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Issue Date: June 2008


Tea Time

Danielle DiBenedetto serves fresh T-shirt designs in cleverly packaged tea bags.
Beth Stallings
[Drink Up]
Like a painting, each of Danielle DiBenedetto’s T-shirts holds a specific inspiration. “I’m hoping once people get into my line, they will see there are meanings in everything — I look at it as an artist’s series,” she says.

<< Raspberry Tea
Designed for her parents, $46
<< Chai Tea
The result of her “crazy art side that came out all over,” $46
<< Lemon Zinger
Inspired by  fireworks, $48
Visit www.properteawear.com to order and for a list of local stores that carry these items.
Oh no, not another T-shirt line,” is the first thing Jupe owner Jan Anter thought when longtime customer and photographer Danielle DiBenedetto told her she was launching a graphic T-shirt collection. But when DiBenedetto unveiled her cleverly packaged T-shirts — contemporary, but elegant shirts and scarves folded into an oversized tea bag—Anter jumped on the idea.

Now, she has trouble keeping the Bay Village designer’s clothing in stock. “I’ve never sold anything so fast in my life,” Anter says.

She’s not the only one. Since the launch of Proper Tea last August, 27-year-old DiBenedetto has barely been able to keep up with demand. Already, hundreds of teahouses, boutiques and even a few spas across the country carry DiBenedetto’s clothing. Nordstrom carries her line, and two of her shirts earned the “best seller” title on Nordstrom.com in January. Last month, several Las Vegas casinos, including the Bellagio and Mirage agreed to sell Proper Tea wear. Her second line, due out in August, will feature items such as casual cotton dresses and hoodies.

“We got really lucky,” says DiBenedetto, whose headquarters in North Olmsted was once her family photography and graphic design studio. DiBenedetto, who majored in graphic design at Xavier University, closed up shop last year to pursue her clothing line.

Given flavorful names like Sweet Tea and Lemon Zinger, the Proper Tea line is a combination of DiBenedetto’s favorite things: fashion, tea (she’s an avid Tazo Green Tea drinker), graphic design and the Victorian era (DiBenedetto’s inspiration for using the word “proper”). “I was looking on Victorian era Web sites and the word ‘proper’ was a common theme,” DiBenedetto says. “Then I thought, ‘T-shirts are like the proper attire for our generation. They never go out of style.’”

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