T-shirt trendsetters’ holiday sale

By TONY GIAMPETRUZZI  |  December 12, 2007

Rogues Gallery Sample Sale | 10 am-5 pm December 15 | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St, Portland | Free | 207.828.5600
Maine’s very own little taste of couture, Rogues Gallery, the silk-screened T-shirt company turned men’s apparel house of fashion, will have another of its wildly popular sample sales on Saturday at SPACE Gallery. The semi-annual event is your opportunity to pick up some duds that might otherwise cost you dozens — if not hundreds — of dollars at New York City stores like Barneys.

The Rogues sale can be a catfight: T-shirts, Henleys, belts, messenger bags, sport coats — some of them first quality, others just mistakes — are flung onto tables, crammed into boxes, and hanging from the walls. Die-hard fashionistas think nothing of shoving you aside to get to that one perfect T bearing a historical image of a whale along with some stormy fragment of a Melville quote.

These aren’t the distressed-vintage-novelty T-shirts the retail chains jumped all over a couple years back, but, rather, their inspiration. Alex Carleton, a native Cape Codder who spent time in Maine as a kid and now lives here year-round, cut his teeth at Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch, and LL Bean before starting a company that showed them — and others — a new way.

More than five years ago, Carleton started Rogues Gallery, as he puts it, out of a sink and with nothing more than a MECA student in tow. Since then, his company has become an international sensation, with stores either completed or under way in New York City and Sweden. The brand’s popularity has earned frequent mentions in the media, and, yes, that oft-recalled remark that Brad Pitt is a fan.

Surely you’ve seen the shirts. In the beginning, they were all recycled T-shirts, most bearing a nautical image — an anchor, ship, fish, sometimes a skull-and-crossbones — or perhaps just a snippet from some old tome. Where else would you see the word “doleful” but on a Rogues T-shirt?

But after a year or two, Carleton and company couldn’t find enough used shirts to meet the demand, and he had to look for new material, finally locating what he needed “through some interesting traveling.”

Today, Carleton and his Portland collaborative of 10 or so designers and manufacturers do more than just T-shirts. Rogues recently wrapped a photo shoot in Eastport for the 2008 spring collection, featuring all kinds of products for men, showcased by some very attractive models. (Neon will play into the collection, Carleton hints.) The pictures have been bound into very expensive trade catalogues that are now shopped to the finest boutiques around the world.

“I never saw (the T-shirt) as an item, I saw it as a culture, and I knew it would need to evolve beyond the T-shirt. I want to redefine a whole wardrobe,” Carleton says.

So, what might you find this weekend? T-shirts, for sure, but maybe even pants, accessories, leather wares, bags, sport coats, outerwear, jewelry — the same stuff people in cities throughout the world might be paying $100 or more for, at a fraction of the price. Stop by, pick up a bargain, and thank Carleton and his rogues.

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  Topics: This Just In , Culture and Lifestyle, Clothing, Fashion and Style,  More more >
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