Threadless’ audience getting younger

By Adel Johnson, known for its quirky graphic T-shirts, will soon be extending its clothing empire with a kids’ store that is expected to open in Wicker Park by the end of November.

The online T-shirt company has already expanded from being a web-based operation to a Threadless store, at 3011 N. Broadway St. The kids’ line was launched on its website in 2007 around the time the flagship store opened.

After a year of success online with Threadless Kids, founder Jake Nickell decided to open the kids’ store, 1905 W. Division St.

The Chicago-based started when Nickell and his collaborator Jacob DeHart, who is no longer with the company, won an advertising design competition on, an online graphic design company. Nickell continued to compete with other designers in the area, and although is now defunct, Nickell’s idea grew into what is now Threadless.

Threadless store manager Donella Demorest said the original site receives about 200 designs a day, which are then narrowed down by voters to six new T-shirts each week. The winners are then printed onto T-shirts at its warehouse, 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave., and sold online and in its store.

Demorest said the existing concept will also apply for Threadless Kids online. Designers will submit their art for children’s T-shirts and onesies. Then, members of the online community will vote on the designs they think are best, and the designs with the most votes will be displayed on as well as in the store.

The question on the mind of Wicker Park resident Destiny Cruz, 28, is whether or not the Threadless Kids shirts will actually sell. Cruz said she has generally thought of Threadless as geared more toward high schoolers, college students and young adults who don’t have children.

Cruz doesn’t have any kids, but she said if she did, she would take them to a department store or a chain. She feels it would be cheaper and more convenient.

“I like the idea of supporting the arts, and I would shop there if I liked the designs, but I think there are enough places to get kids’ clothes,” she said.

However, Columbia freshman graphic design major Chapman Hosier said he thinks Threadless Kids could present a new and interesting opportunity for expansion not only in Wicker Park, but in the area of children’s clothing.

Since Columbia is a liberal arts school, Hosier said he believes many students here would love the concept of Threadless because it’s unique.

“This is art school, right?” Hosier said. “And what’s worse than Kohl’s and K-Mart?”

Wicker Park resident Al Ray, 50, a supporter of local art, said he would take his 4-year-old daughter to Threadless Kids.

“Anything to promote the arts,” Ray said.

He also said Threadless Kids is a good idea because kids should be exposed to the arts at an early age, and Threadless Kids can give parents the opportunity for variety in the choices they make for their children.

Ray said he thinks that if more people knew about the kid-friendly aspect of Wicker Park, the area would be larger.

Some of these local artists have been rising to the task of designing T-shirts for kids by creating art with cartoons and slogans like, “I’m not afraid of the dark” and “Cake is for everyone.”

These designs are more pastel-colored than the regular Threadless T-shirts, mostly with illustrations of dinosaurs, dragons and other creatures, as well as candy, clouds and rainbows.

A few of the designs from the original Threadless will also be printed onto kid-sized T-shirts.