‘Funk Soul Brothers’
Siblings blend entrepreneurial skills to create a clothing brand.
With a passion for art and a love for fashion, Evan Berman began sketching designs in high school, not realizing these drawings would turn into something more.
In 2009, Evan was living in Lansing, and the concept of F.you.N.K. (Freedom You Now Know) just came to him.
“I was introduced to the Black Keys, downloaded their CD and all I did that night was listen to music and sketch,” said Evan, 25, of West Bloomfield. “I was mostly doing typography and ‘funk’ just came out in a drawing. The design sparked a whole thing inside me, and I went with it.
“I’m a fan of acronyms, so I wanted to give ‘funk’ more meaning. I want people to see funk and wear it as an expressive thing,” Evan added.
Evan brought his brother, Jared, 23, on board. They decided to make T-shirts and sell them at the 2009 Electric Forest Festival, a music festival in Rothbury, Mich.
“We thought it would be a cool event to go to and sell our shirts,” said Jared, who lives in Detroit. “We put 100 shirts in a backpack, walked around and sold every single one of them.”
This success launched a business for the brothers. Between 2009 and 2011, Evan was growing as a designer and learning the business. In 2011, the two received a grant from Hebrew Free Loan. They filed an LLC and officially sold F.you.N.K. products at the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit.
The brothers recently finished their summer collection; they were in the print shop every day for a week perfecting it.
“Every time a color was printed, we checked to make sure it was right,” Jared said. “We even talked to the lady who sews on the tags and made sure she put them where we wanted. It’s important to be hands-on in the factory.”
Designs are printed at different factories in the Metro Detroit area, depending on the print. F.you.N.K. products can be found at entertainment venues, art festivals, street fairs and online at www.freedomyounowknow.com.
The two have good connections with local shops; however, they are taking their time to make sure the product is exactly how they want it before they sell it in stores.
“The best way for our brand to survive right now is vending, wholesale and online. We’re starting wholesale this summer,” Jared explained. “We sell the most merchandise at entertainment venues.”
This year, the Bermans have set up tables at the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit and the Orion Festival at Belle Isle. They plan to sell F.you.N.K. products at a street fair at Campus Martius in Downtown Detroit on the fourth Friday and Saturday in July and August.
To promote the brand, they advertise and publicize on social media websites. It is the easiest and most cost-effective way, Evan said. They also have connections with musical artists who wear and promote the product. Local artists such as Claude VonStroke and GRiZ as well as Israeli dubstep producer Borgore have been spotted wearing F.you.N.K. merchandise.
“Jared and I have a network of friends who help promote F.you.N.K.,” Evan said. “Some we’ve met at music festivals, some are musicians who perform in different states and promote the brand there, and a lot of friends we grew up with love to help us out promotional wise as well.”
Friend Steven Betel of Farmington Hills said, “People tend to stop me whenever I wear the shirt and ask where I got it or what it means. I like the shirts because of the unique designs, bold colors and the link to Detroit. I also like the message of the brand, ‘freedom you now know.’”
Shirts are either made of 100 percent cotton or a variety of cotton blends. Pricing varies between $22-$28, depending on the design and style of the shirt. Hats are $42.
For now, F.you.N.K. is a side job for the Berman brothers. Since this endeavor, Evan has accepted a scholarship to College of Creative Studies in Detroit where he is currently studying graphic design.
“School is something I want to continue as a designer to keep growing and learning,” he said.
Evan also is working part-time at Urban Outfitters and ANC Sports, where he does media integration at Comerica Park and Joe Louis Arena. This summer, he has an internship doing freelance design work for MyLocker, an online custom gear shop.
Jared is part of Challenge Detroit and works full-time in accounting for Farmington Hills-based Mango Languages.
“At times, working with my brother can be hard,” Jared said. “We hear all the time not to work with family.”
“It’s our greatest strength and greatest weakness,” Evan said.
“Yeah, totally,” Jared responded.
In the future, the Bermans hope to make this a full-time job. They want F.you.N.K. to become sustainable before they start making a profit from selling clothing. Right now, all the profit they make goes back into the company.
“We’re going on our third summer, and we finally feel like we’ve got it figured out,” Evan said. “We’re ready for the world.”
By Leslie Spector, JN Intern