Maker Mondays: D.C. Tees
Joseph Franco | Aug 29, 2016 | 9:00AM |

Welcome to Maker Mondays, where we introduce you to the world of D.C.’s “makers”: local artisans who are setting the game on fire with new and inventive fine art, crafts, music, or other creative ventures that we think you should start to notice. This week, we’re profiling several of the District’s most notable t-shirt design companies. These are the guys we look to when we’re looking to rep our city, and whose work speaks toward the vibrance of culture in our nation’s capital. Who said D.C. was all drab corporate fashion?

Bailiwick

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Responses from founder James “JC” Smith

Describe your team to me. How many people, and how did you get started?

The Bailiwick team is just me and my brother Jeff. Just the two of us! We have a great support system, but we’re the only two employees for now. We decided to start the company last year because we saw a lack of cool casual clothes here that locals could wear to show their D.C. pride. We’ve had the idea for Bailiwick for years, but we finally took the leap of starting it in 2015.

Describe your design process: Where do you draw inspiration? How do you decide what gets made? And how do you make it?

One of us will usually have an idea about an image or print. We draw inspiration from everywhere – from conversations with D.C. natives, from street signs, album covers, you name it. In the early stages of the design process, the two of us exchange drawings and debate (sometimes quite vigorously).  But once we decide on a certain look, we’ll hammer out the finishing touches and send it to print!  We’ve arrived at the point where all of our tees are printed on American made, blended shirts and all of our hats are New Era, so presenting our image on quality cloth is also a high priority for us.

How D.C. are you? How do your designs embody the people, personalities, and places unique to D.C.?

It’s funny…it’s been well documented that we’re not actually from D.C., and we admit it. But having lived here now longer than Obama, I’d say we’re pretty ingrained into the District. And we’re not going anywhere. We love D.C., and that’s why we started Bailiwick. And when you look at designs like our “202 Stars” or our “51st State”, I think our designs do embody the best parts of D.C. – we want our designs to be sharp, a little sexy, and a little bit subtle all at the same time.

What’s unique about your company that might set you apart from other D.C. t-shirt sellers?

We try to tie many different aspects of D.C. culture in our shirts.  We’re informed by so many different experiences that the city has to offer.  First and foremost, we see things from the perspective of young Black men.  We’re interested in local and national politics.  We study social movements and social justice, and we love sports, music, and popular culture.  All of these intersect to inspire our style.

Do you have a favorite design?

Our designs are like our children! We love them all equally! But in a moment of unguarded candor, I’d probably admit I love The District Seal the most.

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What’s the best thing about this city?

D.C. and the DMV metro area have EVERYTHING a person could want.  You’ve got that big city feel in D.C. Then you go 30 minutes away and you’re on the water.  Go another 30 minutes to Great Falls and you can hike. And I know it sounds corny, but I still get a jolt of inspiration every time I jog to the Lincoln or the MLK Memorials!

In what ways are you looking to expand your business beyond shirts?

Shirts are definitely our sweet spot, but we also have some cool ideas to expand into complimentary items like jackets and sweatshirts. We’re also working on more hat styles and planning a few collaborations, but we can’t share too much right now! Just stay tuned- we think you’ll like what you see!

District of Clothing

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All photos © Laura Metzler

Responses from owner and designer Dionna M. Dorsey

Describe your team to me. How many people, and how did you get started?

DISTRICT has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while. I was constantly surrounded by and encouraged by the doers in my circle. It was October 2014 and one night I just couldn’t sleep. Something kept telling me to get up and get moving on this idea, so I did. That night I started sketching and later officially launched at the POLITICO, Google, and the Tory Burch Foundation Women Rule Summit event that December. They had a marketplace solely for women-owned businesses in the District. Our photographer is Laura Metzler, and Derika Crowley does our PR & Social.

Describe your design process: Where do you draw inspiration? How do you decide what gets made? And how do you make it?

I try to spend as much time as possible simply enjoying and living life, and then I share what I’ve experienced and learned. My inspiration is drawn from the simplest of things I enjoy: listening to music, traveling and being outside, laughing, having fun and spending time with loved ones, visiting museums and learning new things. Deciding what gets sold is probably the toughest part of the process. Thankfully I have a great group of advisors to assist and help get the job done. Once a design is chosen, I submit the design to our printer and post samples on the site and social media accounts.

How D.C. are you? How do your designs embody the people, personalities, and places unique to D.C.?

This is such a great question! Perhaps this should be on our next t-shirt! I’m not so sure how to answer this question, but I would say I’m uniquely me, which makes me 100% D.C. My designs reflect the people who reject the sidelines, do what they’ve dreamt, and awake with a passion to move forward. I mean…how much more D.C. can you get, right? We’re a District of dreamers and doers.

