The first time I saw Damaged Wear was at the Project Earth Market a few months ago when I just started ChicpeaJC. After seeing the “I F*&ing Love Jersey City” design I remember thinking to myself “How fucking cool is that T-shirt?!” and I needed to find out the backstory. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, Dennis and I started chatting on Facebook and we made a plan to do the interview at his home in the heights. I had no idea that Dennis, the owner of a clothing company had a secret oasis/ecosystem in his backyard with the most amazing views of the city.
What’s your name? Dennis
Can you tell me what you do? I’m the owner of Damaged Wear. It’s a small local t shirt company here in Jersey City.
How did it start? Probably about 6 years ago. My friend and I were looking to start a T-shirt company and the 1st image we wanted to make was the “I fucking love Jersey City” T-shirt so together we came up with that. From there we started printing some other designs.
What were you doing before? I used to work for Verizon and I was there for 14 years working for the man…I used to run all the stores in Manhattan. I was kind of a big shot there….Same thing you did, I wanted to get out, wanted to do my own thing. I had Damaged Wear already working for a few years… not really making any money or anything… so one day I went to lunch and never went back. That was about a year ago…
Wow! I took a year off… and just fucking hanging out, building aquaponics, growing chickens…
Do you fucking love Jersey City? I fucking love it. It’s a cool town. We’ve got our own edge here, it’s right near Manhattan which is cool… it’s right on the water. Cool sections like the heights where you have great views….
Do you have a design background? No my partner is a huge designer. She’s the one that designed the shirts. I am the creative director. We also sell some bags and I do art also…
What kind of art do you do? I have another partner, her name is Brooke Hansson… her and I repurpose window frames and we find old factories, abandoned spaces and we either make frames out of them and put her photos in or we make random things out of them.
Why is it called Damage Wear? We encourage people to do whatever they want to the shirts; rip them and tear them…None of the designs are clean, there’s graffiti designs on them…
Are you wearing a Damaged Wear T-shirt? Yes, but this is for a store I will be opening. It’s going to be architecture salvage kind of stuff…. I will sell the Tshirts there as well. A lot of the stuff I want to sell is recycled and repurposed, things that are good for people, good for the environment, good for people’s wellbeing…
How long have you been living here? More than 10 years. I am originally from Elizabeth… I was looking for a good place to buy, somewhere cool and close to the city… and Jersey City fulfilled all my needs.
What’s your favorite Jersey City hangout spot? I have to say L.I.T.M, it’s the 1rst bar I came to when I moved here and I’ve been going there ever since.
What about in the Heights? Trolley Car Bar, it’s a cool bar…. we always end up there.
Tell me a little bit about this garden of yours… I have a certification in Permaculture. It is a specific design of planting… usually built for food so you would build acres of all kind of living edible foods that coexist with each other. So I’ve tried to do that here… I’ve got a bunch of trees like pears, apple trees… alot of plants…I’m trying to build an ecosystem with this thing.
I built my own aquaponic system….So basically you grow fish on the bottom and you grow plants on top. The fish poop and the poop is a fertilizer and goes up into the tank and it feeds the plants. The plants in turn filter the water and clean the water… The soil here is so bad and I am going to redesign it and do a lot of raise beds. There is still alot of work I need to do…
Who is this adorable dog? This is Charlie Murphy, he tries to eat the chickens. At first, he would totally go after them… now he is fine though, I am dog sitting him for a friend.
What’s the driving force behind all this? I left this six figure income and now I don’t want to make six figures again. I want to live a very simple life, grow food on my own as much as I can, sell eggs… Just live a simple life. I want to be conscious of your surroundings, I think people need to wake up and realize it’s not about how much money you make… It’s not about the kind of house or car you have… You are waking up to what the government is doing to us, what we are doing ourselves and the planet..
Were you always interested in living the simple life? Nope. I had a fancy condo and things were all about making more and more money…. I did always like the outdoors and being outside but to really make the switch and change my life like this….
Was there an ephipany moment? No it was slowly, over the years…. seeing the corporate greed that I was a part of helped me realize that I don’t need that… That there are more things in life than a prada wallet. It’s still good to have nice things but not put so much importance into them.
What’s next for Damaged Wear? We just launched a new design featuring a local Jersey City street artist Mr. AbiLLity… we collaborated on one of his designs; the infamous big red heart (you see it all over Jersey City) and it’s holding up a sign that says “All you need is me”… We are selling them online, and soon in stores. I would also like to work with other artists and talents…maybe even you, Chicpea!