'Life is Short. Play it Loud.' - An Interview with a Bay State College Fashion Alum
In 2013, Mark Lisavich graduated valedictorian from Bay State College’s Fashion Design program. Since then, he has co-founded Encore Apparel Co where he has served as lead designer for all product, marketing and ecommerce needs for the last four years. We talked about his career and accomplishments in the fashion industry after Bay State.
Bay State College: How did you decide to study at Bay State College?
Mark Lisavich: I chose Bay State College based on location, cost, and the curriculum.I had received my Bachelor’s degree from Villanova, so I liked that Bay State offered a two-year design program.
BSC: How many years have you been working in this industry?
ML: I graduated from Bay State’s fashion program in 2013 and we launched shortly thereafter.Initially out of our living room, then to a showroom in the Navy Yard in Charlestown, and have recently moved to Newbury Street.
BSC: Can you tell us about Encore Apparel?
ML: Influenced by the insightful lyrics and revolutionary ideas of the folk-rock music scene of the 1960s, the goal was to create a free-thinking apparel brand with roots tracing back to that rebellious, but inspiring time period. Originally built on the streets of Boston in pop-up tent events, Encore’s music-inspired line consists of premium graphic t-shirts, unique custom hoodies, and skullnote trucker hats. Our first retail store opened in September 2018 on Newbury Street as an homage to the classic record store - an endangered species in many cities thanks to astronomical rents - designed to bring creative rebels together to shop, listen to music, and connect.
In addition to the retail space, Encore’s developed Project Encore, which provides free guitars to school music programs, non-profits, and other organizations dedicated to the creative arts.
BSC: Can you share any accomplishments or accolades you are particularly proud of?
ML: Graduating Valedictorian from Bay State in 2013 was a great achievement.It validated a lot of hard work and sacrifice.Launching our company that same year and watching the company scale and roughly double sales each of the past four years has been especially rewarding.And, I’d say it’s been capped by the launch of our first brick and mortar retail space here on Newbury Street. Seeing the vision we had five years ago for the brand come to fruition after a ton of hard work was a real highlight.
BSC: Which professional project from the last two years are you most proud of? Can you describe it? And why you are so proud of it?
ML: Project Encore. For every fifty Project Encore t-shirts sold, we donate a guitar to a high school music program or non-profit. We love music. It's the thread through Encore and the inspiration behind the brand. Life is more vivid and rewarding when it has a soundtrack. Sadly, we came to realize that with budget cuts and financial pressures, many kids across the country were seeing their school music programs drastically reduced or even eliminated. Now more than ever, creativity, communication, and collaboration are essential skills needed for any successful career. Without exposure to music at schools, kids lose a vital building block and are put at a competitive disadvantage. That hurts all of us. Playing guitar can not only foster that creative collaboration, and deep personal introspection, but it can be an inspiring force onto others. Without question it has been for us. Here’s a video of our last guitar drop at the Excel High School in Boston.
BSC: Did you have any mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Can you tell us about them?
ML: My parents.My father was the hardest working person I’ve ever known.I can’t recall him ever taking a day off from work, yet he somehow managed to find time to be there for every single event my siblings or I had.And my mother’s tireless commitment to building the most loving home and life for our family has been a 24-hour a day job for the last 38 years.She’s scarified everything to give her family the best life possible.I try to take those two lessons with me every day - hard work and sacrifice.
BSC: Was there a moment in your youth that you suddenly knew this would be where you landed as an adult?
ML: I am not sure I had that moment until later in life.I studied Engineering after high school and spent 10 years working in software.It wasn’t until I was around 30 years old that I decided to go back to school to pursue something more creative.
BSC: If you could talk to your younger self when you were first starting out in this industry, what would you say?
ML: Be prepared for a lot of hard work, a lot of ups, and a lot of downs too.Focus on learning from your mistakes but celebrate and recognize the wins.If your goal each day is to try to create value for your customers and make a positive impact on your community, you’re on the right path.