The white walls of Jason Hricko’s office are mostly bare, except for a large whiteboard that showcases the company’s $3,500 goal for retail last week and color-coordinated plans in marketing and hiring.
Hricko, the creative director for Thread Society, worked diligently at his computer with recent intern-turned-employee, Danielle Christina.
In a small office across the hall, Kirsten Skwara, who works in production, is meticulously folding V-neck shirts to prepare them for packaging.
Thread Society, a local fashion company based out of Northeast Philadelphia, creates clothing like T-shirts and tank tops with the idea of using high quality materials and giving back to the community in mind.
The company started roughly two years ago as a side project between financial adviser Brandon Levithan and Michael Jared, who is the owner of Philly-based screen-printing company, RushOrderTees.
“They wanted to start selling basic apparel as a socially conscious company and get involved with the community through different programs,” Hricko said.
In the beginning, the company didn’t have any real branding. The website was rather basic, Hricko said, with simple shirt designs. But the duo did immediately showcase their charitable side with the give back, or “Shirt For Shirt,” program.
“It is the most important aspect of our company,” Hricko said.
The “Shirt For Shirt” program donates shirts and blankets to a child in need with every purchase. The company connects with More Than Just Me Foundation and Penn State’s THON, among other charities.
After becoming the creative director during the first year of Thread Society’s existence, Hricko had to decide what direction the line would go in.
“It was about ‘Where do we want to go, versus where we are now?’” Hricko said.
He hired a team of photographers and graphic designers to redesign the website, logo and product pictures to give the brand a minimalist, simple look. Soft, well-made fabrics were important, but everything had to align with the brand’s goal of integrity.
Thread Society imports fabrics from outside the U.S. and only works with sweatshop-free companies, Hricko said.
“We make sure to be socially conscious,” said Marissa D’Elia, a marketing major at Drexel University and wholesale manager of Thread Society.
“That goes with our soft shirts,” D’Elia said. “We are so selective about the shirts we use that our fall collection has been in the works since January.”
The company has been working on other ways to help them stand out, like Threadfunding. The program, which has been under development for the last six months, allows companies to raise money for an event by selling shirts for a cause.
“It’s like a Kickstarter with shirts,” Hricko said. “We want to make it possible for people to raise the money they need without needing the money up front.”
Thread Society recently finished its first Threadfunding campaign with Diversity Richmond, an organization benefitting the LGBTQIA community of Central Virginia.
According to Thread Society’s website, the company creates a digital proof of the shirt that the charity or group can show to those following the fund. After the group reaches its goal, Thread Society will cover production and shipping costs; the organization keeps all profits.
Another project to recently come to fruition is Thread Sessions, which is an acoustic video session showcasing a musician. Because D’Elia and Hricko are heavily involved in Philadelphia’s music scene, it felt right to bring another creative art form into the company’s work.
“We wanted to marry that part of our lives with Thread Society,” D’Elia said.
For its first acoustic session, the line introduced Philadelphia singer-songwriter Shannen Moser.
Along with a video recording of the musician performing her track “Big Guilty,” the clothing line launched T-Shirt campaigns for the artist. Thread Society fronts the production costs and the rest of the proceeds go to the charity of the musicians’ choice.
Moser’s T-shirt sales will benefit Girls Rock Philly, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mentoring young women through music education. Thread Society will feature a new musician, video and piece of merchandise monthly.
Additionally, the clothing line is working on a Kickstarter campaign with RECphilly and sponsoring a stage at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, which will give Philly-based artists a means to get there inexpensively, Hricko said.
“It puts a spotlight on musicians and our products,” Hricko said.
For Hricko, giving back to the community is simply the right thing to do.
“We are all responsible as business leaders and for the future of fashion industry,” Hricko said.
Emily Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.