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Inspiration — 1 month ago

9 Brands That Started Out Making T-shirts

It might start as a cool T-shirt brand but there’s no telling where it might lead – with some luck, good timing and the right vision, making your own T-shirts might spiral into its own fashion enterprise. 

 

As the T-shirt continues to have its fashion moment, with more and more brands incorporating a statement tee into their collections, we look to the brands – from streetwear icons like Stüssy, to newcomers and underground favourites like Copson London or Online Ceramics – whose confidence in building a bona fide brand from a hit T-shirt might serve as blueprint.

 

Read More: 8 of The Best T-shirt Brand Collaborations of All Time

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Stussy x Dover Street Market x Carhartt WIP

COPSON LONDON

It started as a line of T-shirts printed in a holiday merch shop while “skating and sipping beers in Barcelona”, but Maria Falbo’s brand, inspired by the unlikely marriage of tropical house and skate videos, has gone on to collaborate with the likes of New Balance and Converse. Read our interview with the designer for tips on how to grow your brand – from finding your vision to doing your research and always working with friends.

12_copson_london_photoshoot
Courtesy of Copson London @copsonlondon

Stüssy

It might be one of the most storied streetwear brands today, but Stüssy’s rise to fame began with a humble run of T-shirts – and that too, was a near-accident. Founder Shawn Stussy, then working as a surfboard shaper, printed a line of T-shirts with the same graffiti-like signature as his boards (inspired by his artist uncle, Jan Stussy), to take as promotional items to a surf trade show. The line was a roaring hit – outdoing the boards themselves – and the rest is history.

STAIN SHADE

Sometimes a hit brand can be born out of necessity. “I looked around for ages for someone who was tie-dying in the UK for various other projects I was working on and couldn’t really find anyone,” Stain Shade’s founder, James Brackenbury told us, “this lead to me exploring the process and figuring out how it all works.” Combining his DIY spirit and experience in fashion wholesale, the South Londoner saw an opportunity – and launched an in-house collaboration with LN-CC that proved to be the early version of the brand.

stain shade tie dye
Image courtesy of Stain Shade

Places+Faces

“It all happened naturally: the first year it was just us going around with our cameras taking photos and in 2014 we made these two hoodies for us to wear – like business cards,” Places+Faces’ Imran Ciesay told Red Bull back in 2017. One of the buzziest streetwear brands since their inception (which gained traction after Ciesay faked his way into New York Fashion Week) P+F is living proof that doing it for yourself and your crew can be the best recipe. “We just make it for ourselves and if people fuck with it then they fuck with it,” as they put it. 

GOLF WANG

The brainchild of Tyler the Creator, Golf Wang started out in 2007 selling merch for the hip hop maverick’s collective Odd Future in their signature psychedelic meets stoner nerd style. Opening a shop on LA’s Fairfax Avenue – next door to skater hubs Supreme and Vans – the brand and Tyler himself were at the apex of skater culture, and continued to grow even after Odd Future eventually disbanded, turning the brand into a fully fledged fashion line (and Tyler into a style icon too.)

Golf Wang AW 13 Lookbook

ONLINE CERAMICS

While technically Online Ceramics is still scarcely more than an underground T-shirt line with a web 2.0 online presence, it deserves a mention for its sheer popularity with fashion insiders, music fanatics, and culture obsessives alike. Their tie-dyed, psychedelic pieces decorated with cultural references – their Grateful Dead merch was a runaway hit, and their recent T-shirt honouring the Oscar-buzzed The Lighthouse also deserves a note – are proof that sometimes all you need is knowing your strength and sticking to it.

DIME

Born outside of the skate capitals of New York, LA, and London, where streetwear brands are usually launched, DIME grew out of the Montreal skate scene, associated with a loose collective known for their “humour first, skate second” videos (eventually culminating in their magnum opus, The Dime Store Video). Their outsider status and refusal to take themselves seriously – perpetuated by the group itself as much as some of their US counterparts – fuelled the release of their first run of T-shirts, then worn mainly by Dime affiliates and carried only by some local stores. But the mocking, Dior-inspired logo and insider feel meant the line was fast picked up and championed by the likes of Dover Street Market and Virgil Abloh, solidifying Dime’s rare, hyperlocal yet fashion-adjacent status.

Dime AW 19 Lookbook

YANG LI SAMIZDAT

While technically a diffusion line rather than T-shirt first, cult London designer Yang Li’s Samizdat collections (a reference to the underground printing of contraband books in the Soviet Union) merged the designer’s hardcore sensibility with his love of music, for a limited, seasonal run of T-shirts created in collaboration with his favourite bands, like – most recently – Jesus and Mary Chain. For a quick how-to for Those with a penchant for the band T-shirt, check out our insights into making music merch with the likes of Worldwide FM and band tee expert Jackson Green.

Cosmic Terror by Samizdat, photographed by Salvatore Caputo

RICHARDSON HARDWARE

As is the case with many fashion polymaths, British-born Andrew Richardson’s namesake brand was born as a side project, inspired by his sensibility formed during years of assisting Steven Meisel shooting the supers, working as a stylist with the likes of Calvin Klein and Valentino, and launching his own erotic magazine. Born out of a 2003 collaboration with Supreme, Richardson Hardware grew into a line of jackets and trousers and well as signature logo T-shirts, fast becoming a cult signifier for New York skaters, art world fixtures and downtown figures.

Read More: 14 Of The Most Iconic Slogan Tees