New York style is sleek and chic with a bit of grunge thrown in. California style is easy and breezy. But what is Indiana style? What image comes to mind when people from different parts of the states picture Midwest fashion? It’s something that’s difficult to pinpoint. Jared Ingold hopes to clear things up with his unique lifestyle brand, Vardagen.
“You see people walking around Indy in a Hollister shirt but they’ve never even seen the ocean,” says Jared. “We tend to pull from other cultures instead of creating our own. I would like to produce something that is a representation of people here in the Midwest.”
Vardagen kicked off in 2006 as a hobby based garage print shop run by Jared’s friends. Jared eventually bought the shop out in 2008, and the project morphed into Art Press, a custom printing company still running today. For four years Art Press grew into a stable company until 2012, when Jared decided to switch gears and focus back on the Vardagen brand starting with a $5k loan from a friend that was paid back in only 3 months, thanks to Jared’s business model and hard work. The result is the flourishing company you see today.
“I’m big on making sure my businesses are sustainable from the beginning,” says Jared. “You don’t get a few years down the road and realize your business model isn’t profitable, and it also gets you out of bed earlier and makes you keep working until the wee hours.”
The marriage of Art Press and Vardagen makes the company special. It enables the brand to be completely DIY, with their hand in every step of the process. While Jared had no formal education in screen-printing, he and his team have perfected their skills through trial and error to fully understand the intricate craft. The colors are hand mixed and tinted to perfection and a close eye analyzes every detail.
Understanding these tools can make a huge difference in the flow of business. After much trial, error, and experimentation with software and equipment, Jared ended up writing software custom to The Art Press so it would fit their exact needs. Jared also assembled their press himself, forcing him to learn every piece of the puzzle. Now, if any issues arise he can be the one to fix it.
“I think having the right tools and the right people makes all the difference,” says Jared. “Buy the best equipment you can afford and take the time to get to know it.”
The do it yourself aspect continues on from the workshop and into the store, located in Fishers, which Jared completely stripped out and rebuilt. With unique design elements like the solid concrete counter and a sculpture made from old screen-printing frames, the store brings the product together on a stage and acts as an art piece in itself.
“Designing the store was fun for me because it really helped bring everything together,” says Jared. “Before you see all the products in a space that’s designed for those products, it’s really hard to wrap your mind around the brand. My vision was to create a space for our products to communicate what Vardagen is in my mind.”
Vardagen also has a kiosk in the mall, a magical online Instagram to T-shirt machine called Vardagram and a mini skate shop vault located in the store. It’s a very nimble brand that tends to take on the interests of Jared and his team. They strive to make Vardagen a lifestyle, not just a mass of products to be sold. Shirts with just the name printed on the front are avoided, hoping to instead express the brand with a certain style and aesthetic. The thought process and personality behind each product is something that Jared hopes to make more visible in Vardagen’s future.
“A lot of products have stories behind them,” says Jared. “Our marketing and product development plan moving forward is to really let people in on the thought behind the design.”
In 2015, he wants to find people with interesting lifestyles and hobbies and tell their stories through product. Vardagen will fill in the gaps in the market, designing for cool hobbies that are often forgotten. The most important thing will be to let the customers know what is going on every step of the way. This transparency is something Jared claims he fails in, but is working hard to improve.
“When I was building the store, no one knew what was happening because I just wanted to work to get it right,” says Jared. “But if I could start over again tomorrow, I would have been sending out social media marketing daily to let people in on the process and be a part of it early on. I think that’s really important, especially with how much people want to be involved today.”
Jared also encourages working with the best people possible to build an amazing team, and on the business side managing company growth. While you want your company to grow, going too fast can lead to sloppiness or lack of resources, and progressing too slow can cause a brand to stagger to a halt. Finding that perfect pace is valuable to your company. Sometimes it can be hard to predict what business will be like, and it’s necessary to roll with the punches and adapt. For instance, Vardagen’s 2013 Black Friday led to a complete sell out of inventory, shutting down the company for five days. This year, their Black Friday sales almost tripled, but they prepared by raising inventory levels.
“Being a business owner is being a problem solver,” says Jared. “We’ve definitely had our share of problems but I try to tackle all of them head on and as creatively as possible.”
For the owner of a fresh new business, the best thing to do is to take things as they come, and as Jared says, have razor focus. Keep your eye on the core of your business and work at it every day, the Vardagen way.