Evanston resident Seth Simmons' new shop, Fresh Prints of Evanston, offers screen printing and custom clothing for Evanstonians -- and Seth ships all over the U.S. (Hey! Just in time for the holidays!)
Seth supplies all the apparel -- a variety of styles and brands of shirts, tanks, hoodies, tote, bags, baseball tees, soccer tees, and winter hats -- for his customers. He also has custom-printed apparel for sale on his website.
Born and raised in Evanston, Seth is the son of Evanston activist Dickelle Fonda and artist Jevoid Simmons.
Here's a short interview I did with Seth recently. We'll have to talk again, because he raised some important issues aside from his business that I'd like to explore with him. For now, let's find out more about Fresh Prints of Evanston!
DE: What schools did you attend?
SS: I went to Evanston Township High School (ETHS) and graduated in 2004. Then I attended the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for a year and studied Sports and Fitness management. After that I returned to Evanston and attended the University of Northeastern Illinois University where I graduated and got my B.A. in Justice Studies.
DE: What brought you back to Evanston?
SS: Evanston is my home. It's where my family is. Evanston is also a beautiful place, full of different cultures, backgrounds and ideologies, which creates a welcoming environment for people to live in.
DE: What do you think are Evanston’s strengths?
SS: In my opinion, one of Evanston's biggest strengths is community. People coming together to help one another or to support each other.
DE: What would you say are Evanston's challenges?
SS: The biggest challenge Evanston faces is the gentrification of the city. It's moving families out who have lived here for generations because of higher rents and cost of living. Along with that comes the wide spread segregation within the city. It’s very evident that Evanston is one of the most diverse cities but within the city its self the neighborhoods are pretty segregated by race and culture.
The other issue Evanston faces is the militaristic and bigoted style of policing many of the people of color deal with on a daily basis.
DE: What was it like to grow up in Evanston as a biracial child?
SS: Growing up as a young man who is biracial or Mulatto, which is the preferred nomenclature my people like to be called, I was not affected in any special way. My experience was the same as any other young man of color. I dealt with prejudice and racism, mainly by the police department.
Being half-black incorporated me as part of the Black community, and I was seen as such within it by those who are part of that community and those that were not. As people of color, we all experience the same issues around race, because though we see the difference and beauty in our multiple shades of brown, to others we're all just Black.
DE: Your mom’s a therapist and your dad’s an artist—do either of those influences play a role in what you do now?
SS: My father being an artist definitely has played a role in what I do now. I've been watching my father create works of art, painting, or carving since I was a little kid. Growing up in an artistic home and atmosphere gave me the freedom to explore my own creative endeavors and express my artistic abilities.
DE: What kind of art do you do?
SS: I am an artist of different mediums. Pen and pencil, paints, digital graphic design, wood work, and now creating custom apparel with screen printing. If I had to choose a favorite form of art it would be pencil and pen. I can lose myself for hours drawing in my sketchbook.
DE: What other kinds of work/professions/jobs have you had?
SS: Before I opened Fresh Prints of Evanston, I've been working for the last six years in the screen-printing industry for various companies in Evanston and Chicago learning every facet of the business, working in management, customer service, graphic design, and screen print production. Alongside working in the screen printing business, I've been working as a health and fitness coach as an independent contractor.
DE: What led you to open your own shop?
SS: I just fell in love with creating cool graphic designs and custom apparel for people. But I've always worked for someone else and I realized that I was doing all the work, from talking to customers and taking orders, creating graphic designs, printing shirts and managing other employees, but still getting payed hourly while the owners collected all the profits off the labor of my coworkers and myself.
I figured it was time for a change and decided to strike out on my own.
DE: What makes it different to other similar shops in Evanston?
SS: What makes my business different and unique compared to the two other major screen printing businesses in Evanston is that my prices are much lower because I have less overhead, I offer quick turnarounds and free delivery to all Evanston residents, and most importantly, all of my products are created and printed in Evanston, not outsourced and shipped in.
DE: I noticed that some of the examples of your printing are political in nature. Do you have favorite causes you support, volunteer for?
SS: Im not a political person myself, but I do believe in basic human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom for all people, and sometimes that can cross over into my art.
DE: What’s the weirdest design someone’s requested?
SS: That would have to be a couple that wanted graphic, naked pictures of each other on shirts for Valentines Day. It was weird and a bit gross but I still made the shirts.
DE: Do you do Evanston-specific designs?
SS: I do have Evanston specific designs on shirts for sale. Growing up in Evanston, I've noticed the only Evanston clothing available are basic white or navy shirts with basic orange or purple letters spelling out "Evanston," so I decided to create a collection of Evanston gear with a little flare and attitude.
DE: Anything else you’d like to tell Dear Evanston readers about yourself or your company?
SS: I'm passionate about the work I do and it shows in my work. I am meticulous when it comes to detail, and a perfectionist when it comes to the art.
There's nothing better than working hard on a project for a customer and seeing the satisfaction and joy they get when they open their box of shirts for the first time and see their idea become a printed reality.
For now, Fresh Prints is an online store, with hours from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. it's closed on Sundays.
All orders are done online through Seth's site or through direct email.