By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Nov 28, 2006 at 5:33 AM
There's a good chance that in the coming months, the word N.E.W.D. is going to be popping up all around town. Naturally, we thought you'd be curious about it, so we figured we'd give you a little heads up as to what it's all about.

The clever acronym stands for Nothing Else Will Do and is the creative brainchild of Rob Kessler and Sherry Bantug. Officially, N.E.W.D. is a local clothing company, although neither Kessler nor Bantug design or make any of the clothes.

The way their clothing company works is like an artist's co-operative. N.E.W.D. is, in a metaphorical sense, the art gallery -- a showroom of sorts, for local and non-local artists to display their work. Kessler's and Bantug's job, then, is to provide the canvas and spend their time seeking out talent that fits into N.E.W.D.'s aesthetic.

It is similar, in ways, to Chicago's, a T-shirt design company that accepts submissions from the public, although N.E.W.D. expands beyond the almighty tee into hoodies, long-sleeved shirts and hats.

But where Threadless receives thousands of designs submitted from anyone and everyone with a fresh idea, N.E.W.D. is its own talent scout, keeping a watchful eye on the local scene.

"It's a great way for artists to get their pieces out there," says Bantug. "But instead of a canvas, it's on a piece of clothing. Both of us are from Milwaukee and we know the talent is here, it's just a matter of giving them an opportunity to make it happen."

With N.E.W.D. acting as the artistic umbrella under which the designs take shape, Kessler says that he views himself as part of a promotion company more so than a clothing company.

"The clothing aspect of it is the final product, but the core of what we're doing is collaboration," he says. "We want to get artists recognized and we're going to highlight them on our Web site as well."

As for the style criteria of N.E.W.D.'s apparel, Bantug -- whose got 16 years' worth of modeling experience and has a self-proclaimed "passion for fashion" -- holds the reigns. When pressed, she uses words like "fun," "experimental," "open-minded," and "wearable" to describe the desired look of N.E.W.D. designs, but also emphases that while she plans to be picky, she doesn't want to pigeon hole herself into a specific genre of clothing.

"With fashion and with art, it's going to appeal to some and not others," she says. "Fashion nowadays is like art, as in, it doesn't appeal to the masses, and that's one of our targets. We're not going to please everybody -- that's not what fashion is about -- but if we can create that one piece that someone would just love to wear, this is our opportunity to do it. It's for fashion forward people, people who have an eye for design."

Officially launched in late October, N.E.W.D. is still pretty premature at this point, although Kessler says they'd eventually like to expand the company to be more of a well-rounded line -- one that would include jackets, pants, leather items like belts, wallets and purses, and even clothing for the kiddies.

For now, the curious can pursue N.E.W.D.'s wares online on its Web site (link below) or at the company's launch party, Friday, Dec. 1 from 8 p.m. to midnight, at Kenadee's. N.E.W.D. models will be showing the apparel, all of which will be available for purchase, and the first 150 people through the door receive a gift bag.
Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”