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At Threadless, It’s All About The Art

By John Matthew Simon

“We never want to become static,” said Jeffrey Guerrero, the graphics coordinator at Threadless, as he gave us a tour of their Madison Street madhouse on Chicago’s near west side.

Founded in 2000 by Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart, the e-commerce platform and artist community is the longtime darling of Chicago’s tech and creative sectors, having innovated the crowdsourcing model. However, as Jeff clarified, at Threadless it’s “all about the artists.”

The compound makes this evident. Every inch of wall space is covered with a rotating mélange of pieces from street artists, both local and from abroad. It is a reflection of the “artist first” mentality and the rich diversity of the wired community that they have built.

Touring the offices, we were given incredible insight into a creative organization that empowers artists to create and control their own identity and brand. In fact, the idea that “anyone can be an artist” is championed through new initiatives like Artist Shops. The initiative is for Threadless to be the conduit and facilitator of an artist’s sartorial vision, enabling creatives to remain creative and in control of their brand.

The company slogan “Make Great Together” is apparent and everywhere as we were able to engage with the employees and ask pertinent questions about operations, work-life-balance, artistic integrity, and more. The organization embraces innovation through flexibility, but maintains the sentiment that at the end of the day it’s “about presenting art to the world.”

For an organization that has been very successful over the past 15 years it is humbling to know that in order to thrive as creatives we must welcome change. Threadless is built on more than soft cotton, silk screens, and digital design. It is a culture where great art is to be celebrated and proudly projected on the big shoulders of people worldwide.