Meet the Beagleman's: a duo consisting of Ben Bolling and Jon Cochran.
Outside of their day jobs, the couple are the co-founders and mangers of an online clothing store named in honor of their pet beagle, Lyle.
“Jon was working in fashion when he founded it, and he saw a space for urban street style intersecting fashion and nerd culture,” Bolling said. “And I was getting my Ph.D. in English at Chapel Hill.”
The company has expanded its collection since 2012, a time when they were only designing T-shirts.
“I finished up my Ph.D. last year, so I started having more time for illustration and design work,” Bolling said. “Jon and I started bouncing ideas off each other, and that was where Beagleman’s started moving into areas where we haven’t designed before — athletic wear, outerwear. We moved beyond just shirts and accessories. We’re now starting to work in womenswear and a wider range of products.”
Beagleman’s first design was a collection of striped T-shirts created by Cochran. It was inspired by Saint James’ striped raglan tops, a comfortable brand of sweaters they wanted to transform into T-shirts.
“Jon wanted to see what could be done with screenprinting, originally, to create that feeling on a T-shirt,” Bolling, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at UNC, said. “We both started talking about how the basic T-shirts we had were all kind of boxy, didn’t fit and they weren’t as comfortable as we wanted.”
The striped design Cochran created has now been re-released in different colors to commemorate the store's four-year anniversary.
The couple not only draws inspiration from other fashion brands, but from pop culture and comics as well.
“Jon and I come from two different aesthetic perspectives, and definitely design perspectives,” Bolling said. “He brings in a knowledge of clothing, of fashion, of style. I contribute a pop art perspective. This fall, a lot of the design work I’ve done for Beaglemen’s have been inspired by a couple of odd things — particularly Appalachian quilts from Appalachia, Virginia. Jon’s also influenced by folks like Beyoncé, Erykah Badu and Solange — who have something to say, from music to design to fashion.”
Last Saturday, Beagleman’s conducted a photo shoot at UNC, recruiting students like junior Raven Norton as models.
"It was a really cool photo shoot with athletic wear, which was really great with original designs and cool pieces that you can put together to create an original look,” Norton said.
The photo shoot was conducted with help from junior Kristen Marion, one of Bolling's former English 105i: Writing in Law students.
“I'm glad people are finally starting to notice them,” Marion said. “Ben and Jon welcomed me to their business ventures with open arms, which makes it super easy for me to feel comfortable pitching ideas or discussing anything."
Alexandra Hehlen, the founder and editor-in-chief of UNC's Coulture magazine, said there's plenty of fashion inspiration to take note of at UNC.
“UNC promotes such an accepting atmosphere that there are so many people who dress and aren't afraid to be themselves, to be outspoken,” Hehlen said. “We do have some typical looks that are around campus, like the shorts, oversized T-shirts, tennis shoes, but we've also got the southern prep vibe going — little bit of Lilly Pulitzer here and there, some monograms thrown in, and I do like that. It's very colorful — it's fun and it's very Chapel Hill. "
Though Bolling and Cochran now live in Durham, Bolling said his students in Chapel Hill have inspired Beagleman’s designs.
“I’m always inspired by my undergrad students because I see so many people taking brilliant fashion choices and fashion risks that I never would have thought to take at that age,” he said.
In addition to getting support from students, the couple has also been celebrated by fans around North Carolina — particularly those drawn to comics.
From Nov. 11 to Nov. 13, Beagleman’s will open a pop-up shop at NC Comic Con, where Bolling served as a panel director.
“Starting a company seems intimidating at times," he said.
"But because we have been able to connect with folks who have voiced support to the company, we felt secure the entire time."
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