At first blush, fine art and football go together about as well as caviar and Mountain Dew®, and they probably share the same number of mutual fans. But Brooklyn, New York-based artist Brendan Donleavy doesn’t buy into that tired nerds-versus-jocks trope. A lifelong artist, former high school football player and rabid NFL fan, Donleavy is passionate about the paintbrush and the gridiron. That passion fuels his NFL-inspired creations for 31 Apparel, his clothing line that recently became a charitable partner of the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF).
Donleavy didn’t set out to be an activist in the bleeding disorders community. But in 2009, the two young sons of his good friend and co-worker Sal Buccellato were diagnosed with hemophilia A. As the Buccellato family immersed themselves in their local NHF chapter, Donleavy joined them for fundraisers and walks. When he launched 31 Apparel in 2015, Donleavy was committed to a company model of compassionate capitalism, and he had the perfect partner in mind. “I learned about NHF and found out what they do, the families that they help,” he says. “It is very impressive. I wanted to get involved.”
Named after the number of cities that host NFL franchises (New York has two teams), 31 Apparel offers “art-inspired clothing for the creative sports fan,” Donleavy says. His shirts are a nontraditional alternative to a team jersey. Donleavy strives to capture the zeitgeist of each city and its team’s mascot. And with $5 from every shirt he sells going to NHF, Donleavy hopes the bleeding disorders community will capture some benefits.
Meeting a demand
Donleavy’s first design was inspired by the Baltimore Ravens. The T-shirts were given as presents to family members in Maryland. Because he had to order a minimum number of shirts, he put the extras on his artwork website. When the shirts sold quickly, Donleavy realized there might be a market for team gear with an artistic flair.
The best-seller so far is the Chicago Bears Windy City T-shirt, which marries a roaring grizzly with the iconic Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. “We heavily marketed our Bears design because it was one of our first shirts and was popular from the get-go,” Donleavy says. He’s found that hardcore fans tend to be equally hardcore consumers. “Philadelphia Eagles fans are the most die-hard out of them all. With very little marketing, the Eagles fans found us and started ordering shirts.”
On the horizon
The next step for 31 Apparel includes T-shirts inspired by Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. From there, the young company might look into serving the rabid fandom of college football.
What will not change, however, is the commitment to serving families who live with bleeding disorders. “Football T-shirts are ubiquitous across the country. If we can sell a lot, we can raise a lot,” Donleavy says. “It has never been about the money I can make. It is about the difference
I can make.”
Purchase your favorite team’s T-shirt and support the bleeding disorders community at 31apparel.com.