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Deerfield native turns love of sports into fashion brand Sportiqe

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Updated: December 30, 2012 6:02AM

As a Deerfield teenager growing up in the ’90s, Jason Franklin scored a dream job as a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls.

Now he dresses them.

Growing up, he dreamed of playing for the Chicago Bulls, and started his career with the team as a ballboy. But when his doctor broke the news he wasn’t tall enough to make it in the NBA, Franklin said he decided to figure out another way to be a part of the sports world.

Franklin, 33, has since turned his love of sports into a multi-million dollar sportswear brand worn by athletes and celebrities like Derek Rose, Luol Deng and Tim Tebow, just to name a few.

Since launching trendy casual sportswear line Sportiqe Apparel from his River North apartment in 2006, Franklin’s brand has erupted into a wildly successful clothing line now licensed by the likes of the NBA, ESPN and McDonald’s.

Geared toward a young genre of fashion-forward sports fans, Sportiqe fuses ultra-comfortable fabrics with trendy yet retro, designs and sports and music logos to create a line of T-shirts, hoodies and hats that add a little extra style to traditional sports gear.

“It’s like a movement,” Franklin said. “Fans want to look cool while supporting their team, so we’re bringing them the fashionable stuff they want.”

Franklin got his foot in the business through his friend and now-business partner Matt Altman, who suggested Franklin move to Arizona where at the time he was running the sportswear shops for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Together Altman and Franklin began networking through their sports world contacts and personal connections and quickly gained several high-profile clients, particularly the NBA.

Now headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., Sportiqe has added to its list of licensees by signing deals with universities and colleges to feature Sportiqe merchandise, and also recently adopted the “Hometown Classic Collection,” a line that features iconic restaurantsfrom around the U.S.

Chicago restaurant legends Superdawg, Gino’s East and Ed Debevic’s all have their own versions of Sportiqe t-shirts which are sold both on the Sportiqe website and to customers who visit the restaurants.

Franklin started designing baseball caps at the age of 12 for his neighbor who owned a hat company. From the start, the burgeoning fashion designer had celebrity clients: Jay Z sported a hat from his first collection in his “Girls, Girls, Girls” video, while 50 Cent picked another for “Wanksta.”

Shortly after graduating from the University of Iowa with an economics degree, Franklin had an idea.

Franklin said he has grown his business by 50 percent each year since 2006, and now has 13 employees.

Although Sportiqe has yet to penetrate the NFL or MLB, Franklin says anything can happen with a little hard work, and he continues to study current fashion trends and create his newest designs accordingly.

“If you have a dream and you work hard enough it will happen,” Franklin said. “It’s crazy to think that having a love for something and an idea could turn into this.”

Sportiqe is sold at Bloomingdale’s and Forever 21 and at local boutiques E Street Denim in Highland Park and Madison and Friends in Chicago.

Natalie Hayes is a local free-lance writer.

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