Sonoma County resident's ‘Bart Bridge’ fills niche in unique sports gear
Longtime Sonoma County resident Luke Fraser didn't set out to be a Bay Area sports attire designer. But growing up in Berkeley, he learned how to look at the world a little differently and later, embraced the “shop local” movement.
“I can go to someone's house whose coffee table is made from reclaimed barnwood from Sonoma, and the food came from over here,” the 35-year-old entrepreneur said. “People are really enjoying the local economy, especially after the economic crisis.”
Fraser has always admired the way entrepreneurs behind businesses like Uber have re-imagined the way the world works. And that led the passionate sports fan to launch his own custom sports gear business, Bart Bridge, as an alternative to “official” big-box apparel.
Oakland Magazine bestowed a Best of Oakland 2017 award on the business, which has quietly gathered a cult following among the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, the San Jose Sharks, the Oakland A's and Raiders and, most importantly, the Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, the edgy, urban apparel has been spotted on high-profile fans such as Nicole Lacob, the wife of Warriors' majority owner Joseph Lacob.
It all started about 10 years ago, when Fraser and his girlfriend got tickets to go to a Golden State Warriors basketball game. He didn't want to wear the same, corporate T-shirt and hat as everyone else.
“There should be choices, and people should have the option to express themselves,” he said. “I think it's funny how you can shop local for anything except for a Giants hat or an Adidas Steph Curry jersey … none of it is from Oakland.”
So Fraser decided to upcycle his own fashionista fan gear. He headed to a local thrift store, found a couple of manufactured pieces from the team and a vintage jacket, then took them home, busted out his seam ripper and sewing machine, and pieced together a fresh-looking, handmade jacket.
“When I wear that, people chase me on the street and ask me where I got it,” he said. “It's really expressive, and it speaks to people.”
Inspiration from artists
Fraser credits his uncle - Craig Gurganus, a longtime surfer now living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina - as his inspiration. Gurganus recycles broken surfboards and, with the help of a saw, sander and paintbrush, turns them into colorful, one-of-a-kind fish sculptures.
“All my uncles are artists, and that had an effect on me,” said Fraser, who currently lives in Penngrove. “I like it when people reinterpret things.”
Motivated by all the positive feedback rolling in, Fraser built up Bart Bridge thread by thread, weaving it into a crazy quilt of funkified fan fashion. He sources vintage jackets and jeans and new hats and backpacks, then dresses them up with floral and flannel fabrics from fabric stores and vintage patches from online companies or card conventions.
“I think what would get people's attention is the juxtaposition of an old denim jacket with some cool, Southwest fabric with an old '70s Warriors patch,” he said. “We're smashing these things together. Intellectually, you think that might not work. But when you do it, it does work.”
The unconventional line also includes an array of Warrior T-shirts that are subtly subversive and often inspired by '70s graphics and pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
“I was walking down the street in Penngrove, and there was a little silk-screening operation in the back of a trailer behind the hatchery, and I asked if they could help me silkscreen,” he said. “I went online and found a graphic designer (Mike Hampton) on Craigslist.”
Although Sonoma County has no dearth of fine artists and sculptors, Santa Rosa jewelry artisan Gloria Rubio Verduzco noted that there are not a lot of hip, young entrepreneurial artists working here.
“I'm a big Warriors fan, but I can only afford his T-shirts,” she said. “My favorite - it's blue and yellow - says ‘Make Threes, Not War' and has an image of a woman in a Native American headdress. The whole concept is sort of a cheeky response to the political climate.”
As a guy who works with fiber and makes clothing, Fraser also stands out.
“The artisan world is predominantly female,” Rubio Verduzco said. “Especially in fiber art and anything related to clothing, it is rare to see a man in that world.”
Bridge between fans and team
Fraser's path to clothing designer was, not surprisingly, rather unconventional.