Carhartt selling limited-edition NFL Draft shirt designed by Detroit HBCU grad

'It tells the story of everybody around here'
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Posted at 11:13 PM, Apr 24, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It seems just about every business in the city of Detroit is trying to get involved in the NFL Draft including Carhartt. They're about to release a special NFL Draft shirt, which is all about Detroit from the design to the artist.

"We thought what better way to commemorate this really momentous event here in Detroit by doing some special product,” said Carhartt Vice President of Global Product Design Ben Ewy. "What we love about it is we think people from Detroit, from Michigan will be able to wear it and show their pride of Detroit. And people who are coming to Detroit — many for the first time — can take a little bit of Detroit and our pride in the city back home with them.”

Draft week is finally here, and football fans from all over the world are in town visiting the city’s iconic stores but leaving with it’s story.

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Ben Ewy, Carhartt vice president of Global Product Design, talks about a limited-edition shirt designed by a lifelong Detroiter for the NFL Draft. (April 24, 2024)

“One of the things we love is it allows us to tell great stories about Detroit that maybe people don't know," Ewy said. "A T-shirt that is going to allow us to tell great stories, what tells kind of the combined spirit of Carhartt in Detroit and this idea of hard work and determination of the people in Detroit."

Ewy says they are only selling a limited number of the NFL Draft shirts and expect to sell out quickly. It’s made in Detroit, sold only in Detroit and designed by a lifelong Detroiter.

Matthew Holness is the man behind the design. Everything from the flowers to the car to the cracks in the road means something to him.

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Lifelong Detroiter Matthew Holness designs a special shirt for the NFL Draft with Carhartt. (April 24, 2024)

"It's symbolic of my father, it's symbolic of my mother, somebody’s sister, somebody's brother,” Holness said. "We got these work gloves: Carhartt work gloves. And those are the most important part of the artwork because it represents the workers of Detroit just holding the city together."

Holness, a graduate of Detroit’s HBCU design school, Pensole Lewis college, won a competition to get his logo on the shirt. From the early drawings in his notebook to the finished product on the shirt, this moment took weeks of work and years of resolve.

“It took a lot of patience," Holness said. "I've been doing this for about 20-something years and this is the first victory I've had. Trying to take this all in.”

His first design to make it on a shirt hasn’t gone on sale yet, but as our interview was wrapping up, a customer walked in looking for the shirt. The man’s son in Indiana got an email from Carhartt with the design, sent his dad a screenshot and said go downtown to buy some.

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Paul Zafarana from Dearborn buys a limited-edition NFL Draft shirt made by a lifelong Detroiter. (April 24, 2024)

“It tells the story of everybody around here," Paul Zafarana from Dearborn said. "Detroit never left. We've been here and this shirt tells the history of Detroit.”

“You see the cracks in the pavement here," Holness said pointing to his design. "It shows sometimes, things might get shaky, but the workers of Detroit will hold it together at the end of the day.”

It’s the story of hard work persevering through hard times. It’s no accident that Carhartt only considered Detroit artists for this design because to tell the story of this city and it’s people, you have to live it.

VIDEO: Michigan-based Stahls' takes us behind the scenes as they prepare to heat-presses NFL Draft jersey names

Making Jerseys at a moment's notice

“It means the fighting, everything that you went through was all worth it," Holness said, adding he hopes that this victory will be one of many.

The shirts go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. They're only available in person at their two Detroit stores.