Clothing Entrepreneur is True to His School

June 01, 2011

He’s a UA alum (could you tell?) who graduated with a finance degree from the Eller College of Management. He actually got started in the clothing business when he was still in college. Jams were in style (remember the long Hawaiian-style shorts?)and Herman started selling them for a distributor out of Colorado.  They were tremendously popular and soon fraternities and sororities wanted their own signature jams. When the Colorado distributor wasn’t willing to budge on prices and commissions, Herman went out on his own.

He had a vague idea about how clothing was made because his sister was a competitive figure skater and his mom made all her costumes. 

“I went to LA and got out the Yellow Pages. I found sewing contractors and found where the fabric was made – the bright prints that we were using in those days. So I figured out how to do it myself.  Then all my friends who were working for the first company were working for me. I had people all over the West – in Colorado, at UCLA, USC – selling for me.”

Herman stayed an extra year at the UA to nurture the business and have a little more fun.

“I had a tremendous experience at the UA. There was a huge diversity of students when I was there. I met students from all over the country. Learning to connect with a wide variety of people has served me well. And the book work wasn’t even that bad!”

His business grew from jams to t-shirts to a complete line of fashionable sportswear.  His venture, now named Wildcat Apparel Group, includes fellow UA alum, Rick Schwartz, who is the company’s CFO.  

Now one of their most successful lines is “The Original Retro Brand,” which are 100 percent cotton t-shirts, soft to give them a vintage feel and feature retro logos, taglines and art. One line is retro cartoons including Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right and Mr. Magoo. You’ll also find retro Rose Bowl logos, vintage Chevron shirts and logos from high school football teams from the ‘50s.  A new category of retro t-shirts is the “Roots of Rock,” a collection that includes Bill Graham’s legendary poster art from the Fillmore East and West.

But perhaps the line closest to Herman’s heart and to his alma mater is the College Vault series, that features retired logos and championship t-shirts for colleges across the country.  Herman recently created a special line of retro tees to commemorate the UA’s 125th anniversary.  The shirts are in our original school colors – silver and sage – and feature the original Block A logo and Wilbur’s predecessor, Cowboy Cat. They are available in the UA Bookstores. 

“The Silver and Sage line by Retro Brand sold out quickly,” says Debby Shively, director of the University of Arizona Bookstores. “Once our customers own a Retro Brand shirt, they become loyal and lifetime customers.”

The company is doing well but Herman says they aren’t at home plate yet. He takes pride in the fact that one of his clothing lines raises money for charities and that all their products are made in the U.S.A.

He doesn’t get to the UA campus as often as he’d like to but still stays connected. He’s hoping his son, who is just 13, will think seriously about becoming a Wildcat.

His favorite place on campus? “Bear Down Gym.  I’m a Retro guy. I loved playing basketball in that gym.”

UA’s Silver & Sage Merchandise

http://125.arizona.edu/merchandise.php