Andrew Tew isn't your typical fashion designer. When you ask Tew what brought him into the industry, he starts looking puzzled. "'Fashion industry?'" he says. "Wow, I've never thought about it like that."
Fashion or not, his Flooded Streets brand has been bringing Charleston-centric clothing to the internet since June. Imagined a year ago during a meeting between Tew and designer Kelley Wills over coffee, Flooded Streets has since turned into a line celebrating the "old" Chucktown.
Andrew Tew's past doesn't include memories of Parsons School of Design or browsing fine silks in Milan. After graduating from Clemson with an English degree, Tew ran off to New Orleans to stay with some old friends and "avoid the real world for a while." When he became tired of working on tug boats and doing odd jobs, he returned home to Charleston to work for a local TV production company. However, he noticed one big difference between his hometown and adopted city. "New Orleans is so proud of its past and culture, and it shows with their local brands. I've always been a fan of T-shirts, but there's not really a Charleston clothing brand, so I wanted to create one."
Through a friend of a friend, Tew met Wills, a CofC studio art major and graphic designer. Wills, familiar to some as the banjo player in the bluegrass band Mule Burger, joined Tew to put her own spin on his childhood memories of downtown for the clothing line. "'Old' Charleston is subjective," Tew admits. "But, I want to keep alive things that shouldn't be forgotten." This includes the Navy Yard, the Hat Man at Broad and Church streets, and Woolworth's, which closed in the 1990s. During the summer, they even sold a limited run of a "Byron" shirt and gave a portion of the proceeds to downtown's wandering legend. Because Flooded Streets is Tew's pet project, only a modest number of designs will be rotated out every season. "We wanted our shirts to be limited edition — if you didn't buy one now, you'd have to wait to get it later. Our warehouse is quite small," says Tew, "because it's my apartment."
Flooded Streets isn't currently in a brick and mortar store, but Tew doesn't rule out that possibility. He's actually surprised by how well the community has responded to his little company. Under the Flooded Streets umbrella, Tew has become more connected with Charleston, using local businesses like Lint Printing for the shirts and Anne Rhett photography for the website. They've started sponsoring a downtown basketball team and recently designed a pair of shoes with their signature Hat Man for Art with a BANGS, a nonprofit that helps create sustainable communities throughout the world. "Just working and collaborating with others has made it worthwhile," Tew adds. "We really want to open this company up to more than just clothing so we can start giving back to the community."
The duo will soon be putting up new shirts for the holiday season and releasing hoodies with their classic Charleston motifs. They've been hoarding designs from their inception to release in the coming year and have already made up a shirt for the 2014 Bridge Run. As for the future? "We're not planning on quitting our day jobs any time soon," says Tew. "But we would love to continue growing Flooded Streets and expanding into design work for others."
Purchase shirts and learn more about Flooded Streets on floodedst.com.