Design insights & tutorials.

Inspiration: Designers Who Started Their Own Clothing Line

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As I’m writing the “Designers Guide to the Apparel Industry” eBook that I plan to release soon, I started to take notice of WHO are the role models that inspired this book. Essentially, who are the designers who started freelancing and eventually started and now run a successful clothing line? As Steve Knerem’s “start a clothing line” series sheds light on HIS experience doing what so many of us designers want to do: Branch out and release something of our own.

These designers got started working for clients. As you know, you’re mostly working on THEIR ideas and helping them solve problems. I’m sure a lot of designers reading this have felt the urge to work on their own ideas but probably never had the time. Heck, you may have even “started a line” yourself but there’s a good chance your tees are gathering dust in your basement because you were never able to take the line beyond a casual hobby.

The folks I’m featuring here have taken it past the hobby phase and created their own unique brand. Everyone talks about starting their own line, which as we’ve seen the past few years, lots have done just that – started. While I give people praise for starting something on their own terms, let these folks be role models and inspiration to take it to that next level.

Some of these I have interviewed for my eBook and you can read case studies about HOW they did it. You can get notified by email when the book comes out.

Mark Capicotti

Mark Capicotto created Glamour Kills

Glamour Kills - Bonjour Monday

Glamour Kills - Summer of Love

Rob Dobi

Rob’s portfolio is at
He created Full Bleed.

Rob Dobi - Client work - This is it (Michael Jackson) and Green Day

Rob Dobi - Fullbleed

Dan Mumford

Dan’s portfolio is at
His apparel is available at

Dan Mumford - Client work - Awakening

Dan Mumford - Mumford Clothing - The Death of Summer

Sam Kaufman

Sam runs East Fork Studio
Lead & Light

Sam Kaufman - East Fork Studio - Client work - Weezer

Sam Kaufman - Lead & Light - Telemanipulation

Brandon Herbel

Brandon blogs under the alias All Work No Sleep and runs Make Believe Studio.
Make Believe Clothing Co.

Brandon Herbel - Make Believe Studio - Client work - Lady Gaga

Brandon Herbel - Make Believe Clothing Co.

Kyle Crawford

Kyle’s portfolio is at
Electric Zombie is the clothing line, with a bunch of satellite websites that are all amazing.

Kyle Crawford - Client work - Alkaline Trio - Little death movie poster

Kyle Crawford - Electric Zombie - Transsmission Black

Johnny Cupcakes

Johnny Cupcakes does… Johnny Cupcakes. You should check the story out.

Johnny Cupcakes - Voodoo cook

Michael Leon

Michael Leon is the man behind Commonwealth Stacks

Michael Leon - Michael Leon Studio - Client work - Rasa AdvertisingMichael Leon - Commonwealth Stacks - CWS shirt and Beetle shirt

Jacob Bannon

Jacob Bannon is the creative mastermind behind Deathwish

Jacob Bannon - Client work - Killing the Dream

Jacob Bannon - Deathwish

Glenn Jones

Glenn’s portfolio can be found on Behance or on his website.
Glennz is the place to find his world famous shirts.

Glenn Jones - Client work - Despair - Unsolved crime

Glenn Jones - Glennz - Office chat

David Murray

David Murray is the guy designing SEIBEI.

David Murray - SEIBEI - I'm fat let's party - Zombie hunter shirt

Jeff Sheldon

Jeff Sheldon is the man behind Ugmonk.

Jeff Sheldon - Ugmonk - Path to nowhere

Eric Terry

Eric Terry is the designer of the amazing stuff at LintyFresh.

Eric Terry - Lintyfresh - Keith the quiet

Shepard Fairey

As we all know, Shepard Fairey is Obey Giant. They also do Obey Clothing.

Shepard Fairey - Obey Giant - Rock the vote poster - Inauguration poster - Bauhaus band

Shepard Fairey - Obey Clothing - Obey your computerShepard Fairey - Obey Clothing - Obey trademark

  • threads not dead book

    Download your free chapter of our best selling strategy guide.

    If you enjoyed this post, you'll love Thread's Not Dead written by Go Media's own Jeff Finley! Start your own clothing company and become the next Mark Ecko, Obey, or Johnny Cupcakes! Learn how to dominate the graphic tee business and become the next legendary t-shirt designer. Live the dream!

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design and development firm. We also specialize in print design and branding. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. In my spare time, I write songs and play drums in Campfire Conspiracy. I'm a happy husband and an aspiring b-boy and lucid dreamer.
Discover More by Jeff Finley


We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • elvis

    nice me too…left volcom and am starting Wolves Kill Sheep

    • Jeff Finley

      sweet, good luck man!

  • d e m

    Nice post – a lot of those guys inspired me to start my line
    Hope I make your next list!

  • elinix

    Wow, some of these designs are really nice. Might consider buying them…

  • Craig

    Great list of designers with their own clothing lines, glad I could visit their websites

  • RWVV

    Your showing a lot of skill. No pun intended, but I need to point out it’s influenced by Hydro74 a bit too much…too the point of plagiarism. Especially the eagles and the skull.

    Then again, with the skill you have you are definately able to bring it to a new level.

  • Prix

    NICE POST!! Very inspiring!! Me and my bff once start designing and printing tees to sale at a regional comic convention, I still don´t know how we saled them, I mean we just start printing like crazies without knowing anything about business or that stuff, there must be the designs (and God´s holy grace) because the quality and the execution were shamelessly poor..:(, however we saled all and let me tell you…the feeling of seeing someone wearing your design is just, someday I´m going to get back to designing tees taking your advices!!! Thaxs :)

  • Michele Agius

    Where can i print tees i design, preferably in europe.??

  • louis

    This was a useful post and I think it is rather easy to see from the other comments as well that this post is well written and useful.

  • Anonymous

    Brandon of ‘Make Believe’ is the homie! I hope to add my name to this list in a matter of a couple weeks!

  • lig durumu

    Next is to add more details to our image. First add a new layer and name it as “Bridge.” Now, using the Paint Brush tool (B), we’ll add a bridge connecting the tower and the rock arch. To do this, use a small brush with a size of 3-4px and hardness of 100% and make a Primary line for our bridge, a. Then add some shadings, making sure to follow the source of light, and add some more details. I added the railings for the bridge to add a realistic effect, b. Complete the effect with an “Old Nature” theme with the use of vines, c. I added further more details shown in d like the vines creeping across the rock and a small opening on the tower for the bridge.

  • malunga cate

    nice t-shirt graphics but all are manish, inculcate ladish graphics too.