- A brief introduction to DGE and the man who made it possible.
In 1983, Dave Gardner was a few months short of receiving a B.F.A. in oil painting from SUNY Buffalo when he headed to Texas seeking a job as an illustrator. Gardner had experimented with it since he was 15. His parents gave me a Hunt Speedball home kit and he started making his own Kiss shirts, he recalls. “I started out with one-color prints, and then I figured out I could airbrush on additional colors. I had the drive to do more complex things, and eventually I began making my own heat transfers.” Gardner joined the industry right as the stakes for producing branded apparel grew exponentially higher. To Gardner, the challenge of bringing an iconic brand to life on the canvas of a black T-shirt inspired him to combine the techniques he had learned in art school with his earlier screen printing experiments. More than 30 years later, The DGE art is still astonishing. “Dave’s work set the foundation and the bar.” Gardner took his work to the NFL’s offices in New York hoping to obtain a license, which he eventually did. But before that he acquired an NCAA license deal. Before long, the company cracked the NFL, doing Super Bowl shirts as well as a highly popular line known as Intense Mascots. The look that Gardner had pioneered – which became the very first “simulated process color” – and it caught the attention of printers around the country. By the mid-1990s, the simulated process color look achieved by Dave and the team was wildly popular. Gardner successfully took their distinct look into other vertical markets. You can see echoes of their work to this day, when the average printer is still intimated by process color. Eventually Dave took his knowledge he refined over the decades and became an Executive at Gildan and the brilliant era of Sports licensing creations had been put away... until now by The NFT Lab. The NFT Lab is was founded by one of Dave's proteges from 30 years ago, Creative Director / Illustrator Craig Howell. Craig recalls, "I was very fortunate to get my first art gig out of college with DGE and to have Dave as my mentor was an opportunity that steered my path that I have always recognized as pivotal to my career. I feel Dave will always be "The Mentor" and am eternally grateful and to this day and we still spend time together, mostly letting him beat me on the golf course, reflecting on the past and the impact those years had on many levels. The work I create today still has Dave's imprint on it decades later. So one day we made a "tee time" and I proposed to Dave that I wanted to reintroduce the DGE era to the world through the NFT marketplace and to solidify his legacy as being one of the most influential people in Sports licensing history.
Jim Kelly and Dave Gardner pre game Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York in 1993.
Dave being a lifetime Bills fan is wearing a Miami Dolphins Dan Marino BIGHEAD he created at the time when the Dolphins were fierce AFC EAST Division rivals while the Bills represented the AFC in four straight Super Bowl Appearances.
This 1992 shirt created by DGE celebrating the back-to-back championships of the Chicago Bulls was worn by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the Bulls victory parade through Chicago instead of the official shirt the players were supposed to wear Jordan insisted on wearing DGE's BACK 2 BACK design. A photo published the next day in USA Today of the players wearing this shirt led to hundreds of thousands sold in the first week.
And again in 1993
Never has the vintage sports apparel reigned supreme like it has today. There has been a revival in this market. It's the history attached to the art, People have a great desire “The 90′s retro trend is very hot right now,” - Matt Powell, a Senior Sports Industry Analyst at the New York-based research firm NPD Group.
Any inquiries on our "lab work" feel to to reach out through our contact section.