Wanting to further the careers of other artists he knew, Jake Nickell set up a competition-based T-shirt-design company in his small apartment to give those artists a chance to make their art and get paid while doing it. Today, the small design startup has expanded into Threadless, a virtual boutique showcasing artsy apparel and accessories from designers all over the globe. Each week, guest artists and illustrators submit designs depicting pop-culture references, animals, folk art, and vibrant abstract works, leaving it up to the online community to vote on which entries will populate the shop’s menagerie of merch ranging from T-shirts and hoodies to bags, laptop cases, and umbrellas.
In addition to printing their work, Threadless honours artists with awards for designers in various categories, as well as a Made By program highlighting artists who've developed a following in the community or discovered the whereabouts of Van Gogh's middle-school diaries. Store staffers also award scholarships to hardworking designers and present Design Challenges to focus submitting artists on a central theme or aesthetic style. At Threadless Atrium, they collaborate with charities and other outside organizations to gather eclectic art submissions that currently benefit the American Cancer Society and Disney Villains.