The bold bronze mannequins peering onto Penn Avenue from the window of Tweek change their outfits a lot. That's because the pieces they model -- sewn, dyed or printed on site -- may be the only ones that exist. The shop specializes in tiny runs and frequently does one-of-a-kind items.
"We'll print like five of something," says owner Jamal Krolowitz, 21, who taught himself dyeing, screenprinting and acid-dyeing techniques. He designs and prints everything in the store, located at 4913 Penn in Garfield. "We like to keep it constantly changing. People tend to gravitate toward new stuff: 'Oh, we just printed this literally today.' It keeps it exclusive."
Open since May, the store focuses on originally designed T-shirts and other gear. Much of the merchandise pays homage to Krolowitz's Pittsburgh pride, finely honed in the almost four years since he moved here from upstate New York, after traveling here to skateboard and falling in love with the city.
Tweek has a limited supply of dresses, handbags, underwear and sunglasses, but the T-shirts are the main draw. A lot of his techniques make use of organic materials, and he hopes to introduce a fully organic line in the future.
His DIY skater aesthetic is obvious in pieces like a white hoodie with a big fire-hydrant patch sewn onto the front. In the window there's a one-of-a-kind plaid tunic, made from repurposed flannel from Goodwill. A white vinyl wristlet bears the store's signature linked-E logo -- Krolowitz calls it a play on Chanel's iconic back-to-back C -- and the inside is lined with images of Downtown Pittsburgh. A black T-shirt with a Pirates-style "P" on the front includes the city's unmistakable skyline inside the bubble of the "P." A highly-stylized hummingbird in grey pointillist dots appears on shirts for men and women, and there's a "Pitt City 412 Hardcore" shirt in splattery font -- gold on black, natch.
The store also puts out bike and skate videos on its blog. The "Tweek" name dates to Krolowitz's high school days and his "Tweeksbury Skateboard Crew," whose name he made up.
Krolowitz, in fact, started designing in high school, making stencils and spraypainting them onto T-shirts he sold to classmates. After high school, he got a single-station screenprinter and his designing took off. He's been selling his wares online since, and partnering with bands. The store (www.tweekclothing.com) still does a brisk online business, shipping doodled-upon packages as far as New York, California and Australia.
"I found this space, which was everything I want," Krolowitz says on a sunny afternoon as Santigold throbs through the sound system. "The space is really beautiful. It's got a raw look -- the plywood, the rough edges. I don't like anything to be perfect." The narrow storefront with art and photos on the walls has stayed open late for Unblurred, Penn Avenue's first-Fridays art walk, complete with wine, cheese and bands.
For as exclusive as the wares are, they don't carry the wallet-walloping prices that word can conjure. T-shirts typically run $18.50, sunglasses are ten bucks, and the hoodies run up to $45.50. "We keep it affordable but try to make money."
They also try to be part of the community. For instance, two interns are now getting an inside look at the process of getting a business off the ground, and Tweek designs were recently featured in a benefit fashion show by Royal Tribe Music.
"It's kind of like artwork on clothes. It's not neat and simple," Krolowitz says. "I feel like everything's so repetitive. Give things a different look. Tweek, when you kind of tweak something how you want it -- it's my tweak on fashion."
- Thready or not: Jamal Krolowitz gets down at his Tweek clothing boutique.