Garment customizer DO Apparel expands, moves to Livonia

Julie Walker
The Detroit News

Livonia — Late roster adds. Missing jerseys. Misspelled names on uniforms. At least one of these mishaps seems to happen every season, and usually just before picture day.

Owners of a local company that specializes in customized attire say their recently expanded business has the formula to cut down on such uniform woes and fix them fast when miscues do occur. DO Apparel achieves that by creating the garments under one roof.

The Brother Sports logo is sewn onto the front of this ball cap in the first step of 'puff embroidery' at DO Apparel in Livonia.

Formerly located in a small shop in West Dearborn, DO Apparel grew, moved and reopened July 1 in a 12,000-square-foot facility in Livonia. The new hulking digs house multiple machines that do everything from print jerseys to embroider hats on-site. There’s even a new picnic-style table for employees to sit during breaks.

 "We have a lunch area now,” said a visibly excited Danny McKae, one of three co-owners and COO, during a recent tour on a rainy October day. The move also allowed for a staff increase from 25 people to 33, with room to grow.

 “In the old place, we literally didn’t have any more space to put people, McKae said. “We’d say, ‘Oh, let’s hire another designer,’ but it was like, ‘Well, where’s he gonna sit?’ ”

DO Apparel started as a side gig for Danny McKae’s brother. Matt McKae, 32, acts as CEO and owner, too. Matt McKae had been representing the work of the company’s original moniker, Detroit’s Own, for former owner Brian Matelic. The brothers McKae bought out Matelic in late 2015, rebranding the business as DO Apparel, a change they say more accurately represented the business’s reach that goes beyond Detroit and even Wayne County.

Last year, they finalized a merger with now co-owner and creative director Trevor Thompson’s company, Brotherhood Sports. That company also created custom clothing, but outsourced the work. Thompson, 37, said he brings creativity to the outfit, while Matt McKae handles financials and the business side of things, and Danny McKae handles general duties, including watching over sales and productions.

 "I would be the one who makes everything look cool,” Thompson said with a smile, “or at least I think.”

Seamstress Daynah Grant, right, of Southfield, and others sew together hockey jerseys.

Matt McKae agreed: “It was the perfect fit for Danny and I, because we’re just not artists. It’s just not who we are.”

Danny McKae said that DO Apparel is the largest company in Michigan that does everything under one roof. The next biggest competitor in the state, McKae said, has their production process in another building.

“It is bold for us to say we’re the biggest? Yes. But we know who our competitors are,” Thompson said. “From a customer’s standpoint, it’s a cool process,” he added, as he and the brothers explained how a new order grows from an idea to finished product. A person may come in with an idea for a new jersey. They’d work with a sales person to figure out the order, before sending it over to Thompson who designs a logo or look from scratch or helps flesh out a customer’s idea. From there, the design goes to the production side.

DO uses a process called sublimation for much of their clothing, a printing method where an image, or custom design, is applied to cloth by machine using sublimation ink, heat and pressure. For example, jerseys made this way start as an image loaded into the big sublimation machine. The shirts would then start printing on a huge roll of material.

From there, they go to a cutter, who carefully slices out the fronts and backs of each piece before it heads to the sewing department to get stitched together. The company still offers screen-printing, too, where the letters or design are created separately to get put on put the clothing.

DO Apparel focuses largely on sportswear, outfitting sports teams for more than 100 local high schools, bowling teams, little league teams and more. They also create custom duds and swag for corporations. Most of their items are produced completely in-house, from start to end. Any products that they get shipped in, like the shells of hats, are customized entirely in house.

Trimmer Donta James, of Livonia, uses electric sizzors to trim away excess fabric before these hockey jerseys are sewn together.

The expansion also allowed for a retail area, with athletic wear available off the racks for customers who may happen by, dressing room included. Matt McKae, who lives in Livonia as does his Danny, said he gets absolutely thrilled when he sees a DO Apparel piece on a person out in the community.

“We even got on ESPN,” Matt McKae said, thanks to the business helping dress a local cornhole team. Yes, there are cornhole teams that compete at levels high enough to get featured on ESPN, for those looking to transcend from their backyard bouts.

Closer to home, one local customer made the switch to DO Apparel about three years ago and said he’s staying with them for as long as he has anything to say about it.

Matt Simmons, 50, is now the softball commissioner under the Sterling Heights Baseball & Softball Association umbrella. Simmons had held different posts through the organization, including chairing the uniform committee. He’d seen DO jerseys out in the community, and thought they looked cool.

They moved their order to DO about three years ago. Simmons said the pricing was comparable, and the ability to get a new jersey made that day, sometimes within hours for those inevitable late adds, was as much a selling point as the unique designs.

“DO Apparel provides the impressively rare combination of outstanding products and outstanding service,” Simmons said. “The prices they give our organization are very reasonable — especially considering the quality of their products (the jerseys feel like jerseys — not T-shirts), and how fast, attentive and friendly their service is.”

Interested customers can visit to get started. Prices vary per order. An 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony is set to take place on Oct. 28 at the new building at 15356 Middlebelt Road in Livonia.

Twitter: @juliejalopy

DO Apparel Brotherhood Sports Creative Director Trevor Thompson, of Warren, COO Danny McKae, and his brother, CEO Matthew McKae, both of Livonia and all company owners, pose in their embroidery department.