When Adam Sikorski designed the first Coloradical T-shirt four years ago, he intended it to be just one more thing in his repertoire of designs. He didn't suspect that it would become his best-selling design, let alone that it would become a brand of its own.
"It's been a really interesting thing, because I never sought out, really, to make it into a brand," he says. "It was just kind of an extension of what I was doing, and I kind of always viewed my T-shirts as a good way to get my art to people. That was always the goal." And it worked so well that now people will have another way to get his art: at the Coloradical store opening this weekend at 3109 East Colfax Avenue.
Sikorski grew up in Aurora and studied printmaking at the University of Northern Colorado, inspired by how the technique can get art to the masses. And he soon found that the one of the most successful ways to do that was through T-shirts. "Everybody wears T-shirts, everybody owns t-shirts," Sikorski says. "But not everybody owns art that they hang on their wall. Not a ton of people actually buy art, made by artists, from the artist."
In he freshman year of college, Sikorski began making hand-stenciled shirts that said "Drunc" -- a play on "drunk" and "UNC." But he quickly learned that selling T-shirts to drunk students at parties was not a great business model. "The thing was, everybody had already spent all their money on alcohol. And then, people had a terrible memory, so they might find out about them when they were drunk, but they were not necessarily going to put it together later," he explains.
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Sikorski's T-shirt designs became more successful when he started marketing them to people who were sober. Classmates began to approach him after he'd shown his work at class critiques, saying they wanted to buy his shirts. "That kind of happened a few times and I started thinking, 'All right, I can start selling these,'" he says. So he began operating a business out of the back of a print studio, selling the shirts to local stores.
After college, Sikorski moved to Denver and continued to sell shirts under the Adam Sikorski brand. He would design three shirts a month, but sometimes it was hard to find inspiration. "There'd be many times when I'd just be sitting there, pondering what I'm into, what maybe people would like, that wouldn't just be some weird inside joke that I had," Sikorski says.
It was common for his roommate, Brian McFadden, to give Sikorski ideas for shirts. "Brian would come into my room -- and this happened several times -- and he would always exhale this huge amount of pot into my room, and then say, like, 'How about a shirt that says Coloradical?' And I'd just be like, 'Get out of my room, dude,'" Sikorski recalls.
But after hearing the idea multiple times, Sikorski finally decided that perhaps it could work, and created the design around the Colorado flag. It quickly became a bestseller, and as stores that stocked his merchandise requested more Coloradical T-shirts, the brand was born. "After a bit of me making new designs and releasing them, I just realized it was a good idea to make it its own separate brand," Sikorski explains. "Coloradical has done so well that I don't have enough time to do the other thing at all. It's pretty lucrative and I enjoy doing it, and it comes across to more people."
Continue reading for the full story on the Coloradical brand and the new shop.
Sikorski began to notice more and more people wearing his shirts around Denver and at events like Tour de Fat and Westword Music Showcase. He theorizes that the reason they've become so popular is the love Coloradans have for their state. "People just like what's going on here, and they're happy to be living here," he says. "I recognize that people really enjoy spreading a positive vibe, and I think the brand fully embodies that."
After working from a studio at Black Book Gallery for more than three years, Sikorski began to fantasize about having a place of his own. When he saw that Plastic Chapel on East Colfax had closed and the space was for rent, he joked with this friends about renting it. A week later, he had signed the lease and began to work on his new studio.
"My original idea was that I was going to have a design studio, and I was going to sell Coloradical shirts," Sikorski explains. "I was building it for a very long time, thinking that's what I was doing." He wasn't thinking about a store, but one of Sikorski's friends pointed out that the concept seemed confusing, and customers who walked in might not understand it.
"I thought about it more and I said, 'I think it's just time to open up this Coloradical store,'" Sikorski says. "I get a fair amount of e-mails from people weekly asking whether I have a location or store, and it's going to be nice to say 'yes.'"
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Sikorski has been working on the shop for six months, and is excited to finally show it to his friends and customers. "The whole thing has been a really big growth from basically nothing, and the whole thing has kind of been rooted in a very much 'do it yourself' mentality," he says.
And when he says "do it yourself," he means it. The term embodies the spirit of the brand, which he started as a one-man company. But it also applies to the shop itself. Sikorski has done much of the custom design, including replacing floors, doing the woodwork for original shelving units and creating all the other components that go into a shop. "I had to learn basic stuff like light electrical, drywall, plumbing," he says. "The whole thing's been like this odd kick into adulthood and responsibility. I feel a bit more crafty and handy."
The results will be unveiled at the shop's grand opening this weekend. With the opening will also come new designs, limited editions, art prints and events surrounding the launch of new products. Sikorski also plans to use the shop as a creative space, hosting art shows to bring attention to other aspects of his work as well the work of other artists. "I'm pretty proud of the store opening up in general," he says. "It's been a long road of selling T-shirts for the last near-decade."
The grand opening, which will be sponsored by New Belgium, will take run from 6 to 11 p.m. this Saturday, October 12, conveniently coinciding with the neighborhood's annual block party; There will be beer, music and giveaways. After that, the shop will be open for business from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, visit the Coloradical website.