Streetwear Spotlight: IVP Designs + Giveaway

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IVP DESIGNS CLOTHING GIVEAWAY

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IVP Designs Clothing is sponsoring a giveaway of Jesup Chess Club, Pelican Bay Poker Club and Deer Island Athletic t-shirts -all valued at $50.00 each, via a “SoJones Forum Comments Lottery”. Here’s how it works:

Every comment posted on this page from November 13 to November 20th , 2009 counts as a “lottery entry”. Be sure that when you comment you add your email address, or have a link to somewhere we can contact you (like your SoJones profile, facebook, twitter, etc.). This makes it easier to get a hold of you if you win.

Drawing for three winners of the IVP Designs Clothing Giveaway will be held on November 21. Winners will be announced on this page and on the forums page (http://www.sojones.com/forums/).

Forum Comments Lottery Rules

One item per winner
Duplicate comments will not count, like posting “I love this forum” or “hi” 50 times.
Garbage or nonsensical comments will not count, like “awr#$ASFasdfkl”
Comments hating on other people will definitely NOT count.
U.S. residents only

IVP LogoThere is an inspiring story about the birth of IVP, a prison-inspired streetwear line soon to hit your wardrobes, proving that success can come out from any mistake .   Just how much can prison be an inspiration for a streetwear line?  SoJones.com talked exclusively with L.T. Deaton, the founder of IVP Designs.

Introduce yourself and describe how your brand was started?

My name is L.T. Deaton. I am a former federal inmate.

I will never forget when I came up with the idea for IVP. I remember the date because it was New Year’s Eve in 2003 and I was incarcerated. As you can probably imagine, New Year’s is a pretty bleak time when you’re locked up. But I was getting released in April of 2004 so I was very anxious for 2004 to arrive. I remember thinking about what I was going to do when I got out and knew that it was going to be really tough. But I had learned so much about myself while I was incarcerated and I knew that when I got out, I wanted to start something that would make a difference in the world. I knew that I had to be a better person. That night I was out on the rec-yard on New Years Eve and it occurred to me that every prison has a reputation; every prison has its own identity. For example I knew at FCI Jesup, the lifers used to sit around the picnic tables in the center of the rec-yard and play chess. When you’re doing life you needed something to help keep you sane and for these guys chess was it. So they were the “Jesup Chess Club”. I started asking around about other prisons. Every penitentiary (or USP) has a huge number of inmates that have been bussed in from other prisons for one reason or another. On the inside we just referred to the long bus ride as “diesel therapy”. But this also meant I had access to a large amount of inside information about life at other prisons from the guys that had been there. Pretty soon it became obvious that every prison had some kind of unofficial club or group; some were known to the outside world, but most were not. Most people didn’t know about the world-class poker players at Pelican Bay, but the Angola Rodeo is on TV every year. Mark Wahlberg has stated in interviews that he started weightlifting during his stay at Deer Island Correctional. Almost no one knows about the cage fights at USP Beaumont. I thought it was an original idea for a line of clothing.

When I was released, I had 900 hours of community service to perform and three years of probation. I really didn’t start making IVP happen until I was almost 2 years into my probation. It wasn’t easy. It’s absolutely terrible being a convicted felon; it’s almost impossible to get a job. But I was extremely lucky that I had the support and love of my family and they’re the only reason why I’m where I’m at today. I was also very fortunate that I met some very accomplished people that believed in my vision of the brand. They’re unbelievably smart and talented. They work so hard and deserve so much credit for getting IVP to where it’s at now. We wanted to make a quality product and we knew we didn’t want to manufacture in Southeast Asia or someplace like that. We decided to look at France. As you know some of the best designers in the world come from France but for some reason the tee shirt business hadn’t figured this out. So we hired a French designer and started making tees over there. When it came time to pick a name for the brand we decided to use a French name, first because it was where we started and second to help distinguish our product in the marketplace. IVP is an acronym for the French phrase “Inspire par la Vie Prisonniere” or “Inspired by the Life of the Prisoner”. For pricing and practical reasons we now also manufacture in the USA as well. We started selling online in September 2009.

