Laurent Varlet of The Fineprint Chicago – IPMM Exclusive Interview

When I first saw my boy sportin’ Obama as a Chicago Bulls hero, I had to find out where that image had come from. Although not revolutionary, The Fineprint Chicago is definitely filling a void. NYC and Cali have their own allure, but as Laurent Varlet explains, we don’t need to be rockin’ Brooklyn tees. In a slowed down economy, all sales are down, yet Laurent has pushed forward with a brand he feels more aptly represents The City of Wind. Between our flag, Obama, images of downtown or an ode to Chicago’s infamous gangster history, The Fineprint Chicago is stepping up with a really nice product. By incorporating various iconic Chicago images, they have decided to let this city shape the progression of the brand. For Chicagoans, the cities flag is a common icon, so choosing it as a staple tee is as good as it gets. Not only does the concept have to be there, but the product must be good, and the Fineprint’s persistence evidences their ability to make quality gear. In the paragraphs to come, Laurent Varlet tells me about his first t-shirt ever, the need for a Blago spoof tee, and hoodies that are about to drop.


by Evan La Ruffa

What was the first t shirt you ever made?
The first shirt I ever made was airbrushed and from a stencil I made of BIG. The first tee I ever did for the fineprint was of Michael Jordan, based on one of his slam dunk contest appearances.

What was the most successful shirt you’ve made? And why do you think it did the best?
The most successful tee we’ve done is the star spangled skyline tee. The Chicago flag is really fun to play with because of its simplicity. I think its been so successful because it’s a graphic that appeals to lots of people and is a bit less edgy than some of our other designs.


Got any projects in the works we can look out for?
Always! but I can’t talk about them until they’re finished….I have a zip up hoodie in the works that features another interesting interpretation of the Chicago flag….I’ve said too much already.

You have mentioned to me that you thought there was a void, as far as brands out of Cali and NYC being brought to Chicago, without a either representing our city. What aesthetic do you align with the city of chicago?
I think Chicago’s fashion and design scene gets overlooked. I don’t know if there is any single style or aesthetic that I can associate with the city, but Chicago is a unique place with a fascinating personality and history. When we started the fineprint I didn’t really know about many Chicago-based clothing companies and I was seeing a lot of people walking around wearing Brooklyn tees.

What’s the most important factor in making a quality t shirt?
I’m still figuring that out! I think the most important thing is concept in all design, be it t-shirts or whatever. There are so many t shirts out there that it isn’t enough to have something that just looks cool. I think a successful tee is one that tells a story or makes a statement, but subtly….not like those “I’m with stupid” tees. One thing I notice is that people limit themselves to the chest for their graphic. I have been trying to push myself to use different parts of the tee when possible. I like to print down by the seems and use the back as well.


The Blagoyevich tee was just asking to be made…..seems like much more of an actual critique than the bizarre joker x Obama image that has been floating around….
Yeah, that image confuses me. Was the joker a socialist? Maybe the artist confused socialist with sociopath. I don’t really know how the joker relates to Obama. But Blago is definitely a joke. I actually think he would get a kick out of that tee.

Hahaha, yea, that never made sense to me either. How did your time at McGill influence your philosophy as far as product design?
People in Montreal are pretty fashionable. I don’t know how much I can say about McGill’s influence specifically, but Montreal definitely has
a vibrant street art scene that I was in to. I don’t know what the laws are concerning graff down there, but they are super easy-going about it. Full murals are really common. Also the European flavor of the city was real cool and unique to be around. You could definitely see that influence in the fashion down there.

Is the fineprint going to expand the product line? New Eras maybe?
We’ve tossed the idea around, but we are mostly going to stick with the printmaking aspect of garment decoration for now. I have a cool fashion designer, Sara Fagala, who I have done a couple of projects with. I would like to print on stuff before the garment is sewn together to get some all over prints and patterns going on. But for now I am working on some zip up hoodies and scarves.


Where is your location in Chicago, so us city-dwellers can get hooked up?
You can get our gear at Wolfbait & B-Girls in Logan Square (3131 W Logan Blvd) as well as the Novem Store (1104 N Ashland). And of course at www.fnprnt.com

Name one artist or musician/band my readers should check out.
Definitely check out the Primeridian. Very soulful, melodic hip hop. I have worked on art for them and they do some really interesting things integrating live instrumentation in their live performances. Be on the lookout for a new album of theirs coming out soon. www.theprimeridian.com

Get geared up at www.fnprnt.com ….. or link up with The Fineprint Chicago on Facebook
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