PAOM, The Creative Industry's Reigning Overnight Juggernaut

For this production house, apparel is just the beginning.

 

Courtesy Print All Over Me.
 

In 2013, siblings Meredith and Jesse Finkelstein ran with a simple idea: Give folks the tools they need to create, share, and own their own designs, and set up a system that brings them to product. That vision has since become the overnight production juggernaut Print All Over Me (PAOM), and with ventures across art, design, and fashion, it operates at a sweet intersection of the creative industry.

PAOM's impact depends a lot on whom you ask. "I think that the design industry in particular has been the most welcoming," Jesse Finkelstein said in a recent phone interview. "I think for fashion, it's taken a little longer for them to catch up, only because there's something destabilizing about a company that's democratizing design. I think as far as tech goes, similarly, it's taken a little bit longer to understand it, just because tech and manufacturing don't always go hand in hand. The art world has also been very welcoming, because they see us very much as a tool."

That the sibling-run operation has carved out a specialized space in under five years is reason enough to take pause; but here's the real clincher: Every piece of custom-made clothing, furniture, and product available on the company's platform is hand-cut, hand-sewn, and manually assembled.

 
102915_wnw-186.jpg
 

Courtesy Print All Over Me.
 

Designers and illustrators are invited to upload their works and sample them on preset silhouettes. When a customer picks up their design, they earn at least twenty percent on the sale. But the open submission model isn't the only way PAOM obtains talent. This year, the company started an endowment program that cycles through every three months, awarding the winning applicants with $2,000 of PAOM credit to make projects of their own. In the case of larger commissions, the team usually enlists talents of their choice. 

"It's a combination of people that contact us," Finkelstein explained. "Basically, we look at things at the scale of the collaboration. In some cases they're larger, physical collaborations like Complex Con. Mostly, the collaborations are with various designers and artists and illustrators who we are just fans of, so we work with them on producing the photoshoot."

Counting the Siblings Finkelstein, PAOM's headquarters is staffed by a team of five, running operations out of an office in New York City's Greenwich Village and overseeing two additional production studios off-site--the largest of which, Finkelstein told me, is a satellite in the outskirts of Shanghai that he opened nine years ago, currently employing an outfit of eighteen fabricators who receive benefits in accordance with the company's labor standards. "The one group of people that isn't on our payroll is this father and son," Finkelstein said, adding that the family runs a factory of their own just outside of Savannah, Georgia. 

Whitney Falk, the designer behind online marketplace ZZ Driggs, which offers sustainably-made furniture on subscription, says collaborative design is unique and novel territory. "There's a wide world of overseas manufacturing options that's super tricky to navigate," Falk said in an email. "PAOM has managed to tackle that whole problem set, so the end user and designer don't have to, all while still providing their fabrication partners living wages and ensuring fair labor practices."

 
IMG_2233-1024x682.jpg

Courtesy Print All Over Me.

 

PAOM's services are widely-sought. Last summer, the company helped dating app Grindr launch a foray in menswear with a collection of jockstraps, T-shirts, and apparel that GQ described as sitting "squarely on the athletic side." In January, artist and New York Times contributor Emily Spivack took president Barack Obama's dream of opening a Hawaiian T-shirt shack to product, tapping PAOM on a Honolulu Museum of Art-sanctioned pop-up in a local shopping complex west of Waikiki. 

Despite rising demand, Finkelstein maintained that PAOM remains selective when choosing its projects. From NADA Art Fair's "Nasty Woman-inspired" wearable art line, to "The Future Is Female" sweaters designed by Other Wild on the occasion of Sexy Beast's Planned Parenthood benefit, the company keeps its political orientation at the fore. "We've made it very clear on our website and our various social media feeds where we stand," he said. "All companies in corporate activism know it's complicated, but I don't think there's anything normal about what's going on right now. I think that any form of activism is important."

Earlier this month, the company opened an online store called "PAOM Gives: Planned Parenthood," which guarantees that one hundred percent of the store's sales will be donated to the nonprofit. According to a recent Instagram announcement, the company plans on extending this model to other causes, including the ACLU and Standing Rock. 

 
 

Courtesy Print All Over Me.
 

Finkelstein told me that PAOM is developing a major editorial arm, which will take form in a virtual zine used to profile previous collaborations and a curated mix of designers.

"I think the most exciting prospect about PAOM is that it really is about community and collaborating with people in all of these different ways," Finkelstein said. "You end up doing a lot of things that you didn't anticipate."