When you buy something from The Tar Pit Club, you’re doing more than just adding a new sticker to your collection or a new shirt to your wardrobe. You’re also donating to a good cause.
Ohio State alumnus Travis Case officially launched the online, philanthropy-driven apparel brand on Sept. 2 at the Short North shop Sole Classics. Products include everything from hoodies and t-shirts to hats and stickers –– all of which he designed in the past year and a half.
Five percent of The Tar Pit Club’s proceeds are donated to charity organizations around the area, including Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, International Rescue Committee and Lupus Research Alliance.
Case said his inspiration for the brand stemmed from motivation to design his own items while giving back to his community.
“It just started as my need for a creative outlet with a desire to give back,” he said.
A 2011 Ohio State electrical and computer engineering graduate and Oakland, California native, Case said he had always had been interested in design, and had experience after taking art and drawing classes at Ohio State.
The Tar Pit Club creator also works in software design at the Abercrombie & Fitch headquarters in New Albany.
Case said donations to charities are dependent on which products are sold, with each charity being related to the initial design.
For example, 5 percent of proceeds of the Buckeye-themed gear in his clothing line “Volume 1” will benefit the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.
Case said the inspiration for the products came from a variety of places, all of which carry personal meaning. He said his personal favorite products are two hats that have the phrases “Donuts,” and “Luv(sic)” stitched on the front, with the date “1974.02.07” on the back.
The date embroidered on the back is the birthday of two of Case’s favorite musicians, J Dilla and Nujabes, while “Donuts” and “Luv(sic)” pay homage to each artist’s respective discography.
The brand’s unusual name was inspired by a friend who gave his house the nickname “tar pit club” because it was similar to the name of the street he lived on.
The logo, a woolly mammoth sticking out of a vat of tar with a small sign alongside it, branches from two different sources: an old political cartoon and a Washington state coloring book.
Although the logo is the driving aesthetic for the brand, Case said he focuses on creating one product at a time, with each having a distinctive design.
“In terms of the entire brand, I don’t know if there’s anything specific that I go for,” he said. “Each design is kind of it’s own thing, and it’s all released under that one umbrella. But really, just whatever I’m either into or [what is] inspiring me [at the time].”
Justin Vandergriff, a friend of Case’s, said the brand falls in line with Case’s personality, and that Case pulls inspiration from things that he experiences in his life.
“How I would describe the brand … it’s quintessential Travis, is what it is,” Vandergriff said. “He does all of his designs based on [things] he knows and he likes, so if you … know all the [things] that Travis is into, it all sort of makes sense.”
Vandergriff also said the product’s detail is important and genuine to Case, with ideas usually coming from his own interests like skateboarding, the NBA or music.
“Every bit of it is a reference…to the different stuff that he likes, and that sort of helps drive his passion for it, He’s not designing something because he (just) wants to sell it, he’s designing it because he likes it…” he said. “Everything, down to the last bit of it, is so Travis.”
You can find The Tar Pit Club clothing line online at www.thetarpit.club
Update, 9/7 at 11:27 a.m.: This article has been updated to give photography credits to Stef Streb.