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 him 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 for creativity in Professional Sports licensing.” Prior to that 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 and before long, the company cracked the NFL, MIB, NBA, MLB and MotorSports creating for Super Bowls, World Series and all Pro Sports Championships and other commemorative events as well as a highly popular line known as Intense Mascots, Championship Rings and more. The look that Gardner had pioneered art in the genre – and created the very first “simulated process color” in apparel printing – and it caught the attention of printers around the world. 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 as well. You can see echoes of their work still to this day.
Gardner Graphics was based on the shores of Lake Ontario on the US side in Western New York. It had originally been a winery and orchard and was well known by the local community to have been haunted and was featured on a television series for it's eerie & nefarious past.
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” - Matt Powell, a Senior Sports Industry Analyst at the New York-based research firm NPD Group.
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