Bethany Clough

Retail Therapy: Fresno State student designs ‘peace, love and unity’ T-shirts

Mark Rein with some of his Peace Armor merchandise at E’rth World Imports in the Tower District.
Mark Rein with some of his Peace Armor merchandise at E’rth World Imports in the Tower District. jwalker@fresnobee.com

The peace, love and good vibes of the flower child are back.

But instead of hippie skirts and flowers, one Fresno designer is putting a modern twist on the sentiment by applying it to T-shirts, hats and other street wear for men and women.

Peace Armor is a line of T-shirts and hats by 26-year-old Fresno State business student Mark Rein. The T-shirts he creates feature words such as peace, love and unity. The logo is a peace sign inside a shield.

The clothing falls into the street wear category, a growing grassroots trend with connections to skateboard and sometimes graffiti culture where individuals design their own lines of clothing.

A lot of people have said it’s a new-age, hippie thing. I didn’t mind.

Mark Rein

A few years ago, Rein was looking for clothes to wear at skate shops and other stores, but he didn’t like what he found.

“Lots of it was derogatory or something I wouldn’t want to wear around my little brothers,” he says.

So he decided to design his own.

“Peace can shield us,” he says. “The fact that we all believe in peace and unity would help us all do well with each other. We’re not so different.”

He watched YouTube videos to learn how to print T-shirts, making them for friends and family. He had a booth at an entrepreneurial event for students at Willow International in 2012 and was surprised at how many sales he made.

“That made me feel like it was more than a hobby,” he says.

Rein then added more designs, more colors, T-shirts for women, v-necks, tank tops and sweatshirts. Next came hats, ones with just the logo and then floral and Hawaiian-themed hats with the logo on a patch. You can see designs on the Peace Armor Facebook page and Instagram account.

The clothing is available at E’rth shop, at 816 E. Fern Ave. in the Tower District, and online at http://www.peacearmor.com/. He also sells at various events, often including monthly ArtHop events on the first Thursday of every month.

The shirts are printed in Rein’s family’s den. He learned to sew from his grandma to sew on pockets. And he’s applying what he learns in his business classes at Fresno State to the business.

It was designed to inspire peace, love and unity.

Mark Rein

He’ll be a senior next year and plans to continue the business after he graduates.

Peace Armor is going strong, but early on Rein was feeling a bit like the odd-man out. The emphasis on peace, love and unity wasn’t something he saw much of anywhere else.

But it turns out, the sentiment some readers will associate with Woodstock, is still thriving in some young people today. Fast forward from folk music to raves and what raves have evolved into today: electronic dance music festivals with DJs, light shows, crazy outfits and lots of dancing (and some drugs and skin-baring outfits, too).

The festivals — like the Electric Daisy Carnival that Rein went to in Las Vegas — still have that hippie vibe of positivity.

We’re not so different.

Mark Rein

Since then, Rein has seen more companies highlighting the word peace. And it might explain why his sales do particularly well in beachy cities such as Santa Cruz.

Rein doesn’t feel so alone anymore.

“It wasn’t until I got to those events that I realized that, ‘Hey maybe this is a mainstream thing, that people want to be unified with peace and love,” he says.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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