For those who live on the east side of the Bay, it's hard not to notice all the T-shirts bearing iconic "Oaklandish" images popping up on the streets and in clothing and gift shops all over town. Or you might have noticed the big Oaklandish bus called "The Rig" parked outside the Grand Lake farmer's market or local street fairs. The graphics are eye catching, with cultural symbols and nostalgic images known only to those who live in Oakland. Whether you grew up here or not, images of the Children's Fairyland Key, the East Bay Bridge & the Tree With Roots logo are touching in their familiarity and uniqueness. Having spotted many of these graphics on T-shirts, hoodies and baby onesies around town, I've noted they have an edginess, cool factor and great sense of Oakland pride, without being touristy. Unlike the "I Love NY" T-shirts, which are rarely worn by NYC natives, these shirts are made for locals in the know. If you live here, the images will resonate with you as something special and exclusive.
What I didn't know about Oaklandish, is that the company started off back in 2000 as a way to bring the Oakland community together through the arts. Before they even made T-shirts, the folks at Oaklandish started off with public events, private screenings and an art project featuring the now iconic Oaklandish tree logo. They started making T-shirts in 2006 as a way to raise money to fund these public events and the company has been growing slowly and steadily ever since. Working with local artists to create the T-shirt designs, the images have generated a sense of civic pride. Oaklandish designs celebrate the city and are a great way to give back to the community; at least 10% of the profits of every shirt sold are donated to community outreach organizations, aspiring artists & local non-profits.
We interviewed Natalie Nadimi of Oaklandish and got a behind-the–scenes look at what the local T-shirt company is all about:
Oaklandish also supports a local grant program, annually presenting the "Oakland Innovators Award," which provides financial, artistic and media resources to arts, education, technology and business organizations that contribute to Oakland culture. Past recipients include: Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center, 38th Notes, Marin Agricultural Institute and Youth Radio. The 2012 awards went to the Khadafy Washington Foundation, Town Park, Caught in the Crossfire, and 25th Street Collective.