Seeing that your main inspiration comes from the different things each prison has, could you give examples on how you implement them on your designs?
We first made a list of all the clubs we wanted to do. Although we have only released 5 designs so far, we have a backlog of over 30+ designs that we will be rolling out in the next year or two. For each design we try to stay very true to the concept of the club so each graphic is pretty specific. The Angola Rodeo tee looks like a classic rodeo tee and for our Pelican Bay Poker Club tee we tried to make it look as much like a playing card as possible. Our graphic designer did a great job on that one. I am also really proud of the Jesup Chess Club tee. The design portrays a clock with no hands, the universal prison symbol for life without parole and the chess pieces on the clock are for the many inmates that play the game to keep their minds right and not to become what they call “institutionalized.” I hope you can see the thought and care go into each design.

You penetrated the European streetwear market in such short time. Why Europe and what continent are you aiming for next? Any difference between the streetwear scene there and in the US?
We did move into Europe rather quickly, but I think that the most important thing is that as long as you make a quality product, and the graphics are cool, the product will sell itself. Everyone loves the story behind IVP, but if the tee shirts weren’t quality and the graphics weren’t cool, we wouldn’t be selling as many as we are now. I think that the biggest difference in the American streetwear scene and the rest of the world is that American’s like their clothes a little baggier and Europeans and the rest of the world for that matter like their clothes much more fitted. I think that’s one reason why we’re doing so well in Europe. Our tees are somewhat more fitted and the fabric is absolutely brilliant. We sell at Supra in London and the reaction in the UK and Europe has been overwhelmingly positive. I also think Europeans are fascinated by authentic Americana and the American underworld scene, and our brand has a lot of that. In the near future I’d love to move into Japan. I’ve always been intrigued by the Japanese culture and I think that our brand would do well there. Until then, people can buy through our web site at www.ivpdesigns.com.

Any product placements on celebs, in movies or videos to keep an eye out for? Is there any celeb or well-known figure(s) who you think exemplify the brand?
As you may have read online, we have made a deal to do a tee shirt to promote awareness of federal prisoner George Martorano. George is currently approaching his third decade at FCI Coleman doing life without parole for a first-time, non-violent drug offense, the longest such sentence in US history. While locked up George has been a model prisoner, written several books and taught writing to his fellow inmates. The tee will be called Coleman Creative Writing. It will be released next month. This tee has come to the attention of George’s cousin, famed restaurateur Steve Martorano. Steve owns Café Martorano in Florida and Las Vegas and he has been a huge supporter and we are planning on doing some joint publicity with him to help George’s cause. We have also had requests from the producers of several TV shows for samples of our tees. These include, “Entourage”, “Warehouse 13” and the upcoming F/X series “Lights Out”. We’ve also had some great support from the people at Ruthless and Toothless : Peter “Hollywood P”, Darren, Joey, Garver, Jimmy and Yoji and all of the Miami Ink crew. We expect our tees to appear in several series during the upcoming season. I’d also love to do a project with hip-hop artist T.I.. I think that what he went through and is going through is much the same that I went through. I think that when he gets released from prison he’s going to come out and do some amazing things for our world. I know that he’s going to make a difference and that’s what we at IVP are striving to do.

Any expansion plans, maybe cut-and-sew pieces, accessories line or other design inspirations not related to prison life in the future?
We’re going to be doing it all. We have our hoodies coming out this fall and next year we’ll have polo shirts, button-ups and jackets. We have already trademarked several spin-off brands and look forward to releasing them as well. We have a very special hat project lined-up with Corporate (one of our retailers) in Cincinnati. Matt Tomamichel, the owner of Corporate has been one our biggest supporters and I’m very excited about doing that project with him. Next year our women’s line, Femme Mortelle, will be in stores. A lot of our upcoming releases will go beyond our pure prison-theme and diversify the product line, but at the same time we will always stay true to where IVP was born. For example every IVP garment will carry the orange IVP label. Our orange woven label has the same look and location as the prisoner ID tag that is issued on every piece of clothing you wear when you’re incarcerated. We will always stay true to where IVP came from.