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What’s unique about your company that might set you apart from other D.C. t-shirt sellers?

Perhaps it’s that it’s our goal to also encourage the other brands to stay motivated, keep pursuing their dreams, and to let them know they encourage us—we don’t view anyone as competition.

Do you have a favorite design?

Without a doubt, Le District and the Dreamer Doer series are my favorite thus far. I love them!

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What’s the best thing about this city?

The people and the stunning views I see while riding my bike at night. DC is summertime fine all of the time—especially at night. 

In what ways are you looking to expand your business beyond shirts?

We also carry sweatshirts and hoodies. BuzzFeed listed our DC Dope hoodie as one of the top ways to show your D.C. love! And we’re looking to expand to iPhone cases, tote bags and mugs soon, very soon indeed!

Modami

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All photos © Kelsey Arrington Photography

Responses from co-owner Hanna Zahory, with co-owner Sara Stramel. Models Jasmina Abdallah and Jillian West. Jewelry from Adriana Mendoza of So Me Designs.

Describe your team to me. How many people, and how did you get started?

Sara and I started Modami late last year after we got back from vacation together and both realized we needed a creative outlet if we were going to survive our 9-5 jobs in finance. We always made our own shirts for concerts and events, so we figured why not take a stab at turning it into a business. Sara taught herself the screen printing process and the two of us print each shirt ourselves. While we are the only ones behind Modami, we really couldn’t do this without the amazing support we’ve received from our friends and family. As we continue to grow, we recognize that we can’t do everything ourselves, and that’s where we plan on incorporating collaborations with other local creatives.

Describe your design process: Where do you draw inspiration? How do you decide what gets made? And how do you make it?

Like most creative processes, ours can never be forced. It will come to us at random moments, like when we’re listening to music, watching TV or talking to people. Then we’ll bombard each other with texts and pictures of our vision. We work full time jobs outside of Modami, so if we can both agree that we love a design, we ultimately decide whether to proceed with making it by examining time constraints. Sometimes we’ll reserve designs for down the line or for specific seasons, events, etc. We screen print everything ourselves, in house. And by in house, I literally mean in our homes. 

How D.C. are you? How do your designs embody the people, personalities, and places unique to DC?

On a scale of 1-DCAF, I’d say we’re DCAF. We love this city. D.C. is a little-big city that is still growing and figuring out its identity, so there is a ton of versatility when it comes to drawing inspiration from the city. In terms of designs, our most “D.C.” design is definitely Free The District. After learning more about DC’s ongoing battle to gain statehood, we knew we had to represent our solidarity with the cause. We are also starting to steer our business toward creative collaborations with D.C. businesses and artists. 

What’s unique about your company that might set you apart from other D.C. t-shirt sellers?

Our brand is extremely reflective of our personalities and humor, and as is such, some of our designs are very…eccentric. Some may even say vulgar. Our credo is that we offer products geared toward those who have no reservations about making a statement with what they wear. We are definitely not for the faint-hearted. 

Do you have a favorite design?

Honestly, our favorite design is “Part Time Fuckboy.” This is one that gets a lot of raised eyebrows. But really, this came to us during a conversation where we were talking about the savagery that is being single in 2016. I think when you’re single, you confront a lot of truths about yourself. And let’s be honest, we all have fuckboy tendencies here and there. To some, two girls identifying themselves as “fuckboys” may not make sense, but 1) we hate the term “fuckgirl” and 2) screw gender labels.

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What’s the best thing about this city?

It’s small enough to make an impression and big enough for it to mean something. And Steak N’ Egg at 3 a.m. 

In what ways are you looking to expand your business beyond shirts?

We would really love to grow in the realm of creative collaborations with other businesses and artists. We want to establish a presence in D.C. where we not only get to help promote the creative community, but also get to a point where we can help support local organizations that promote creativity within schools and youth organizations. In terms of our actual products, maybe eventually we would like to get into printing on different mediums or items of clothing, but the t-shirt is our main love, now and forever. 

ön.us.tees

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Responses from owner Andre’ K. Taylor

Describe your team to me. How many people, and how did you get started?

It’s actually somewhat of a one-man band. My name is Andre’ K. Taylor, lifelong DC resident, design concepts, project management, order receiving and shipping, social media, promotion, etc., falls on me. Developed the idea after noticing a lack of representation of the large majority in the city on apparel in certain establishments. So the idea sprung: make your own. My key go-to artist is Gede Nuriastha, I met him on deviantART when I was conducting research on the company back in 2008. He’s been with me ever since. He’s the secret sauce that brings the ideas to life. I also have friends who support the brand to no end, especially my college friend and musical partner Lee DeShazor, who’s essentially the lead marketer of the brand. He is the Brand Ambassador and #1 fan of ön.us.tees, wouldn’t be this far without his zeal and support either.

