Woosah Outfitters: Nature + Art +ClothingBy Jane Whitttington on January 20th, 2017 /
The Urban Dictionary defines woosah as “to tell someone to calm down and relax”. Erica Lang, owner and operator of Woosah Outfitters uses the word as a mantra when she needs to slow down and take a breath. These days, her shop, both online and bricks-and-mortar, is busy enough that “woosah” can be hard to achieve.
Lang came to Grand Rapids from the Detroit area to attend Kendall College of Art and Design. Lang was an industrial design major which she defines as “creative engineering.” However, while she was in that program, she felt that she was not getting the creative release that she craved.
Lang says, “I would come home from school and paint or draw as a way to escape into what I really liked to do. I started signing my art Woosah. I shared it on social media, and people started asking if they could buy my art. I started an Etsy shop, Woosah Outfitters, to sell my work. I got a job at a local printing shop, Grand Rapids Screen Printing to learn the commercial side of making clothes. After the online shop took off, I decided to change my major to Print Making. It felt right. In school, I learned how to carve wood cuts, and I just fell in love with it. From there, I added printed shirts and other items to my Etsy store. I would make the products when I got an order, so it was pretty much print on demand. This gave me the opportunity to start saving up and building my inventory. I would go to festivals, art fairs and farmers’ markets to sell my work. My brand started to take off locally and build a following.”
She continues, “In my senior year, I finally brought Woosah into school with some very large woodcuts printed on paper. It was received very well, and I was awarded the Excellence in Printmaking award in 2014, which is the year I graduated.”
After graduating from Kendall, Lang knew that she wanted to open a store, but she also knew she wasn’t quite ready. She worked hard to save money and develop her designs. Besides working on her own art in partnership with a community print shop, she did freelance work designing logos, shirts and other items. Over the next year, she worked hard and saved money.
In January 2014, she was ready to open her own shop but needed money to renovate a former cigar store on Division Street in Grand Rapids. Lang had enough faith in her vision to sign the lease before she even had the money. She started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 but ended up raising $20,000, more than enough to get Woosah Outfitters started as a real walk-in-and-buy-things venture.
Available in Lang’s store are long- and short-sleeved tee shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, bags, hats, children’s apparel, cups, and other items. She also sells her own art and features guest artists as well.
Lang has recently met with Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) in order to develop a wholesale business and is working on building a foundation in order for that facet of the business to take off.
Lang is committed to environmental issues and has worked with local water protection organizations. She says, “My art has always been about nature. That’s what keeps me centered and is my biggest inspiration. It’s important to me to protect what we have.” Her particular interest is protecting the Great Lakes, and some of her designs espouse and support shutting down pipe line number five under the Mackinac Straits. She entered a Shut Down Line Five woodcut in this year’s ArtPrize and talked to hundreds of people about issues concerning the Great Lakes.
Lang is grateful for the supportive community that surrounds entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids. She feels that the cooperation and encouragement she has received and, in turn, offers others, makes Grand Rapids an exciting place to work and grow.
For more information, visit Lang’s website at www.spreadingthewoosah.com