Interview With: Nati Evolvement
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Interview With: Nati Evolvement

Sitting at Iris Book Cafe, I nibble at the ice cream with caramel topping I “accidentally” ordered. I meant to get tea, but well…you know how that goes.

The door chimes, and Michael Palmer walks in wearing a gray “Made in the Nati” t-shirt. We exchange pleasantries and sit down to chat about Nati Evolvement, the t-shirt company he owns with partners Colin and Adam. He seems kinda familiar… I look at him curiously.

“I’m almost positive we’ve met before.”

No, it’s not a pick up line. I met Palmer (he goes by his last name) a few years ago when Nati Evolvement participated in a fashion event I produced for Second Sunday on Main (then known as Sunday Markets on Main). I remember being impressed by their professionalism and ambition, and it seems time has only served to amplify both. Colin comes through the door, sporting the same gray t-shirt Palmer is wearing, almost like a uniform. Cute. “I swear we didn’t plan this” they promise. Mm-hmm. Sure, guys.

Nati Evolvement is a Cincinnati-based t-shirt and design company that started in 2005 as a creative outlet for a few friends in the graphic design industry.

“We wanted to create a new way for people in Cincinnati to show their pride in a unique and [hopefully] stylish way. As the company evolved we…really wanted to emphasize our desire to help local small businesses to grow and shine.”

Running the Nati
All three partners actively participate in running the business. Palmer does the majority of the graphic design, especially on the clothing side. Adam really focuses on web design and interactive media. Colin’s focus is more on business development, client relations and community partnerships.

“While we all tend to focus more or less on one area we all chip in on the business side of things and are pretty versatile in being able to cover for each other as the situation may present itself.”

They all maintain “regular” full-time jobs in addition to their responsibilities at Nati Evolvement, which can be difficult when they participate in all-day events, like the upcoming T-Shirt Festival on Fountain Square. “We count on good friends to volunteer at times like that!”

Design Inspiration
My own personal interest in design leads me to ask about the design process. According to Palmer, ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere, anytime. He shows me a few pages in his sketchbook.

“I really just try to keep my eyes open and always have a sketch book around to make sure I can capture a thought. We draw a lot from the unique history and characteristics of the city and the pride that we have for it.”

Since what they do is fashion based, international trends are influential as well. “I love to pick up on something I see from traveling and bring a little bit of that back to the Nati.”

So apparently, Palmer gets an idea from the heavens, and as “The Force” flows through him and onto the paper, his hand moves on its own accord (Colin swears he’s seen it happen!). Well… maybe not exactly.

In reality, Palmer draws a rough sketch, then moves to the computer to create a digital representation. The final design is separated into screens and sent off to the screenprinter, where the ink colors are matched as closely as possible using Pantone® color matching. They work with the printer to determine the heaviness and depth of the color.

All of their shirts are printed on American Apparel tees–the guys like that they’re made in the US and I agree that they have a nicer feel/drape than other options. Of course, they also source other items from various manufacturers. The full line includes tees, hats, hoodies, jackets–even stuff for the kids.

The finished product is sold at two main locations: Denim and Park+Vine. Once those orders are fulfilled, the rest go up for sale online.

Online orders are fulfilled by Palmer by hand–sometimes he’ll even include a personal note. “If I know you it’ll be really personal.”

He spends a lot of time at the post office as orders are shipped via good ol’ USPS. No automation here, folks! Every item is shipped from Cincy with love. Awww…

Look for Part 2 next week, when we’ll talk about the other stuff they do and what’s next for Nati.

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