Calling all hell-raisers, rabble-rousers and straight up player haters: Dante Catanzarite has the brand for you.
Catanzarite’s clothing business Inferno & Co. was a way for him to explore something he’s passionate about: the boundaries of fashion. Creating pieces for people who possess his brand motto, “Grit N’ Grind”, is what inspires Catanzarite’s creativity.
“I love that because grit is something that every person just has – you just have it or you don’t,” said Catanzarite, a senior at Ohio University studying integrated media. “There’s no color, race, creed; anybody can have grit. My mission for this was to try to build a message and a brand around something that everybody can get their heads around. What does grit mean? It’s striving for something relentlessly. People like me, at least, like surrounding ourselves with people who have passions – they have goals, they want to go somewhere in life. That’s the message with the brand is; have some grit, have some drive, have some end goals but don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Catanzarite started the business from the ground up. He had dabbled in fashion before with an Instagram page full of custom embroidery pieces, but wanted to take his love of the industry to the next level.
Inferno & Co. began right as the COVID-19 pandemic was picking up speed. In quarantine, Catanzarite had time to build his business. He taught himself how to use Adobe products like Illustrator and Photoshop to design the clothes, found manufacturers, figured out his business model, and got everything figured out.
During the process he roped in two friends, Jacob Harb and Cody Ruple, to help him with the logistics of the business. Ruple helps with “running the numbers” and making sure the information is all compiled in a concise manner, and Harb is the director of operations, making sure they stay up-to-date with orders, the website runs smoothly, and more.
“When Dante told me the idea of the brand at first I loved it, as well as everything it stood for because I know exactly where he drew a lot of his inspirations from, and I wanted to help out as much as I could,” Harb, who has been close friends with Catanzarite since middle school, said in a message. “Granted, it took a lot of convincing and proving it to him, which I’m very thankful he gave me the opportunity to do this with him and help him out.”
Inferno & Co.’s website launch and first drop happened in the first week of September, 2020. He had another launch in the first week of November and a spring release the first week of April.
As of now, the brand sells sweatshirts, t-shirts, caps, and more, with a lot of the inspiration for the designs coming from Catanzarite’s rugby roots. As a member of the OU Rugby Team, Catanzarite has seen an overwhelming amount of support from his teammates while starting Inferno & Co. — he even used some of them to model the clothes.
“With rugby, there’s a certain culture,” Catanzarite said. “The rugby guys are going to really support you, no matter what. Rugby is a sport where if you play, you take care of your own. I really wanted to give back to those guys… I thought a sliver of what I can do is to let them model, because I know they’re excited about the brand. It brings me joy that other people are actually getting behind this.”
One of his OU rugby teammates, Will Brumfield, listened to Catanzarite talk about starting a clothing brand for months. Catanzarite would bounce ideas off of Brumfield and their friends, and they all felt a sense of pride in what Catanzarite was creating.
“When he talked about making a clothing brand I always thought it was cool, but I thought that’s all it would be, just talk,” Brumfield, a senior studying environmental engineering, said in a message. “He took an idea and made it a legitimate business in, like, eight months, which is wild to me. The man is as determined and motivated as anyone I’ve ever seen, especially at this age, and I think he can take this company wherever he wants to. Not many people can build a clothing company from scratch or rock a handlebar mustache. Dante is doing both in style.”
There are also several products on the website that act as a play on words or pun. One of Catanzarite’s goals with Inferno & Co. is to not take himself or have his customers take themselves too seriously, so he designed a “Cancer Sticks” beanie as a play on big tobacco companies and is currently working on a design to play off of a famous beer.
The clothing is a combination of his rugby vibes and streetwear styles, so there are a lot of colorful designs and prints, as well as tattoo-style artwork and a vintage aesthetic. Catanzarite will get a clear idea in his head, make the design, pick out the fabrics with the manufacturer, iron out the stitching details and sizing logistics, and then place the order to eventually sell on his website.
Aside from its own products, Inferno & Co. also has a sourcing side to the business. The garment sourcing means that anytime an organization, company, or club needs pieces of clothing, Catanzarite can get it for them. This is where he has seen the most growth in the business.
“I don’t ever see it as ‘Hey, this is another clothing company that’s competition,’” said Catanzarite. “I always see it as ‘Hey, it’s another clothing company, we can do business together, we can grow each other,’ because when they grow, I grow, and vice versa.”
Between his creativity in the business and savvy with the sourcing side, Catanzarite’s friends aren’t even a little bit shocked that he’s finding success with Inferno & Co.
“I think Dante’s work is important because I love wearing his stuff,” Brumfield said in a message. “But outside of that, I think his clothing company fills a very niche lane of fashion that not a lot of people have explored. His branding is excellent and his clothing company embodies a mindset that I think is prevalent among a lot of the people that both me and Dante affiliate with, and I feel, and I know Dante does as well, a lot of people can identify with [it].”
Harb and the rest of Catanzarite’s friends know that the true genius of the business lies in the branding, connecting everyone who is passionate about the Grit N’ Grind motto.
“I think it’s important work that Dante’s doing because in a way, it helps connect everyone who wants to get gritty and embrace the grind,” Harb said in a message. “We’ve all done things we don’t want to do, but it’s not about what we do, it’s how we do it. Sometimes you have to do the dirty work that no one else is willing to do. That is true grit and grind, and that is what we stand for.”
After he graduates, Catanzarite is looking to get a warehouse, some printing equipment, and continue pushing the business in the direction it needs to go. But with all he’s accomplished, Catanzarite doesn’t feel a great sense of pride. He doesn’t mean this in a negative light, but in true Grit N’ Grind fashion, he knows that this is just the beginning of his business.
“I’m going to take this business to the highest potential it can be, and then some,” said Catanzarite. “I’m 21, not even out of college yet, but I’ve got a great foundation. I’m all about pivots and taking next steps. I hope it goes as far as it’s supposed to. I don’t know if it’s supposed to or not, but it’s up to me and Cody and Harb and anybody else who joins and everybody who really supports me. And I’m just going to try my hardest to build it. I’m very optimistic.”
Article by Thread Fashion Magazine, Athens, Ohio