Laid-back, easygoing vibes came to life with the colors of a waterfront sunset when SF State freshman Michael Ihle created one of his favorite designs on the back of a T-shirt.
Ihle is a first year business major and Bay Area native from Concord whose idea for a clothing line originated his junior year of high school. What started from a single design soon developed into a brand, he said.
“I was taking my sister to the Oakland airport and we drove past this Chinese restaurant on the freeway, and it had a fish kite blowing in the wind,” Ihle said. “I saw it and thought, ‘that’s sick.’”
With the image in mind, Ihle took to his computer to create his own design. He said he had no intentions of making clothing from it, but after feeling like the design was missing something, he decided to put a name on it.
“To this day I can’t remember how I came up with it, but I thought, ‘fish, bait shop; cool.’ It works,” Ihle said.
The design eventually transformed into his beach-inspired clothing line “The Bait Shop” which includes four different shirt designs, as well as a line of hats.
He made his first t-shirt design for himself and his siblings, and got positive feedback when he wore it his first day of senior year, he said. Shortly after, Ihle had more shirts made for his closest friends to wear.
“(Ihle) and a few of us wore this design around the school to see the feedback we would receive, and, as we wished, people wanted the shirts too,” said Luke Vergara, one of Ihle’s best friends.
Soon, other students asked Ihle if they could purchase his merchandise. Ihle said hearing people’s honest opinions motivated him to carry out the brand.
“The most rewarding part was just seeing people wearing my stuff,” Ihle said.
Marlito Montes, another one of Ihle’s friends who first wore his shirts, said he thinks people want to wear Ihle’s designs because they’re unique.
“I feel like the reason people like his brand is the style of art and the ideas he puts on the clothing,” Montes said.
Ihle said art has always been a part of his life and his clothing line was just the product of his passions coming together.
“I’ve always been passionate about not just design, but drawing and creating. I’ve always liked dressing well,” Ihle said. “Being able to finally bring that together was an awesome feeling.”
According to Ivana Markova, a lecturer in the apparel design and merchandising department, fashion is one of the highest forms of self-expression.
“Fashion is an art of self-expression that allows students to tell a story about their cultural heritage, social conditions or simply the way they live,” Markova said.
For Ihle, fashion is an expression of his personality.
“I didn’t choose the beachy theme, it just came to being from ideas I had in my mind,” he said. “The vibes at the beach are so fun and chill, and that’s really like my personality.”
Ihle said he draws inspiration from anything he sees, and the personality that flows through San Francisco is just one example.
“Going down to Ocean Beach is a totally different feel from being inside San Francisco; it’s like both worlds,” he said.
While SF State wasn’t his first choice, Ihle said he had his brand in mind when deciding to attend the school.
“I really wanna make stuff primarily in the street wear, underground type of world, and that is such a big thing here,” he said.
Ihle said his goal is to have his brand become a big company that he runs himself, so he plans to double major in business and graphic design.
He said he would also like the brand to have its own stores, while he continues to expand his creativity.
“Realistically, (the goal) is just to be creating something that I enjoy,” he said. “I want somebody to see something I make and be happy.”