Neighborhoodies, a custom clothing and accessory shop on DUMBO’s Jay Street, is running a political campaign cut from a different cloth.
The store initiated “Obama-a-day,” an online Advent-like calendar featuring daily Barack Obama-related design templates for T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts and accessories. The store’s owner says the endeavor is fueled by a passion for Obama’s ideals – and not a bid to capitalize on the candidate’s popularity.
“I love Barack Obama. My employees love Barack Obama, for all the reasons that he is a necessary leader for our country,” said Neighborhoodies owner and CEO Michael de Zayas. “He is someone who reflects my company’s values and we use our influence to effect real change.”
‘Filled With Ideas’
The store’s online inventory boasts a growing number of designs inspired by Illinois’ junior senator. “We have notebooks filled with ideas for T-shirts that feature Barack Obama or are Obama related,” said Cameron Cook, the company’s Internet marketing specialist.
Though none of the merchandise’s proceeds go directly to the Obama for America campaign, de Zayas said he donated to Obama numerous times in 2008. A search of the Federal Elections Commission did not immediately turn up any donations under de Zayas’ name. He could not explain the discrepancy.
De Zayas’s franchise started in 2001 when he designed and created a hooded sweatshirt marked “FT. GREENE,” the result of a deep love for his Fort Greene neighborhood.
After friends and strangers alike praised and attempted to buy his creation, he saw dollar signs. He opened his first store at the South Street Seaport in 2003. Neighborhoodies expanded and morphed into an online retailer, serving more than 200,000 customers since its inception.
“It’s a really great and special way to get a message across,” said Cook. “Whether it’s friends or family or people whom cross you in the street, T-shirts have become a really special way of expressing yourself.”
In 2004, Woman’s Wear Daily reported the store’s sales reached the $1 million mark for the year. Neighborhoodies was expected to reach sales of $10 million the following year, according to Billboard magazine. International expansion also looms: de Zayas acquired trademarks for the Neighborhoodies name in Europe and Australia.
Neighborhoodies’ mission expands beyond the commercial world. De Zayas recently started neighborhoodies.org, a website focusing on various store-supported non-profit organizations. Neighborhoodies cause of the moment is Obama.
“I saw [Barack Obama] in New York and I saw him in New Hampshire. And to watch him in person speak is to become converted,” de Zayas said.
Neighborhoodies’ crew of designers, seamstresses and marketing staff launched the “Obama-a-Day” campaign on October 15th. They’ve created designs to last well beyond Election Day.
Said de Zayas, “We’re doing the one-a-day until his inauguration.”
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