Describe your design process: Where do you draw inspiration? How do you decide what gets made? And how do you make it?

It starts with a notebook of ideas: thoughts that I ponder over a period of time that I feel need to be shared. The motto of the brand is “…because honestly, the onus is on us.” It’s sort of the guiding light to any projects brought to fruition. The aim is to put forth design and messaging that will prompt and inspire a positive response to an issue or feeling. Deciding what gets made, truthfully, is rooted in what I feel is urgent or pressing, whether it be “Raise Your Kids” in a manner of encouragement and applauding the vast majority of parents that do so day-in and day-out, or “Don’t Blame Hip Hop” which was a counter-message to scapegoating conducted on a culture, to the #LoveCitees series that proudly incorporates a motif of the city with the feeling I hope we all have for home, whether it’s the birthplace or newly adopted home. Once it leaves those pages, I contact my lead designer Gede, based in Indonesia, and we do a back and forth revising the design until it’s final. From there it’s sent to our printers, with the specs and apparel shipped. Once printed up, it’s shipped in house where the inventory and sales are completed.

How D.C. are you? How do your designs embody the people, personalities, and places unique to D.C.?

How DC? Pops is D.C. Grams is D.C. Aunts, uncles and cousins are D.C. Born D.C. Grew Up D.C. D.C. Public Schools D.C. Talking Metro Bus Latchkey Kid D.C. College D.C. (Howard!). Through and through D.C., Uptown to be specific. Nothing embodies our D.C. identity more than our #LoveDC design. From the outset it’s exact, precisely measured and balanced… akin to the planning of the city itself. However, if you look closely you’ll see the offbeat take on the D.C. Flag, yet it’s still in the pocket much like the sound of the city. Variant colorways provide honest folks with their own way of showing Love for the city, all while being together on one distinct vision.

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What’s unique about your company that might set you apart from other D.C. t-shirt sellers?

I feel we’re all in this together in D.C., being D.C. itself sets us all apart. It’s not a homogeneous landscape so simply by being you, yourself, your brand, one establishes themselves uniquely different yet amongst similarly minded and focused labels. And maybe perhaps the fact I was born and raised D.C., so there’s a sense of history, understanding and pride that goes along with representing ön.us.tees.

Do you have a favorite design?

Tough one. Well, rather a complex one. “Black On Black Love” was a design that struck with me because the pride felt with putting it on and seeing others wear just as proudly. “Love DC” would be the brand’s favorite design because it elevated the status of the label and launched the idea of #LoveCitees, which reached Chicago, New York, Philly, Detroit, Maryland, St. Louis, Compton and also schools, such as Howard, as well as organizations. On the other hand there are designs which I felt are “dope as hell” but don’t necessarily hit because it might be too meta or too jarring, such ass “What A Time” which targets the pervasiveness of the slavery, Jim Crow and the prison-industrial complex. So yeah. That one might be a little daunting but a worthy shot.

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What’s the best thing about this city?

D.C. Folk.

In what ways are you looking to expand your business beyond shirts?

The goal of the brand was always to be a platform and a springboard for other actions and movements that will have an impact on the community and culture. Starting with themes or “Honest Propaganda” to attract like-minded people and convert others and galvanize into other avenues. A movement of influence of betterment is the end goal.

Teerritory

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Responses from owner Toby Bokum-Fauth

Describe your team to me. How many people, and how did you get started?

Technically, I am the only Teerritory staff, but I certainly don’t do this alone.  I have tons of help from friends, other artists and businesses in town. I work with DCShirt and Print, Typecase Industries, Cait Sanders Photography, and will soon be launching some new collaborative designs with other D.C. artists. Stay tuned for a Columbia Heights tee being made in collaboration with the amazing illustrator behind the Instagram account Good Washington. The idea for Teerritory has been in the making since 2012, when I moved to D.C. I was immediately inspired by this community, and while I found there were a lot of unique shirt designs about D.C. as a whole, I wanted to make something that showcased the incredible neighborhoods and parks and distinct blocks of this town we as residents enjoy every day.

Describe your design process: Where do you draw inspiration? How do you decide what gets made? And how do you make it?

