I got an email the other week asking if I’d like to review some t-shirts. Not really an apparel critic, I was a little dubious. But my curiosity was piqued when I noticed this line in the email: Sonadei donates a portion of every T-Shirt sale to The American Cancer
Society and The National Forest Foundation. So I decided to check out the website; but rather than a simple apparel review why not find out a little bit more about what this Sonadei is all about.
Find out yourself:
CrankedMag: How long have you been doing Sonadei?
Sonadei: Sonadei has been around for two years now. But we have been thinking about it and planning our clothing lines and designs for a long time though. It’s funny actually, but my wife and I became serious about Sonadei during a trip to Victoria Canada.
CM: What happened in Victoria that was inspirational?
S: Well it’s funny actually. We were in Victoria for our honeymoon. And these ideas had been floating around for a while. We wanted to do something together that we both enjoy. And in Victoria we decided to make Sonadei a reality. It may have also been the fact that Victoria is a great town for cyclists. Cyclists are everywhere there. And per capita I would bet that there are more cyclists in Victoria than Seattle, maybe even more than Portland, OR!
CM: Any previous or concurrent projects?
S: We try to sponsor and support as many bike races and events that we can. We sponsor two cycling teams, one local, Hagens Berman, and one in Maryland, ABRT. We continually update our news page on Sonadei with all the events we support. Coming up we have the international Towards Carfree Cities conference in Portland, OR, and the North American Cycle Courier Championships in Chicago, IL. Each month there is something going on, check out our news page for all the info!
CM: I’m from Maryland myself. How’d you get hooked up with Annapolis Bicycle Racing Team?
S: That’s great! I wonder if you know anyone from the team? ABRT is a great team with a lot of members. They are very active in Maryland and on the East coast. One of their members really liked our designs and bought a couple shirts from us. We got to talking and soon after we became a team sponsor. We created some really unique designs for ABRT and are proud to support them.
CM: Anything in the future that you want to reveal?
S: We always have new programs and goals for the future. Something I am really excited about is our new 100% recycled T-Shirt. We plan on releasing it this summer. I think these new shirts are great! They are made from textile waste and clippings that are collected from several pre-consumer venues. Like new apparel cuttings, upholstery and trim fabric, yarn waste, industrial fibers and tire cord. These are then sorted by color and chopped into what’s called shoddy. The shoddy is then spun into yarn and used to produce the recycled T-Shirts. I think it’s a brilliant idea! These shirts require no new dyeing because the color is blended from the pre-consumer textile clippings. We have had outstanding feedback from our retail partners and customers who are telling us that this recycled shirt is exactly what they have been looking for. We are excited to offer it.
For some time now we have also been working on a project that supports bicycling in Africa. We will be announcing it soon on our website. It is something that we and others are working together on, and I think it will do a lot of good for people that really need help. Check our website in the coming weeks for the announcement!
CM: What’s your interest in Africa?
S: Our support of cycling is not limited to one country. We truly want to have a positive affect around the world. There are places in Africa that need help and we are excited to lend a hand. Soon we will announce more about it. We also have projects going on in Japan and Europe.
CM: Are you originally from Seattle?
S: Yes I am born and raised in Seattle.
CM: Where did the name Sonadei come from? And I like to be sure of pronunciations, how do you pronounce Sonadei? Give it to us phonetically please.
S: Sonadei is a name I made up. I thought it sounded a little different and unique. Most people seem to like it. You pronounce Sonadei: so-na-dae
CM: Who else is on the Sonadei team?
S: Sonadei consists of my wife and I. Basically I do the design work and take her input and advice. And together we do the printing. She does the sewing of our logo on every T-Shirt. I wish I could help with that but I am no good with sewing! Friends and family help when we get real busy. For example, at last years Star Crossed Cyclocross race our friend Larry showed up to enjoy the event and help sell shirts. He has a great personality and easily gets along with people. Before I knew it he had, among others, three little old ladies coming over to our booth to buy shirts from us. It was great! I never would have expected our “NO BIKE, NO LIFE.” design to be a hit with grandma! But that goes to show how universally appealing the bicycling message is to people.
CM: Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
S: Everywhere! A lot of the ideas come during bike rides. For example, in 2006 I rode in the STP and RAMROD, and had to do a lot of long distance training. I had a lot of time to just think while on my bike. A six hour ride is fun, but can become boring in its solitude. So my mind would wander and wander. I think I am most inspired on rides with my brothers and friends though. Together we rode Mt. Rainier a lot, Palisades, Sun Top, Skookum Flats… and on those rides we had a lot of fun and made a lot of jokes. We took video of many of our rides and I still go back to them for inspiration.
CM: What’s your favorite?
S: My favorite design usually changes to whatever I am currently working on. But I will always like our Classico design. The Classico design is the first one I did for Sonadei and that I showed to friends and family. People really took a liking to its simple design.
CM: What’s the most popular?
S: Our Classico design is the most popular, followed by the Mountain+Bike design, and then the Bicycle Basket design. People really like our Bike Caps and Crank design too, and give us positive reviews on them.
CM: What is your take on the current bicycle trends on style and fashion?
S: Bicycle T-Shirt designs and paraphernalia are huge right now. I think it’s because bicycling in general is getting more and more popular in America lately. I am sure part of it has to do with gas prices, and “green” lifestyles. But we still have a long way to go if we compare ourselves to some Asian and European countries. For example in Tokyo Japan, it’s not uncommon to see whole blocks dedicated to being a bicycle parking lot. There are literally thousands of them packed tight. Each one being used by someone. I would love to see that happen here.
