Today we’d like to introduce you to Julius Vaughn.
Hi Julius, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Funny enough, we just celebrated the fifth anniversary of our business this year. We launched in 2017, on Groundhogs Day, which is also our own personal anniversary as a couple. We’re both native residents of the Tampa Bay area, and Jason (my partner), is an artist. I remember it clearly. We were at home, sitting on the sofa watching television, and he was drawing something on a napkin. When he was done, he held it up to me and asked if I thought that the drawing would sell? More specifically, would it sell if it was on a t-shirt? I replied that I didn’t see why not? The drawing was of a chubby bearded man, and he was talking on the telephone. And that began our journey into what is now our lifestyle brand: FatMarker Clothing. My name is Julius, and out of the two of us, I am a large man. I have always struggled with trying to find clothes that fit my size, and when I do find them, they’re plain and have no character whatsoever. So, we started our company with the following belief: we should all celebrate being too loud, too proud, too much, and most importantly, unapologetically ourselves. What does that mean? It means that all of us have that thing that I call the “too muchness” about us. Someone in our lives has always told us, for example in my case, I’m too fat. For others, it might be that they’re too noisy or too opinionated, etc. We decided to turn those negatives into positives and celebrate those things about ourselves that truly make up a big portion of who we as individuals are. If I couldn’t find the clothes I wanted to wear, we were going to create them!
And here we are five years later, with not only Jason’s original designs (but those of local featured artists as well), on t-shirts, tank tops, boxer briefs, swim trunks, hoodies, hats, and even shoes. Since the beginning, it was very important to the both of us to provide sizing options beyond XL (and in our t-shirts, we do have some designs up to 5X). Similarly, it was also important to us to not charge extra for larger sizes. If you’re an S or a 5X, you’re going to pay the same price. We have customers worldwide. We have items locally in Ybor City at a brick-and-mortar store, Bulge Tampa. We have partnered with other small LGBTQ+ businesses nationally, as well as artists and celebrities over the past five years. Our designs have been featured in music videos, as well as worn by some of drag queens from the Drag Race franchise. We have even been on the cover of Bear World Magazine, where I was the model. We have been featured in podcasts, sponsored awards… and this year we have been honored to have the official t-shirt design for Tampa Pride!
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not always been a smooth road. We have definitely learned a lot along the way, whether it was from the types of materials that our shirts were created from (which we finally found soft and stretchy fabrics that don’t shrink) to being criticized for not carrying sizes larger than 5X. Most recently, we received a question on why we feature models of all sizes when our company has the word “Fat” in its name? I was happy to explain that we celebrate all of us, whether you’re someone who is my size or someone who hits the gym every day, we have a design and a size for you. Some people just don’t understand that. But I think the best “struggle” that we’ve had overall, is that most everyone thinks we’re out of Los Angeles. We’ve been told multiple times that our designs are very “L.A.” I love that! It makes me laugh.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I graduated from the University of Tampa back in 1992, a double-major in English and Creative Writing. In fact, I was the Outstanding Writing Major for our graduation class. What did I do after that? Went straight into banking and finance. Big switch up, huh? I come from a family that always stressed to get a good job and be happy in it. Make a living, etc. Sometimes, you don’t need to agree with what your family thinks is the best route for your life and career. Just as I came out as a gay man, years later I also decided that finance was not what I went to school for, and it was not what I was passionate about. At the prompting of a good friend, I left finance and went into marketing. In fact, I went back to school and earned my Master’s in Business Marketing right around the same time that Jason and I launched FatMarker. I am back to doing what I love: telling a story and sharing it with the world.
How can people work with you, collaborate with you, or support you?
Find me (and us) either through our website: www.fatmarkerclothing.com or through social media: facebook.com/fatmarker or instagram.com/fatmarkerclothing. If you’re in Ybor City, you can also stop into Bulge Tampa and give them your contact information. They’ll pass it along.
- Most T-Shirts and Tank Tops: $30
- Most Hoodies: $45
- Most Hats: $30
- Boxer Briefs: $35
- Other Pricing Depends on Item
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.fatmarkerclothing.com
- Instagram: fatmarkerclothing
- Facebook: fatmarker
- Twitter: fatmarker