PORTLAND, Maine — What do you get when you combine a group of guys and a beer festival? In this case, you get a clothing company.
Chris Avantaggio, an art director from Portland, has an annual tradition of going to the Maine Brewers Festival with friends. The group always wears blaze orange T-shirts so they can find each other in the crowd, but one year they took their orange shirts to a new level. Avantaggio created a one-of-a-kind T-shirt design for him and his friends that is now known as the BeerME shirt.
“When we got to the event, I had no idea how people would take it, but they took it really well,” Avantaggio said. “One of my friends literally sold one off his back at [the festival]. After the event we had a lot of people ask about the T-shirt so I decided to make some more to sell around town.”
From there, Avantaggio put together a website and the orders kept coming in. Now the company, aptly named LiveME, is a celebration of all things Maine. Avantaggio and a group of friends have expanded their designs to include SurfME, SailME, HikeME, BikeME, LoveME and more.
The now flourishing site, livememaine.com, sells the company’s T-shirts (in original bright orange and other colors), hats, postcards, mugs, hoodies, pins, and pretty much any other Maine-related apparel you could want.
“With this brand it’s all about celebrating the things you love about Maine,” Avantaggio said.
As a Maine native, Avantaggio grew up in Damariscotta and has always had a special spot in his heart for the state.
“I’ve always loved the coast. I love being out on the ocean. Fishing, kayaking, hiking, those are great summer activities. I also grew up snowboarding at Sugarloaf, so I love snowboarding, and Maine has some great mountains.”
Although his love of the state has helped propel the growth of LiveME, it hasn’t been without some challenges. Along with getting LiveME off the ground Avantaggio has a full-time job as a creative director at The VIA Agency, a marketing company in Portland, which leaves him with little spare time. LiveME is his passion project, he uses his spare time to work on the website and blog, as well as the T-shirt designs.
The nearly nonexistent budget was another stumbling block, leaving the group to design the website and market the brand themselves. Avantaggio said social media, family and friends were a big help in promoting LiveME.
“I’d say I owe a lot to social media in terms of getting the brand off the ground and getting it in front of people and even getting feedback which is great,” he said. LiveME currently has two Facebook pages, one for BeerME and one for LiveME, a Twitter page, a main website, a blog and a Pinterest account. They love being able to interact with Maine enthusiasts and see their products traveling around the country.
“It’s awesome to get a picture tweeted to us, or somebody sharing it on our Facebook page of where our fans are wearing our T-shirts,” Avantaggio said.
The LiveME photo gallery is bursting with photos of hikers, bikers and beer fans sporting their tees and showing their love for the great state of Maine and the LiveME brand.
Speaking of the coming year, Avantaggio said, “The primary initiative will just be to grow our reach. I feel like we’re still unknown in the state. I’d like to see the brand in some more locally owned shops around the state.”
Select LiveME products are currently sold at Central St. Farmhouse in Bangor, Zane in Portland, Blackpoint Surfshop in Scarborough, and Old Port Card Works in Portland.
A full selection of merchandise is available online at livememaine.com.
And, of course, Avantaggio plans on designing more of the T-shirts that started it all.