The sky — or rather his dorm room – is the limit for sophomore Jesse Bowser. Bowser, a graphic design major, uses his dorm room as a design studio for his apparel design business, Vernos Apparel, through which he sells T-shirts and sweatshirts with hand-printed designs he created.
“At the moment it’s all hand-done,” Bowser said. “I do it just out of a dorm. Everything people own has been 100 percent hand printed by myself.”
Bowser said his process includes sketching a design and recreating it in Adobe Illustrator. He then transfers the design to a thick sheet of paper and cuts it out to act like a professional stencil. The stenciled design is transferred to the sweatshirt or T-shirt by hand with ink.
The business’ Facebook page lists seven designs for purchase, all of them including the words, “Vernos” or “Vernos Brand.” The page refers to the clothing as “hand-printed, quality threads.”
Joanna Wheatley, a junior nursing major, said Vernos Apparel is a play on words. She said Bowser thought of “very nice” – something people say when they see something they like – and called his apparel “Vernos,” pronounced as if “very nice” was slurred.
Bowser said the experience he’s gaining from designing Vernos Apparel is preparing him for a more permanent career in apparel design.
“A big part of that industry comes through experience,” he said, “so this is really giving me a great outlet to start experimenting and experiencing that side of it – the responsibility that comes with that, the personal creativity that comes with it, my own designs.”
Mark Taggart, Bowser’s roommate, said he believes Bowser’s determination will land him a career in apparel design.
“He’ll keep doing everything he can to get where he wants to go with this,” Taggart said. “He’s using all his resources, expanding who he talks to (professionally). He really wants this. I think he’s eventually going to get it, because that’s just how his personality is.”
Although Bowser said he has always been passionate about art, he said he didn’t become specifically interested in graphic design until he took a basic graphics class his senior year of high school.
Bowser said it was around that time that he started Vernos Apparel, but he has been submitting his artwork for the past few years to designbyhumans, a website that allows designers to upload their artwork to be voted on. The winning designs, those with the most votes, are printed on T-shirts and phone cases and are sold by the website.
One of Bowser’s designs won last year, and, in addition to having his design printed on T-shirts, Bowser said the win allowed him to open his own online design shop, called Feel the Horizon, this past winter. This shop features several more of his designs through designbyhumans.
“All I have to do is provide the artwork, and they print, sell and ship the shirts and phone cases for me,” Bowser said in an email. “It has been a really awesome experience so far, and has given me a place to use all my designs that are separate from Vernos. Knowing that there are people around the world wearing my shirts is pretty incredible.”
Bowser said that Vernos Apparel didn’t turn into much of anything until he came to Cedarville, and Wheatley said Bowser’s business has spread around campus by word-of-mouth.
“(It’s been) successful in that everyone that has (Vernos brand apparel), loves it,” Wheatley said. “I know every time I wear my sweatshirt, it gets compliments around here.”
Wheatley said the quality of Bowser’s designs is what sets his work apart. She said he sets a high standard for both himself and the clothing that he produces.
“It’s doesn’t take him long to come up with something that’s super great,” she said.
Taggart said Bowser’s designing talent is unique because of how far he can expand one idea.
“He can take one thing and make a dozen different designs out of that one idea, and each one is unique and looks completely different from the other,” Taggart said. “But it’s still hinged on the same idea.”
Taggart described Bowser’s designs as having an “outdoors-mixed-with-a-skater-type” theme. He also said the designs are abstract and include original ideas.
“(They’re) incorporating things people usually haven’t seen or aren’t used to seeing,” Taggart said, “and I think that’s what draws people in.”
Wheatley said Bowser’s designs, which she described as having a “sophisticated nature” theme, are inspired more by Bowser’s own imagination than by things he sees in the world. Bowser said his current designs have been created with the consumer in mind.
“Often when it comes to design and art, it’s really personal stuff, like, ‘This is what I like,’” he said. “But you really have to have the consumer in mind and create things that other people are going to want to purchase, but things I’m satisfied with myself. I’m not going to create things I wouldn’t want to wear, but I want to create things other people would want to wear.”
Bowser said his greatest limit in designing has been his access to equipment. He said he looks forward to acquiring the proper equipment or establishing a partnership with a screen printer to do screen printing with his apparel. But Bowser said he hasn’t let limited equipment hinder his quality.
“It’s really caused me to get really creative,” he said, “because I’m not willing to sacrifice quality for comfort or just the easy way to do it.”
And Taggart said Bowser spends as much or more time on his designs as he does on his schoolwork because he’s not willing to sacrifice that quality.
“He is definitely doing it every day,” Taggart said. “It’s not something that he like picks up and puts off; it’s pretty much part of his everyday life.”
Bowser said he has acted on his passion for designing by creating Vernos Apparel because it is a gift and a passion God has given him.
“I’m just like an example of people really taking the next step to pursue their passions,” Bowser said. “So I think it’s really important for people to realize that so much of the things that we look for in this world, whether it be clothing – or just whatever, music, art – you can find it here. You just have to remember to look to your fellow student for that kind of thing.”
Anna Dembowski is a sophomore journalism major and assistant campus news editor for Cedars. She likes nearly anything that is the color purple and enjoys spelling the word “agathokakological.”