June 4, 2010 in Features

Business fits Crowley to a ‘T’

Spokane man turns concert shirts into customized hooded sweatshirts
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photo

Crash Crowley sews a label into a customized sweatshirt that he makes for the band Pearl Jam. Crowley also receives vintage rock concert T-shirts from people through his Internet business, and pieces them out to make designer sweatshirts.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

One of Jeremy “Crash” Crowley’s favorite concerts was Soundgarden’s reunion performance at Seattle’s Showbox in April. After the show he still had chills.

Every show has memories, and every show has a T-shirt.

Out of an office in the Holley Mason Building on Howard Street, Crowley rebuilds his fellow rock ’n’ roll fans’ favorite concert Ts into customized hooded sweatshirts.

He receives anywhere from eight to 10 T-shirts per week from people across the country through his Internet business, the Crashious Roadside Room.

“I can make anything shine again. It doesn’t matter the condition, I can figure it out,” Crowley says.

He designs hoodies for men, women and children, ranging in price from $65 to $175. Each shirt is numbered and signed on the label by Crowley. He hand-stitches and even adds fabric or studs in his rebuilds.

The other side of his business is designing limited-edition items for bands such as Pearl Jam. In a typical concert tour, 20,000 T-shirts are printed, but using a manufacturing space in California, Crowley produces 1,200 to 2,000 items for the tour.

He started designing concert merchandise for Pearl Jam in 2005, and the band’s fans are the majority of his customers for the rebuilds.

Mark “Smitty” Smith, Pearl Jam’s tour manager, said Crowley began working with the Seattle-based band through bass player Jeff Ament.

Ament, an artist himself, thought Crowley was talented and wanted him to design merchandise for their tours. Smith owns a hoodie from one of the early tours for which Crowley crafted merchandise.

“I appreciate that it’s a handmade item. It’s not just a silkscreen,” he said.

Crowley, a Spokane native, got his start in clothing retail as a manager of the former Mr. Rags in NorthTown Mall. He moved to Long Beach, Calif., where he owned a clothing store.

He attended a fashion show in Paris that inspired him to combine his love of rock ’n’ roll and vintage shirts. After his store closed, Crowley continued designing T-shirts.

What he loves about the shirts is the stories that go with them.

“Every shirt has a memory – the beer you drank, the friends you went with,” says Crowley, who has a personal collection of 60 or so sweatshirts that he wears occasionally.

His favorite story is about a group of friends who road-tripped from Detroit to Long Island to see Pink Floyd. They had no money and no tickets, but somehow made it into the show.

Afterward, they somehow ended up with T-shirts. They made it back to Detroit on fumes in the gas tank.

That story epitomizes what concerts and music are about, Crowley says.

He says the custom rebuilds have allowed him to “start great relationships with the fans.”

One Pearl Jam fan in California, Matt Tackett, owns 12 custom hoodies made by Crowley. His favorite design is from a 2004 Pearl Jam show at the Showbox. He bought a T-shirt that was too small for him, so he sent it to Crowley.

“I sent the T-shirt to Crash and what he sent back was insane,” says Tackett. “I couldn’t believe how the T-shirt became a hoodie.”

Tackett’s favorite concert T-shirt from a Pearl Jam performance in Madison Square Garden in 2003 is worn out, and he plans to send it to Crowley for rebuild.

Crowley, his wife and two daughters moved back to Spokane in August.

“Being back in Spokane is a breath of fresh air,” he says. “I love the city. It’s beautiful. My family is here, and the girls really like it.”

With his Web-based business he has flexibility to live where he chooses.

“In my business I can live anywhere and do what I do,” Crowley says. “The Web allows me more freedom. I’m not stuck in a shop all day.”

His next design project will use T-shirts from the 1991 Pearl Jam tour.

All of the Pearl Jam fans are excited to see Crowley’s designs on tour, Tackett says.


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