CM: What’s the bicycle world going to see down the road with apparel?
S: I am not sure. It definitely will be more eco-conscious in how the garments are made and sold. I can guess that professional wear, like jerseys and skin suits, will continue to evolve to help keep riders warm, cool, and dry all at the same time. They will look as sporty as ever. I think it would be great for someone to invent a bike jersey that chain grease cannot stain. That would be wonderful! Casual wear will stay street. T-Shirts, Shorts, and a Hoodie; heavily influenced by the bike messenger scene. Just look at how bike messenger bags are the must have item, especially if it’s made from recycled bike pieces… like Freitag, R.E.Load, and Seattle’s own Alchemy Goods!
CM: Is Burberry or Louis Vuitton going to get into the bike scene?
S: That would be interesting. There’s nothing stopping them from doing it. But when you think of cycling you don’t necessarily think of Louis Vuitton. I can see them creating a shirt with a bicycle on it, but not a whole bicycling line. You never know though. Most likely an established bike brand will come out with a high-end apparel line. It’s easier for them and they bring actual bike credibility.
CM: Do you think the “NO BIKE, NO LIFE.” design could potentially be an affront to sensitive car-type people? Might some take offense?
S: I had someone tell me once that “Too many bikes equals no life.” So I understand that not everyone will connect with the “NO BIKE, NO LIFE.” message. However, I would hope that people would not take offense to the “NO BIKE, NO LIFE.” idea and design. We have received a lot of positive feedback from this design.
In my mind the phrase is a positive.
CM: Talk about the “I Like Today” series?
S: Our “I like today.” designs focus on a positive outlook and active lifestyle. It’s a simple idea and reminder to not get bogged down with our daily frustrations. I had a lady who bought an “I like today.” shirt tell me something funny. She said, “I like today! That’s so true, because it sure beats the hell out of yesterday!”
CM: How about the “Custodian of Paradise”?
S: The “custodian Of paradise” designs focus on nature and preserving our natural habitats. Which is something that is very important to me. I was a Boy Scout and grew up camping and hiking, it’s in my blood. I think the phrase “custodian Of paradise” couldn’t give a more clear description of who we are. This is it, life is paradise. And we need to take care of what we’ve got.
CM: How do you come into involvement with sponsored events like “Star-Crossed”?
S: The folks behind Star Crossed are great! Extremely nice people. I met one of the organizers while at Seattle’s Bike-In. He really liked our designs and bought a few shirts for himself and his sons. We talked for a while and got along well. The rest is history! We get requests for help and sponsorship emailed to us too. And we have had people who bought a shirt from us come back and ask for help with their event later on.
CM: As a producer of consumable goods, what is Sonadei’s perspective on America’s rampant consumption? Lately I’ve been growing more concerned about the burden our possessions have on us and the questionable continual need for “new” things. This is one of the [many] reasons I stopped printing the magazine. I fully understand the importance of clothing ourselves and adding color to our lives, and I find it extremely worthwhile that portions of your sales go to charities. Is this part of the concept of “conscious creativity” seen on your site?
S: Exactly! I couldn’t agree with you more. The idea behind Sonadei’s “Conscious Creativity” grew from many of the same examples you just gave. We don’t see ourselves strictly as an apparel company. That’s not who we are. We focus on supporting and growing positive active lifestyles. Donating a portion of our proceeds is the least we can do to help others out. Part of the reason that we are offering 100% recycled T-Shirts is to cut down on waste. We also use water based inks for our prints. The reason is that the ink is far less toxic to our environment. The prints look great and natural, not like plastic. But these are just small steps. We constantly look at ways to run with a lighter foot print.
From a mix of necessity and want I think, at least in America finally, that we’ve come to a collective tipping point. Eco-living has been around for a long time, and has recently come into fashion for many industries. It’s not a new idea. It’s just the popular idea right now. More and more people are consciously looking at the products they buy and use. We think about where they are made, how they are made, and where they will end up. This type of thinking will only help us for the future.
CM: Describe your inspiration for the two charities your sales contribute to. Why specifically the American Cancer Society and the National Forest Foundation.
S: When we started Sonadei we wanted to make sure the company was formed around positive and helpful principals. We wanted to build a company that contributes to improving people’s lives, and protecting our environment.
Two big challenges that affect everyone are cancer and deforestation. By donating a portion of our proceeds to the American Cancer Society and the National Forest Foundation, we directly support the battle in these two areas. Donating to these two causes are a fundamental part of what Sonadei is. People buy shirts from us because they like our designs and they believe in our message. We are very grateful for all the support we receive.
As far as what I think of the shirts… they wear and they’re bound to get some bike grease on them eventually. The inks are crisp, the cotton feels and looks good, and the stitched logo on the sleeves are a real nice touch. I’m not too much of a fashionista or anything, but I do like to wear something that has more substance to it than making some executive’s wallet thicker. Furthermore, if it’s something that supports and endorses bicycles (not to mention charity organizations), then even better! These shirts do just that I think.
I’m looking forward to a mildly hostile question one day, “You saying I got no life, punk?” No matter, I’ll wear it, and answer accordingly, with pride. My wife was excited about the “I like today.” shirt, so she got that one. She’s been wearing it to work and even on a day like today (diluvial rain in June) she got several enthusiastic comments, and even noticed people smiling about it—putting out a good vibe is what that’s all about.