Looking ahead over the next year or two, what themes/looks/styles do you see your brand gravitating to?
To be honest, I don’t look for IVP to gravitate towards any particular trend. We have a very simple and high-concept behind our brand and most other brands don’t have this advantage. We’re going to continue to release quality clothing with some really crazy designs and graphics and hopefully the consumer will continue to respond like they have with this initial run of tees. All our products are limited runs and once they are gone it will be on to the next thing. As I mentioned we have a huge backlog of designs so we will execute those and also try to expand the brand with designs that are prison-themed but not prison specific. We want to take people “inside” and “are you ready to come inside” is our brand slogan, but we don’t want to glamorize prison life. A federal prison is a horrible place to be. But it’s also hard to deny that this country locks up a higher percentage of it’s citizens than almost any country in the world and this means almost everyone will know a convict at some point in their life. Hopefully this will keep the IVP brand relevant.

What themes/looks/styles do you see your brand moving away from?
Again we mostly march to the beat of our own drum, style-wise. The idea behind our brand is pretty conceptual and specific so we try to let the idea for any given tee take the design where it needs to go. Whatever changes we make will likely come from outside collaborations. I don’t see IVP doing too many collaborations, but the ones we do will likely bring an outside influence. For example, we are doing a tee in association with Pete Gibaldi of Premium Laces in New York City. Pete has also been a huge supporter of IVP. He asked us to do a tee for the Lakeview Shock facility in upstate New York. Shock facilities are prisons that deal with younger offenders and Pete volunteers his time at Lakeview and tries to help straighten out the lives of these kids. This tee will be different than most of our others. The Lakeview design is stunning but it’s almost classical in feel; very different than what we would have done without Pete’s influence.

You donate a percentage of your profits to an organization called Prisoner Life. Can you tell us about that?
Again, this is just an effort for me to turn a negative experience in my life into a positive one. Part of that process was about creating IVP. But the other part is about giving back for the 2nd chance I got. Prisoner Life is an organization that is trying to help inmates keep is touch with the outside world, which I can tell you first hand is very important. At the same time Prisoner life helps inmates who’ve been released from prison adjust back into society. All of which is important to us at IVP. I never want to forget what I did and the price I paid. But I also know that there are a lot of people on the inside who deserve a second chance at life. I hope I am one of them. I try to prove it every day now with IVP.

To participate in doing good deed while getting a stylish understanding about prison life, head on to IVP’s website at www.ivpdesigns.com and prepare to shell out $50 to $90 for each design.  But check out these picks from SoJones.com’s editors, you might win one of the fabulous IVP t-shirts… for free.

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DEER ISLAND ATHLETIC, $50.00
Deer Island: Medium Security
Located in Boston Harbor, Deer Island has a long, dark place in history. In the 1600s Native Americans were imprisoned there. In the 1800s Irish immigrants were quarantined and in the 1900s it became the site of the Deer Island Correctional Facility. Despite this sordid past many inmates have credited their salvation to the pursuit of weightlifting, also known as working the iron pile.
Collar Text: Work The Iron Pile

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PELICAN BAY POKER CLUB, $50.00
Pelican Bay: SuperMax Security
The Pelican Bay facility was established in 1989 to house inmates considered too dangerous for other prisons. It’s a place for serious men who play serious poker. If a man can win at poker in Pelican Bay he’s ready for the World Championships.
Collar Text: Never Fold

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JESUP CHESS CLUB, $50.00
Jesup: Medium Security
In the heart of Dixie, FCI Jesup is known for its brutal heat and humidity. And the long days seem unending when you’re in for life – a clock with no hands is the fitting symbol for this grim prospect. To preserve their sanity, inmates can be found in the center of the rec-yard playing a game of chess.
Collar Text: The Game Is Life

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