker paint to make the colors more vibrant. A native of Kosovo, he moved with his family to Canada when he was 2 years old. The family moved to Southampton in 2003.

Including clothing design as part of his artistic output was a natural move, Mr. Hoti said. While he was attending Southampton High School, kids bought t-shirts he designed through word of mouth. Deciding he was onto something, Mr. Hoti pared down some of his designs so they would visually pop from the clothing and the Gryle line was born. ( Most of the designs are silkscreened, but one is “discharged,” which means the graphic is bleached onto the shirt.

Another t-shirt line, Tribute, was founded in a similar fashion. Pierson High School senior Sam Guest starting drawing on clothing with magic markers in sixth grade, about six years ago. Other students starting buying shirts with his handmade designs on them. After a few years, he found a silk screener to re-create his art on clothing. It was then he realized the designs needed to change so they would have more visual punch.

This summer, he developed new designs and Tribute was born. Mr. Guest’s designs are geo-patterned, with 
graphics inspired by patterns found in nature and the industrial world we 
live in, he said. Tribute, which has 
four designs in the current lineup, had 
a trunk show at LABL in October to launch the new line and label.

When Tribute hit the shelves at LABL, Mr. Guest joined several other local designers who had already gotten into the game. The first line welcomed by LABL was Edgewood Goodies, color-drenched t-shirts designed by former Bridgehampton High School classmates Jake Patterson and Max Spooner and Jake’s brother, Tripoli Patterson. The design team has at least three designs in LABL.

The trio sold t-shirts in area stores before launching their new venture this summer. ( Jake is a painter who had a show of his self-portraits at the Bridgehampton Historical Society last winter. He and Mr. Spooner graduated in June. Trip Patterson is an independent curator who has mounted art shows in the Bridgehampton area for the last several summers.

LABL also carries handmade printed designs by Too Shea Clothing. Created by Shea Keating of Sag Harbor in 2006, the one-of-a-kind designs are printed on shirts and ties. Also a painter, Ms. Keating graduated from the School of Visual Arts and also studied at Parsons School of Design and Rhode Island School of Design. Her clothing designs feature a combination of recognizable objects that have a universal quality, she writes on her website,

LABL’s Local section also stocks designs by Dan Bailey of East Quogue and Burgermeister NYC created by Danielle Lebosco of North Haven and New York ( Ms. Lebosco is a visual artist and a member of the Arts 4 collective of Sag Harbor. Mr. Bailey is a percussionist who recently released a recording. (

LABL owner Rob Hess said most of the area designers know his son, David, and have approached the store with their clothing. Not every designer has been accepted, nor is knowing the Hess family a requirement, he explained. Mostly, the designs have to be edgy with 
styling that 
could be classified as risky. They have to catch his eye and fit with the urban-streetwear vibe the shop is known for.

Carrying the clothing of local designers is a way to encourage area talent and give the new store a boost in terms of community, Mr. Hess said. Arts 4 staged an art show at the store over the summer. The designers spread the word about the store to their networks and encourage their friends and supporters to attend the trunk shows.

“We want to have a place where 
they feel comfortable—a place of 
their own,” Mr. Hess said. “We’re not 
in the business of selling local designers. We sell clothing we believe in.”

For many of the designers, it’s their first taste of the business world. This means talking about markups and appropriate pricing. Most of the t-shirts cost between $30 and $50. The local designers who garner the most success bring a following with them to the store, Mr. Hess said.

“It’s definitely a two-way street,” Mr. Hess said. “It’s good for us to attract 
kids to the store and they get their designs out there and a little bit of fame. We have a trunk show opening for all of them. It’s fun. It’s a good way to kick off the line.”

LABL is located at 78 Main Street, Suite 11, under Java Nation in Sag Harbor. The store carries Levis, flannel shirts and casual clothing by WeSC, Accomplice, 3 Sixteen, Shades of Greige and others. For information, call 284-3377 or visit

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