Jana Petten wanted to make her family handmade Christmas presents in 2013. In an effort to skip holiday-induced consumerism, Petten, who had been sewing since she was 12 years old, purchased a screen printing kit and taught herself how to use it.
The resulting design was a t-shirt with a cupcake icon and the phrase “some sweet” underneath.
“I’m trying to make it traditional but also current,” says Petten of her clothing line Figgyduff Dory, that started with her Christmas experiment.
Named after Figgyduff, a traditional Newfoundland pudding, her clothing line and online shop have become a popular destination for locals looking to showcase their Newfoundland pride.
Petten draws her inspiration from local sayings and culture. Her biggest seller is a beanie with the words “Froze Ta Det.” Some t-shirt captions include: “Long Live the Mustard Pickle” and “I Dies at You.”
“I think it’s something a local could wear on a daily basis and not feel tacky,” says Petten.
Petten isn’t the only young entrepreneur stepping into the clothing industry. Brands like Juniper, Authenticity, Cult Atlantic, The Funeral Club and more are drawing local, and sometimes international, attention.
Shane O’Rielly started Cult Atlantic in late 2015. Like Figgyduff Dory, his products are geared toward locals and often branded with “St. John’s, Newfoundland.”
“People like it, maybe because it says Newfoundland. That was a bit of a tactic,” says O’Rielly. “You want to put where you’re coming from on a shirt. You want it to be known it’s local. I guess that’s kind of the ‘cult’ thing. People kind of attach themselves to what’s local, what’s homegrown, what’s from here.”
Curtis Wiest, owner of The Funeral Club, a patches and pins brand geared towards “assholes and dickheads,” according to Wiest, says young people are branching out into the clothing industry for many reasons.
“To express themselves. Show who they are, who they want to be, who they should be or who you should be … Maybe they want to succeed in a small business and have that extra money and not eat out of a tin can” says Wiest.
Budget 2016 hit business owners and consumers in Newfoundland hard with increased HST, job losses, income levies and more to reduce a forecasted multi-billion dollar provincial deficit.
One of O’Rielly’s products, a sticker named Ol’ Dirty Ball, plays on the lyrics to “Baby, I got your money” with the caption: “Hey Newfies, b’ys I got yer money.”
O’Rielly said the budget made running his business more costly and the sticker was a way to “make a stab at him.”
Jana Petten now sells some of her line at Model Citizens, a popular shop downtown, and is looking to grow Figgyduff Dory in Newfoundland, despite the financial difficulties.
“I’ve got a stubborn streak and I really want to make a go of it here,” says Petten. “I’ve been tempted a couple of times to leave and go elsewhere … I guess I’m just stubborn. I don’t want to give up. I love it.”
Article by Jillian Morgan