Graphic Invention

Indie designers restate their claim on Seattle's T-shirts.

Graphic T-shirts for men and women have been around since the '70s, but big corporations began buying designs from independent designers and mass- marketing unique tees until . . . they weren't so unique anymore.

So what happens now? Seattle continues to have an answer to that question, and it is, of course, to get even indier. From the tiniest table at I Heart Rummage (a utopia of indie shirt designers that takes place at the Crocodile Cafe the first Sunday of every month) to the most hopping local shop, Seattle entrepreneurs are finding ways to reignite the T-shirt industry. Don't be too shy to express yourself with a shirt from one of our favorite shops: 

Black Chandelier

705-B E. Pike St., 206-325-5725,

Black Chandelier was started by designer Jared Gold in Salt Lake City; the Capitol Hill location stocks three lines of limited-edition designer tees, ranging from the store brand—with its emphasis on Victoriana, punk, and "decadent dementia"—to the Lemon skate line or Gold's more tailored, couture-ish shirts. The store's shockingly creative shirts are bursting with color, cheeky graphics, and doses of metallic foil.


1112 E. Pike St., 206-622-0459

Opened by four friends in the spring of 2003, this spot has built a fashion-savvy clientele for its small-batch shirts, including the diamond-emblazoned store brand. Many of the nearly 15 lines available at any given time—Evisu, Maiden Noir, and Broken Home, and Japan's wildly successful Hysteric Glamour among them—are exclusive to Seattle, with less than 10 of each design made.


4542 University Way N.E., 206-632-1190

This University District hot spot showcases the output of several local designers, including resident B-girl Cody's Voodoo Gangsta. Her manic amalgamations of text and imagery grace tank tops as well as traditional tees. There are racks of locally designed tops, and each piece is priced for the college student.


5009 20th Ave. N.W., 206-706-0969

With a treasure trove of vintage goods hidden on a quiet Ballard street, owner Joel Leshefka resells his best finds from around the state in addition to his hand-screen-printed tees and ties. Bicycles, monsters, and old-school cameras decorate the eclectic variety of shirts, and vibrant screen-printed specialties from other artists hang from racks: The store is chockful of inexpensive tees made by local designers like Invicid, Colossal Thread, and Sandman Designs.

 . . . or from local designers on the Web:

Mind-behind-the-madness designer Clarity Miller hails from Anacortes. Savvy shoppers should check her site out: white tanks with felt broken hearts, and cotton tees with catchy calico appliqués of whales, flowers, or skull and crossbones.

This site has hot vintage tees with funky pictures/words from the '70s screened on them. Copacetique items are also available at Pretty Parlor ( 6729 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-789-8788,, Velouria (2205 N.W. Market St., 206-788-0330,, and I Heart Rummage.

This Portland site knows how to do it right with designs inspired by skateboard culture, and a line that caters to fashionable guys with shirts bedecked with bronze ghetto blasters, scuba divers, parachutes, and road bikes.

Local Sam Trout's apparel combines loud, contrasting colors with intricate pictures of "shattered" unicorns, googly-eyed lovebirds, jumbled images of legs with daunting high heels, and, of course, beautiful women. Co-curator of I Heart Rummage and an experienced graphic designer, Trout's tees are inventive and slightly girlie (though some are unisex).

This site is bringing the sexes back to even ground with a variety of T-shirts for boys and girls. The local designers have screened everything from blocky old record players to the bold outline of disconnected headphones on soothing colors like light blues, greens, grays, and browns.

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