Florida, Orlando, University of Central Florida, fashion, VRATIM, music

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Vans and Converse might have some competition, thanks to one UCF student.

Thomas Filbert, a senior marketing major, launched his online apparel line, VRATIM, in December of 2013. VRATIM is a clothing company geared toward musicians.

"My vision for the company is to be a well-known brand among musicians and fans of music of all genres," said Filbert, the senior of operations for VRATIM. "In the future, I hope to see VRATIM being well-associated with musicians on all levels, from local to famous individuals."

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The idea for the clothing line all started with Filbert's friend, who would play the drums barefoot.

He did so because it gave him a better feel of the double-kick pedals for the bass drum, Filbert said, but by doing so, he would often get his toes caught in the pedal chain.

"So the idea for shoes for drummers that would still offer a good sense of feeling was born, along with the idea of eventually having an entire clothing line behind it," Filbert said.

From flannel shirts to denim button ups to backpacks, hats and shoes, VRATIM offers apparel anywhere from $20 to $75.

Kortney Grinwis, a 20-year-old drummer, first became familiar with VRATIM about a year ago.

"[Thomas] saw my videos on YouTube and I guess he liked them enough to want me as their first endorsed drummer," Grinwis said.

She was immediately impressed with the brand's online presence and by the VRATIM website.

"VRATIM has a very professional and welcoming look and I was instantly hooked," she said.

Drummer Aaron Ovecka is another sponsored artist who first found out about the brand through Grinwis.

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For him, being a part of the VRATIM family is just another way drummers can stay connected.

"I would definitely say that VRATIM is helping my music career because it's an outlet to showcase your name to drummers who have never heard of you or the product before. It's an equal opportunity," Ovecka said.

Filbert's desire to create VRATIM didn't just come from his love of music. Filbert has been playing guitar for 11 years and currently plays in the touring band called Secret Keeper.

So far, the biggest challenge he has faced with VRATIM is dealing with manufacturing. Filbert quickly realized how expensive it would be to manufacture in the U.S., especially on a student's budget. So he decided that the answer was to search for manufacturing overseas.

"Since my mom is originally from Vietnam, it gave us a good place to start to look for manufacturing, and my family has also been a huge help along the way," Filbert said.

Although it gets easier each time, manufacturing items overseas and then importing them has been and will continue to be a stressful aspect of owning a company, he said.

"It's always difficult knowing when exactly something will arrive or difficult explaining ideas to someone whose first language isn't English," he said.

For the future, Filbert said he hopes to be recognized like brands such as Vans or Converse.

As far as immediate goals, Filbert plans for the brand to gain more exposure and to continue to work its way up to reaching bigger artists, as well as gaining popularity around the world by appealing to the music industry.

"A few weeks ago I sent a pair of shoes to a drummer in Australia, and another in the Netherlands," Filbert said. "It makes me really excited to send items to far away places, especially out of the country."

For students planning on starting their own company, Filbert had a few tips and words of wisdom.

"Do lots of research first and if you think you've researched enough, do some more research," he said. "Also, never bite off more than you can chew. It can be really tempting to go all in at first and have everything, but make sure to leave room to grow."

To find out more about VRATIM and to check out the merchandise, visit vratim.com.

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