The thing that struck me most when I moved to D.C. was how unique each neighborhood is, architecturally speaking – building design, lettering on hand-painted signs, as well as where people naturally congregate in the city. It’s been a central inspiration for Teerritory. I try to base my decisions on which designs will be made from community request. As I create new designs, I try my best to also consider all residents of a neighborhood or park user to figure out what represents their special place. In terms of the actual art process, I’ll do an illustration by hand and digitally of those special spots and create a silk screen (think stencils, but cooler) for printing.

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How D.C. are you? How do your designs embody the people, personalities, and places unique to D.C.?

Every part of the Teerritory process – from the Capital City Specialties sign we use at events to finding models for the photos on the site to the actual printing of the shirts – is done right in the District, and we aim to capture the beauty of everyday areas of D.C. that are in the hearts of the people who call it home. We currently have six designs available, and there are 30+ neighborhoods in D.C., not to mention the dozens of parks. So we’ve got a lot more t-shirts to make to truly represent everyone. It’s tough these days to create just one design that truly resonates with everyone in a neighborhood – architecturally things are changing so quickly – but I promise I’ll never put a pop-up house in a design.

What’s unique about your company that might set you apart from other D.C. t-shirt sellers?

Our production and partnerships are dedicated exclusively to D.C. businesses. I create the designs and work directly with silk screeners at DC Shirt and Print in Takoma Park, artists at the letterpress company Typecase Industries and others to do it all within the District. That’s at the core of our business model, even if it means smaller profit margins. Also, Teerritory isn’t just about D.C. as a whole – it’s more local than that. Our focus is on the city blocks, street corners, and row houses that are special to all of us. Capturing those physical places in a simple design, so people can wear their city pride is what truly makes this company unique.

Do you have a favorite design?

My favorite is our Rock Creek Park design, but before the end of August that might change… We have a few things up our short sleeves.

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What’s the best thing about this city?

Without a doubt it’s how supportive everyone is of creative endeavors. And it’s something that many people overlook about the country’s political center. When I started the business this spring, I wasn’t sure how things would go. But the creative community in D.C. is so welcoming of newcomers. It’s amazing. Everyone is open to collaborating and sharing ideas and helping get the word out about new projects. It was a bit surprising and more than I could have hoped for.

In what ways are you looking to expand your business beyond shirts?

We just teamed up with Typecase Industries to letterpress a beautiful paper print of our Rock Creek Park design. The prints are currently available exclusively at Salt & Sundry; and Framebridge, another D.C. company, is offering Teerritory customers 15% off their first order. Typecase is a great team – you can go visit them in the Atlantic Plumbing building in Shaw – and I’m looking forward to working with them on more projects down the road. I’ve also started to do some design work for local businesses and organizations, which has been a great way to support the small business community here in a new way.

Time Off

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Responses from co-founders Sasha West and Stacey Carbone.

Describe your team to me. How many people, and how did you get started?

The Time Off team primarily consists of the two of us, but our best works happens when we team up. We’re very lucky to have many talented people in our lives who have helped make the impossible possible.  This city has evolved into a creative hub that deserves a sense of pride, we want to celebrate it.

Describe your design process: Where do you draw inspiration? How do you decide what gets made? And how do you make it?

We find inspiration everywhere in life but our best ideas are sparked by exploring our city, traveling, and listening to great music. Our process is experimental; we design a lot of one-off creations for fun and then see what people gravitate towards. We are makers by nature and prototype our designs, then once it’s ready for mainstream we partner with a local screen printer.

How D.C. are you? How do your designs embody the people, personalities, and places unique to D.C.?

So D.C. You are a product of your environment, so naturally we are super influenced and inspired by the spaces that surround us.

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What’s unique about your company that might set you apart from other D.C. t-shirt sellers?

Time Off is 100% the celebration of being yourself and choosing to do what you do. We met in “corporate” D.C., designing urban and retail environments for a local developer, and became fast friends over our mutual interests and love of design. Time Off emerged when we were desperate for a break from the D.C. hustle, and it has become our daily escape. The aim has always been to be more Placemakers than Tastemakers – we’re not trying to tell you how to live, we want to celebrate the life you live.

Do you have a favorite design?

All of our designs are extensions of different moments that are important to us. “Runnin’ through (ward) 6 with my woes” is one of the shirts that we designed early on and it is a good example of how we love bringing together our love for our neighborhood and the songs we can’t get out of our heads.  Our “Hustles Harder” shirt is probably our most popular because people can relate to it.

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What’s the best thing about this city?

The people, places, and proximity. The food’s not bad either!

In what ways are you looking to expand your business beyond shirts?

Our background is in design – all levels, scales and types. We want to continue making our city a better place by creating must have products, experiences that inspire, and environments where you choose to spend your time.

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