Whilst a parent's garage is a popular starting place for many a decorator, there are plenty of T-shirt printers and designers that have rather more unusual origin stories. So we hunted down some of the more unexpected…
Amanda Brinkman - The Viral Sensation
Amanda Brinkman was getting increasingly exasperated watching one of the 2016 presidential debates when she heard Trump utter the words, "such a nasty woman" to Hillary Clinton. Angered into action, she mocked up a quick T-shirt design of the phrase and uploaded it to social media. But the phrase resonated more than she could have imagined, and by the time she went to bed, she had already sold 50 T-shirts via her online store. Her response at the time, "I'll figure out how to actually make and ship these shirts tomorrow morning", became suddenly more urgent when she woke up to 10,000 orders.
As a one-woman hobby-ist she had no infrastructure to complete the mammoth order, but the news from Shopify that she would have to pay $12,000 in refund transaction fees if she didn't force her into action. After filling a same-day petition to get a business license she had to think on her feet whilst rapidly scaling the business. Today her company Shrill Society is her full-time business, producing ethical feminist clothing and raising hundreds of dollars for charities such as Planned Parenthood, ACLU and She Should Run.
Shawn Stussy - The streetwear icon
Shawn Stussy is a legend in the world of streetwear. There are few streetwear brands considered more iconic than his label Stussy, and its impact on youth fashion has been immeasurable. But, as is often the way, the label actually started out as something of an accident. Stussy began making surfboards in the early '80s, with his signature logo scrawled across them. When he began doing surf trade shows he thought it would make sense to get some T-shirts made to go alongside the boards.
Whilst he sold a few boards, he found almost everyone wanted a T-shirt. By the end of the three-day trade show orders had stacked up to 1000, and he realized he was onto something. Whilst he managed to keep his surfboard business afloat for the next decade, it was those T-shirts that sowed the seed for the cultural phenomenon his brand was about to become.
Taylor Pollard & Kheris Rogers - The young activists
When Taylor Pollard found that her little sister Kheris was being bullied for her skin color, she was determined to do something about it. In early 2017 she put out a simple tweet with a photo of Kheris and the hashtag #FlexinInHerComplexion, after a phrase their grandmother used to use to make them feel positive about their skin tone. The tweet ended up going viral, inspiring Kheris to take her first step into T-shirt design; 'I love fashion, I love designing things and I wanted to empower people. When I put them together I thought maybe I could create a clothing line' she says of the origins of the brand.
Those first T-shirts started something of a movement, with celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Alicia Keys endorsing them. In its first year, Flexin' In My Complexion bought in $100,000, and the T-shirts have now been worn by celebrities such as Lupita Nyong'o and Lena Waithe. The most important thing though? Kheris told CNBC, "My confidence is probably at 10 million right now. You don't even know. Like my confidence back then was probably at a negative one."
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