To a tee: LIC designer draws inspiration from neighborhood


“My plan is to go big,” said budding fashion designer Christina Prudenti, clutching a heap of her creations on her lap. A register of one-of-a-kind graphic T’s, the line emulates the pulse of Long Island City ­— raw, unfiltered and artistic.

“It’s gritty, interesting — an interesting combination between gritty and modern,” said Prudenti. “You have your little nooks where it’s really old school, raw, a lot of street art and then you have areas that are really built up. It’s desolate, but not in a bad way.”

Prudenti believes her clothes capture the essence of the neighborhood, pulling most of her inspiration from things she sees around Long Island City. One of her original designs — a T-shirt etched with an image of the Queensboro Bridge and towering smokestacks in the distance – was the view from the window of a friend’s apartment where she first stayed when she first moved to LIC.

Several years ago in a section of neighborhood that Prudenti refers to as “the rougher neck of the woods,” she noticed an old car, painted with black house paint, constantly parked in the same spot. She photographed the car and screened it onto T-shirts that she sold from a friend’s nearby restaurant. One day, the car’s owner recognized his now-infamous ride and purchased a shirt.

On one top, Prudenti imprinted a photo of her cousin’s face after she was bitten by a dog.

The part-time hairdresser who works at two Upper East Side salons said that whenever she leaves the neighborhood, she can’t wait to get back.

“The atmosphere, the people in the community help foster artistic environment,” said Prudenti.

The Flushing native’s art education began in high school and carried through to college where she received her associates degree at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan before getting her bachelors at Queens College. After graduating, Prudenti took a job as an art teacher at St. Francis Preparatory.

“It was getting to the point where I was kind of bored,” said Prudenti. “I wasn’t satisfied. I needed more. I needed to be creative and do something for myself.”

Four years ago, while staring at one of her pieces, Prudenti was struck with an idea.

“This painting would look cool on a shirt.”

She bought a silk screen kit and began experimenting, using stencils and ink to create new looks and taking cues from edgier designers like Vivienne Westwood and Betsey Johnson.

Queens 77, the brand’s original moniker, reflects the designer’s homeland and birth year. Her attempt to trademark the name frightened mass retailer American Eagle into opposing her application – a tactic frequented by large brands to bully small companies, she said. She’s looking to change the name to Queens 88, reflective of her August 8 birthday. The entrepreneur is already looking to launch a new campaign with the brand’s new name.

Prudenti, who works mostly out of her studio apartment, dreams of selling her designs at retailers on the West Coast and eventually going international.