Screen printing is a wide, versatile industry. By using the medium of T-shirts and hoodies, you can make your mark, stand out, and start conversations about things you’re passionate about. That’s exactly what Maher Hachem, or Munch, is doing. He’s the screen printer behind Love Yourself Clothing, a company focused on promoting mental health awareness through apparel. Where did he come from? What’s his mission? Let’s find out.
Photo by Maher Hachem
HOW LOVE YOURSELF CAME TO BE
During Munch’s senior year at the University of Michigan, he was living with six of his friends in a house. Many of his friends were getting jobs in LA and New York, while he was striving to become a full-time musician.
“Everyone around me is like, ‘Man, you’ve got to go get a salary job. You just spend all this money on your education. You can’t just go be an artist,” Munch said.
But that’s what he wanted, to be an artist. He worked hard to make it happen. He started heat pressing merchandise to support his music career. But he kept hearing his friends’ words in the back of his mind. He questioned whether he wanted to pursue his passion or stick to the status quo. It took a toll on his mental health. Munch found that small, everyday interactions helped to lighten his spirits.
“When I was having those down days, it was the little things that picked me up,” Munch said. “Smiling with a stranger, a friend checking in on me or FaceTiming with someone that I hadn’t talked to in a while.”
One day, Munch was looking in the mirror and wished that there was some sort of message somewhere that would give him a little pick-me-up whenever he looked in the mirror. Then, he had an idea.
Munch heat pressed his first “Love Yourself” design in reverse on a shirt for himself, so he could read it forwards whenever he looked in the mirror and give himself a mental lift. Then, his family and friends started asking for shirts like his.
Photo by Love Yourself Clothing
“I realized how we are all connected around the subject of mental health,” Munch said.
Munch had experience using heat transfer vinyl on garments from selling his merch at gigs. One day, he was hanging out with some friends at their studio. His friends were screen printing. Munch was inspired by the process and wanted to try it out. The more he tried it, the more he liked screen printing.
When Munch’s friends moved to LA, they gave him their press. It wasn’t much, just a cheap press off Amazon, but it gave him the opportunity to further his experience in screen printing.
In March 2020, Munch launched the website for Love Yourself Clothing, after nearly three years of selling shirts on Instagram, out of the trunk of his car, or at music shows. The impact of the garments has been bigger than he could have imagined.
Mental health is important. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experienced mental illness in 2020. 1 in 6 youth (ages 6-17) experience a mental health disorder each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Americans ages 10-34.
However, getting help and taking care of your mental health is also becoming less taboo. In 2020, 46.2% of Americans with mental illnesses received help. People are beginning to start conversations about their mental health more naturally, and taking it more seriously. Munch’s goal is to keep those conversations going, and start even more.
One way Munch is reaching his goal is through apparel.
Photo by Love Yourself Clothing
“FLESROUY EVOL”: WHY IS THE DESIGN BACKWARDS?
If you’re reading one of Munch’s shirts on the rack or on someone else, it says “flesrouy evol.” That doesn’t make any sense. But when you look in a mirror, the message reveals itself to be “love yourself.” It’s a small but powerful method to give people the daily affirmation that everyone needs.
By reversing the words “Love Yourself” on his designs, he’s able to start a conversation, even if it’s not initially about mental health. When people simply ask “why is your shirt backwards,” Munch gets to start a conversation about the topic he’s passionate about. His brand’s website also has a designated mental health resources page packed with association links and hotlines for people to get help.
The words serve as a reminder to do just that: love yourself. People don’t often get many reminders to be kind to ourselves every day, and Munch’s designs aim to be that reminder. It’s simple, yet effective.
That’s not all. Munch partners with different organizations throughout the year, aiming to create a conversation about mental health. The brand donates a percentage of revenue to organizations like To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) and The Trevor Project.
One organization that Munch works with is the Wolverine Support Network, a student organization promoting mental health awareness at his alma mater, the University of Michigan. Love Yourself Clothing creates custom collaborations with the organization and donates a percentage of each piece sold to the WSN. Each piece is a reminder to be kind to yourself and brings awareness to mental health on the campus.
With clothing drops consistently selling out, Munch is making big waves. So how does he do it?
WHO IS MUNCH?
WHAT’S WITH THE NICKNAME?
Let’s answer the question everyone wants to know: why “Munch?”
Maher and a buddy of his used to be a rap duo. They were trying to think of a name for the duo that flowed well. They were in the supermarket one day and saw a box that read “Crunch and Munch.” That’s all the inspiration they needed. Maher became “Munch” and his buddy was “Crunch.”
Crunch dropped out of the duo shortly after, but Munch’s nickname stuck.
Photo by Maher Hachem
AN AVERAGE DAY AT THE SHOP
Munch likes to start the day by taking 10 deep breaths and reminding himself of something he’s grateful for. Starting the day in a positive mindset helps him be positive for others as well. Then, he grabs coffee and breakfast from a local shop before heading to the basement of his house for a full day of printing.
After taking stock of shirts to be dyed and orders to be filled that day, Munch gets down to business printing orders with FN-INK™ on his Riley Jr. 6x4 press.
“This is my homie right here,” Munch said about his press. “We spend a lot of time together.”
