Christine Gudaitis, J.D. '01, and Brett Prieur, J.D. '01

South Florida Clothiers South Florida Clothiers
Christine Gudaitis, J.D. '01 & Brett Prieur, J.D. '01

UM Law alumni team up to create a unique apparel company.

In an exciting journey since attending the University of Miami in the 1990's, both Christine Gudaitis, J.D. '01, and Brett Prieur, J.D. '01, have come full circle, back to their love of South Florida and its culture. The pair has designed and launched South Florida Clothiers, a high-end polo shirt company, blending breathable fabric, South Florida color accents and a classic Stone crab logo. The vibrant shirts are as unique as the Magic City. 

Both share fond memories and the importance of their time at University of Miami's School of Law, which is where they met in 1998. They are so immersed and inspired with the scene and the culture of the South Florida area; they've woven their passion into a thriving business. 

"We always thought, why do we, in South Florida, with such a unique and dynamic culture, not have our own lifestyle brand?" Brett said. "We asked, why are we only given the option to go to a store and buy brands from other regions of the country that reflect and celebrate their lifestyles? So, that’s how South Florida Clothiers was born. We wanted to give South Florida its own lifestyle clothing brand."

How has studying law at UM inspired your entrepreneurial aspirations?

Brett: Having experience in law is an invaluable skill to possess as an entrepreneur. So much of what you do in business is based in the law, and to be able to handle those issues yourself and not have to hire an attorney helps enormously; not only are you able to move more quickly, but it allows you to preserve and reallocate capital that would otherwise have to be spent on legal.

As an attorney, you are able to handle the incorporation, draft your own contracts, as well as manage any other legal issues that arise along the way, and there are always many. In our particular business, we deal with issues having to do with the import of our clothing, and contractual framework that governs the relationship between our company and our vendors and suppliers. Moreover, I'm a member of the Patent Bar, which gives the company the capacity to address intellectual property issues. For example, we trademarked TropicFiber™, our proprietary blended Polo Shirt material specifically developed for a warm, tropical climate and an active lifestyle. Christine’s law practice centers around helping clients, including South Florida Clothiers, assess and manage risk through insurance programs and providing guidance on contracts impacting coverage and liability.

Can you share details about your career path since graduating?

Brett: Immediately after law school I went to New York City, where I practiced Aviation Law with a firm in Midtown for seven years. I also have some experience practicing intellectual property law. But, I wanted to do something besides practice law. I have always had entrepreneurial leanings and craved the opportunity to start and build a company from the ground up, and I really wanted to return to South Florida, so I left my firm and moved back. Shortly thereafter we started South Florida Clothiers.

Christine: Brett is more entrepreneurial than I am; in fact, I’ve been with the same Miami-based law firm, Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin, P.A., since I was a summer associate in 2000! I’ve been a Shareholder since 2009. Our firm, over half of our attorneys are UM graduates, represents insurance policyholders in coverage and bad faith litigation.  My clients include general contractors, developers, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, municipalities and brokerage houses, as well as various non-profit organizations. Although I practice nationwide, my focus is South Florida where most of my clients are based. For me, then, it’s about connections and community. I’ve seen Miami grow in so many ways over the past 20 years into a truly world-class city. Being able to offer a clothing line that represents that community has been and is an amazing experience. 

We're also big believers in supporting the South Florida community. For example, we donated 50% of profits from online Polo sales last fall to Hurricane Irma relief in the Keys, and we’ve partnered with a number of local charities for events and silent auctions, including the Miami-Dade Law Library, the Seafarers’ House Port Everglades, South Florida SPCA, Debris Free Oceans, Legal Services of Greater Miami, South Florida Symphony Orchestra, Quest, Inc. and Born Free Pet Shelter.

How was South Florida Clothiers born?

Brett: South Florida Clothiers was a vision we had and something we wanted to do for a long time. In a nutshell, we wanted South Florida to have its own lifestyle clothing brand. We felt there was a void: whenever you went shopping in South Florida you wound up with a choice between lifestyle clothing brands from other areas of the country that were a reflection of their region, culture, and identity.  

One example is Vineyard Vines, a brand that celebrates the New England/Martha’s Vineyard lifestyle. There are also several Southern brands reflecting the rural, deep south culture, and California brands centering around the surfer culture.

We always thought, why do we in South Florida, with such a unique and dynamic culture, not have our own lifestyle brand; why are we only given the option to go to a store and buy brands from other regions of the country that reflect and celebrate their lifestyles, culture, and identity?

So, that’s how South Florida Clothiers was born. We wanted to give South Florida its own lifestyle clothing brand.

As you have seen in our Polo Shirts, our brand stays true to our South Florida lifestyle concept in several ways. First, in the material of the fabric. This being South Florida we knew we needed to go high quality so we use only pure, long-staple Peruvian Pima Cotton in the fabric of our shirts. We also blend in a little Lycra for stretch, which means you wind up with a shirt you can stay active in – boat, play golf or tennis; anything! We also keep the gram weight of the shirt on the lower side in deference to our Florida heat.

Most of our colors are South Florida-inspired. We have Biscayne and Ocean Blue matched to the bay and the local ocean waters respectively. Sun-washed Orange was taken from a lifeguard stand in Miami Beach. Pineapple, because South Florida at the turn of the 20thCentury was a global leader in the production of pineapple. Of course, we had to include other pastels like Sea Glass, Pink, Light Blue and Mint Green in addition to classic White, Red and Navy.  

We chose for our logo the Florida Stone Crab (minippee mercenaria). For one, it belongs only to us; no other region of the country can claim it. Also, we felt the Florida Stone Crab and the people of Florida share a symbiotic relationship. Friends and family gather to socialize over stone crabs on special occasions. We also love that the Stone Crab is a renewable marine resource. Crabbers harvest their claws and return them to our oceans where the claws will regenerate.

We are excited about the reception we’ve received here in South Florida, both to our clothing line and its underlying concept. We are expanding: within the next few months we will be rolling out new lines including t-shirts, caps and beach towels.

How has your connection to UM inspired your business?

Brett: Where to start with the U? The U is not just our alma mater, but a part of who we are and a big part of our lives. We both stay involved with the school. Christine is a member of the Citizens Board; we’re both Hurricane Club members and big supporters of UM athletics. We are always among the first cars through the gate when the lots open for tailgating on Saturdays in the fall!

And, obviously UM has a huge impact on Miami and South Florida as well. We are impressed with the connection and involvement the University has with the area, especially when you consider that UM is a small private school and Miami is such a large, global city. But you see and feel its influence everywhere you go; whether it’s seeing the U on the side of buildings all around town or coming into contact with other alumni. We both run into fellow UM alumni in all walks of our lives, and there is always a special connection there.

For our business, we count many UM grads and employees among our fans! And when we launched, we sent Sun-washed Orange Polos to a few of the UM coaches and to President Frenk when he arrived. We also have a high concentration of retail outlets very close to the school: Lanes South Miami, the Biltmore Hotel, and the Riviera Country Club, all right near the Coral Gables campus.


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