Adam Klenovich is a 17-year-old high school junior who talks more like a seasoned CEO than a typical teen.
He has big plans to build a fashion label that would double as a platform to promote other creatives, including designers, artists and musicians. He also envisions holding events someday that are part concert, part fashion showcase. Giving shoppers the option to donate a portion of the proceeds from their clothing purchase to a nonprofit is part of his master plan, too.
But he doesn’t just talk the talk. He spends most nights after school and weekends trying to make his dream happen. This month, he’s showcasing and selling pieces from his fashion line IMPERFECT in a gallery at 4413 Butler St., in the Lawrenceville neighborhood every Friday through Sunday. Eleven percent of money from each sale will be donated to charity.
“This is how we want to help people,” said Adam, who launched IMPERFECT nearly a year ago. “We’re using clothing to draw people in and then explain to people what we’re trying to do.”
He works on this labor of love with his friends Rees Edwards, 18, who attends Robert Morris University, and Ben Whiting, 20, a Carlow University student.
Adam got the bug to start his own business while in pandemic quarantine. After school ended last spring, he said he found himself at “a plateau in my life” and wanted to use his time being stuck at home because of COVID-19 “to put my mind to something that would eventually help me” — and others, too. He liked fashion but often had trouble finding things he actually wanted to wear that didn’t cost a lot.
“I might as well start making my own stuff,” he said, “and that’s where it all started.”
As a creative, he is like a sponge who soaks up inspiration wherever he goes, so the clothing he comes up with is pretty abstract. One thing all apparel has in common, though, is that no two pieces are exactly the same — hence the brand’s name IMPERFECT.
Nothing is “cookie cutter,” he explained. “You don’t want to hear something in music or see something in fashion or art that someone has done 20 times.”
Since last summer, he strives to wear something IMPERFECT wherever he goes.
“It sparks a conversation,” he said. “Even when I’m getting materials at Jo-Ann fabric, I’ll be at the checkout and people ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ and I’ll give them my business card.”
Fashion as art
The chance to show his clothes in a gallery space came true thanks to Rees, whose aunt is an independent artist and curator at Gallery 4413 in Lawrenceville. They’ve been working hard since January to create pieces to fill the space.
Adam got a helping hand thanks to a good Samaritan at Victoria’s Embroidering in Rochester, Pennsylvania, who gave him free lessons in screen printing and his old machine to use.
“I’m extremely happy to have that. It’s amazing,” he said.
On display and for sale in the gallery are lots of colorful pieces, including fabric-sprayed garments, bleached items and embroidered sets. IMPERFECT’s focus for now is on shorts, tees and sweatshirts. Sprinkled into the mix are selections from other Pittsburgh-based creatives, too, including repurposed and handpainted clothing by Anika Ignozzi, owner of Ooh Baby in Millvale.
Part of the gallery’s display is an artistic commentary on surveillance in society.
“You could walk anywhere right now and you’re on camera. I don’t believe a lot of people understand that,” he said.
He contacted 10 electronic recycling facilities to hunt for old TV sets for the installation and found some available in Wintersville, Ohio. He stacked them in the gallery, placed along with old theater seats he found on Facebook Marketplace. The TVs are connected to cameras that show what’s happening throughout the gallery.
More than just clothing
The gallery showcase is just the beginning for IMPERFECT. He and his friends are at work on a website that would give other designers, artists and musicians a chance to promote their brands. Once COVID-19 restrictions relax, they plan to hold events featuring these creatives.
Giving back to the community is a cornerstone of IMPERFECT, too. On the website, Adam wants to highlight six nonprofits at a time. At checkout, shoppers can pick which one they want a portion of their purchase to support.
He credits his time in Boy Scouts and a mission trip to Russia before the pandemic for instilling in him leadership skills and the drive to make a difference.
“One day I want to be able to plan my own missions and help people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how successful you are — if you can build something that can help other people, that’s the biggest thing for me.”
The IMPERFECT fashion gallery is open through March 31 from 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 2 p.m. Sundays.
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