Frank Hopkins, left, Levi Fitzmier are closing their FNL Denim at Eaton Place downtown. File photo The Wichita Eagle
Frank Hopkins, left, Levi Fitzmier are closing their FNL Denim at Eaton Place downtown. File photo The Wichita Eagle

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FNL Denim’s buzz was big but time was short

By Carrie Rengers

crengers@wichitaeagle.com

December 20, 2017 05:00 AM

Not quite a year and a half after opening their first storefront, Frank Hopkins and Levi Fitzmier are closing their FNL Denim.

“We’re kind of a really niche product, and we’re just not in the right market for it,” Hopkins says.

“We would have to make a big jump,” Fitzmier says. “We would have to move to LA.”

They had an opportunity to return there, which is where they started making jeans.

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The Wichita natives were living in Los Angeles after graduating from Maize High School in 2010. Hopkins was doing some modeling and decided to upgrade his wardrobe with some expensive jeans, but they immediately ripped – and not in a fashionable way.

So they designed their own jeans and took out a $3,000 loan to have their designs made at a factory, but they quickly lost the money and decided to cut out the middleman by returning to Wichita to make the jeans themselves.

They opened a storefront in Eaton Place downtown and began selling online, too.

“It just didn’t go as we expected,” Fitzmier says.

He says there was an issue with “just people not understanding how to take their sizes correctly,” so there would be a lot of returns on the custom orders.

“It was just a lot of time wasted for us,” Fitzmier says.

“It’s art,” he says. “It’s not just a mass-produced jean, and I think people didn’t thoroughly understand that online.”

Their $285 jeans could sell for more like $600 in Los Angeles, Hopkins says.

Two 24-year-old Maize High School graduates who make custom-made jeans in Wichita are preparing to open their first storefront near Douglas and Emporia on Sept. 17 with a sneak peek Aug. 26. (Video by Gabriella Dunn, published Aug. 3, 2016)

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“It would be better margins,” he says.

Except neither he nor Fitzmier want to return there because their families are here.

“At the end of the day, we’re family guys, and we want to be in Wichita,” Hopkins says.

“We love Wichita, and it’s one of those things where we just don’t want to leave,” Fitzmier says.

The two have been on a month-to-month lease at Eaton Place.

“They’ve been really awesome over here at the Eaton,” Hopkins says. “Just downtown Wichita has supported us so much.”

There are about 120 jeans left to sell at a discounted price of $99.

Hopkins and Fitzmier aren’t sure what they’ll do next.

“We’re just excited for our next adventure,” Hopkins says.

He and Fitzmier say they’re looking at their FNL venture and its Wichita supporters with gratitude.

“FNL has kind of always been a dream of ours, and we had to go after it,” Hopkins says.

“We just want to thank them for having our dream come to life.”

Levi Fitzmier and Frank Hopkins explain the work that goes into their FNL Denim and why they need a Kickstarter campaign. (Sept. 17, 2015)

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Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers