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Give me Libertine or give me death
Joey and Jonah Pauline didn't always sell $300 jeans.
Not so long ago, the brothers, 24 and 21 years old respectively, were just two punk kids sneaking into clothing conventions, looking to get hooked up with free t-shirts.
Companies they work with now (brands like Jet Lag, Earnest Sewn and True Love/False Idols, probably remember early buyer's meetings with the brothers — them taking notes on purchase orders, but never ordering anything.
Not that you'd get that from the look of Libertine's Laundry, the men's fashion shop the brothers helped open in north Fresno's Piazza del Fiore shopping center.
The shop carries clothes for what Joey calls the denim lifestyle — which is more than expensive jeans. The look can be dressed up, grab a sport jacket and cool retro houndstooth fedora, or down — the store carries hundreds of hip print tees.
And everything is done in do-it-yourself style.
What would you expect from a store that sells $175 t-shirts, whose owner wears $1.50 thrift store shoes, and spent 20 days on a ladder putting wood up on the store's ceiling panels?
Jonah does all the pictures and graphics for the store's advertising, including some very slick-looking postcards of a very pretty-looking girl with a gun.
She's dead or dying, bleeding at least, a single drop from the mouth.
That's Libertine's "killer style."
In the store, jeans are hung on meathooks to complete the theme.
And in true DIY fashion, the store has embraced its age and ties to the MySpace culture, relying on the site heavily for it's marketing.
It's a perfect tool, Jonah says, because he can specifically search and target possible clients based on age and zip codes.
Plus, it works.
The day he started the MySpace, campaign, Libertine's Web site jumped from 30 views to 3,500. In nine days it went from 200 page hits, to 40,000. "We can assume we have 40,000 potential customers," Jonah says.
But the store is more than slick marketing and hip fashion (although that could be enough).
Everything at Libertine comes with a story.
The painting that serves as the store's focal point, the one that has come to represent the essence of Libertine man, it's price tagged at $12,000. Joey bought it at a yard sale in Fig Garden when he was 13 years old.
The brother's found the wood at a farm outside town. They liked the idea of incorporating agricultural elements, truly embracing their Valley roots (both went to Clovis High School).
Even the clothes have stories. The stitching on Earnest Sewn jeans (the top stitch light blue, the bottom orange) was inspired by designer's dad, who raced NASCAR. The guys from True Love/False Idols lived on opposite sides of Los Angeles, were rivals, until teaming up to create their clothing line.
Joey knows most of them and is happy to share.
That, too, is part of the Libertine. "It's not bringing clothing," Joey says. "We're bringing inspiration."