He takes breaks in printing to take meetings, plan live streams, and drink coffee. Seems ideal, right? It hasn’t always been this way.
Photo by Maher Hachem
HIGHS AND LOWS
Munch is a fan of the process. Seeing a design go from Adobe® Illustrator to screen printing it onto a garment keeps him printing. He also loves sharing how clothing is made with his followers and friends.
“I love to show the process because people can see and they look at their clothes differently,” Munch said.
When Munch started he encountered many challenges. One main challenge he faced was keeping screens in alignment without micros. Micros are knobs on the printhead that allow you to move a screen vertically and horizontally without loosening the screen clamp. If a screen is off by a hair, you can make the smallest adjustments with the twist of a knob.
Once Munch upgraded to a Riley Jr., he had XY micros, and keeping prints in alignment was much easier.
RELATED: XY VERSUS XYZ MICROS: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
He uses his Riley 150 4x1 press for pop-up events. He has a local following that supports him, and he likes to perform a music set at shows and then sell freshly-made merch.
“It’s cool to set up a pop-up shop, play a set, and then tell people to come meet me at the merch table,” Munch said.
Munch doesn’t work on his own. He also has an assistant, Luna. Munch does all the creative work while Luna handles the managerial things—wholesale orders, logistics, etc. Sometimes while Munch prints, he lets the internet join his process.
UTILIZING SOCIAL MEDIA
In today’s technology-driven culture, it’s super important to have a good social media presence. Whether you’re posting images of your prints on Instagram, filming YouTube videos, or joining Facebook Groups, utilizing social media is free and, many times, fun.
Munch uses pretty much every social media platform out there. His Instagram is the hub, where followers can find content related to his company’s Instagram while his YouTube focuses on his music. He is also active on Tiktok, and livestreams on Twitch and Reddit.
By using pretty much every social media platform, Munch can reach a much wider audience. His live streams especially have captured peoples’ attention.
Munch uses social media to post about sales and to spread positivity. Photo by Maher Hachem
WHY LIVE STREAMING?
Munch tries to live-stream every time he prints for at least an hour. He prints garments for Love Yourself Clothing while jamming out to music. Munch streams on both Twitch and Reddit to reach a larger audience. His live streams on Reddit have blown up. Munch likes to stream at the end of his print runs, so he can engage with the audience while printing.
But why do it? Why live stream instead of creating YouTube videos? For Munch, the question is “why not?” He’d be printing and jamming anyway, so why not film the process?
Munch gets a lot of questions from viewers during his live streams. Many of them are technical questions, like how to keep a design in alignment or how to keep the shirt down on the platen while he prints. Others ask about his brand, and he gets to start a conversation about the importance of mental health and his personal journey.
Sometimes, other screen printers will chime in. Sometimes they offer advice, and other times they’re just watching to hang out. Munch learned how to screen print through YouTube and trial-and-error. He always appreciates the advice. Live streaming and sharing his expertise is a way for Munch to give back.
“We don’t know how long we’re going to be on this earth, so you might as well share knowledge, share love, and just try to keep inspiring people around you to do great things for their communities,” Munch said.
WHAT ELSE IS MUNCH UP TO?
You’d think that all of that activity would be enough for one person, right? Turns out, Munch is up to a lot of other things besides owning a clothing brand.
Munch runs a small music label called Rare Sounds World, which supports many small artists who are always dropping new music. He also runs a music event production company called Big Pink Media. The company creates monthly events and offers many services to creatives and artists.
If that’s not enough, Munch is also renovating a music venue in Detroit as a super fun side project. He has big dreams, and isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Photo by Hannah Symanzik
Munch wants to keep growing Love Yourself Clothing. He’d like to grow the business out of the basement. His current space is packed with equipment and clothing, so it won’t be long.
On top of growing his business into a new physical space, Munch wants to grow the message and reach of the clothing he prints: that mental health is important, and loving yourself is the first step.
“[I want to] constantly be inspiring people to be the best version of themselves,” Munch said.
Besides inspiring people to love themselves a little more, he also wants to help out new printers who are starting businesses like he did.
ADVICE FOR NEW PRINTERS
Starting a print shop can be a daunting task. Besides buying all the equipment needed to start up a shop, you’ll need to figure out what your M.O. is. Are you printing for local businesses or your own brand? What are you passionate enough about to turn into a brand? How do you get started?
When people ask Munch these types of questions, he has one answer.
“If you’re starting off printing, the first thing I tell people to do is to hit up their local print shop,” Munch said.
Most shops want to share their knowledge. By walking into a print shop, asking questions, and creating a relationship with the other printers, you’ll get to know the industry and the community a little more. Seeing a print shop in motion can give you inspiration for your own setup, and you’ll have an understanding of what you’re doing so you aren’t walking into the trade blind. You might also be able to work at the shop part-time to get to know the trade before you jump in.
No matter how you learn the trade of screen printing, be a sponge. Soak up as much information you can. It’ll help you out in the future.
Photo by Maher Hachem
Following your passion might not be the easiest route, but it’s worth it in the end. Don’t follow the flock if you know what you want to do. By finding community and a process that works for you, you can be successful and happy with your work.