Vivid: Keynote – Jake Nickell (Threadless)

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
When: 7 June 2012

The co-founder Jake Nickell of my favourite T-shirt company Threadless, has flown over from the US to be part of the Vivid Sydney to present the keynote speech.

Jake 1
Often associated with the name Threadless, is the buzz word ‘crowdsourcing’ where  amateur, budding and professional designers submit their designs to the website with the public able to vote and influence which designs actually get printed. While for the company itself, it is fantastic (and free!) market research to get a gauge on what is more likely to sell.

Jake 2
Jake covered the initial idea behind Threadless which was derived from merely a forum thread on Dreamless, and committing to printing the ‘winner’ despite having no knowledge on how to actually execute it!

The big theme of Jake’s speech was simply, “Make.”
  • Learn how to make by making
  • Make yourself uncomfortable
  • Doodle, make, try, sketch, tinker… just get it out of your head
  • Make with friends
  • Make and make and make till you’re dizzy
  • Make… or else
Jake 3
During the Q & A, he revealed his biggest mistake which was giving FedEx his personal credit card for Threadless transactions. With a limit of only 200 of day, with a charge of $5 per dishonoured transaction… it got expensive, quickly.

For those wondering, his shirt was of course Threadless and was the first ever shirt printed by them.

After Jake’s keynote speech, he was joined by Jeremy Somers (We Are Handsome), Dana Tomic Hughes (Yellowtrace) and Jai Al-Attas (Below Par Records).


Jeremy Somers

Jeremy is the designer of We Are Handsome, which happens to be one of my favourite new discoveries from Australian Fashion Week S/S 2012.

His background is that he never really had much of an interest in fashion let alone female swimwear, but has more of a background in photography and what he acknowledges as a fail in designing t-shirts (compared to Jake and Threadless).

He encouraged following those random ideas, regardless of how much you know. From ordering a whole pallet of candy (apparently it took over 2 years to consume), to having an idea for merchandise for The Temper Trap then designing, producing and presenting an iPhone cover to the band within a week.

Temper Trap

Dana Tomic Hughes

Dana has a highly successful interior designer and blogger of Yellowtrace. She discussed her drive to still continue to update her blog, even though she had her baby several weeks ago. As well as the purpose of her blog, to simply put a bit of spotlight on designs that may not normally get recognition, often being outshone by what she thinks is simply, celebrity produced rubbish.

Jai Al-Attas

Jai started Below Par Records at 16, a record label which would go on to sign Yellowcard, Kisschasy and Brand New. While in comparison when I was 16, I was merely street teaming for Below Par. His achievements at a relatively young age, noticeably made a lot of people in the audience jealous!

Jeremy & jake
The biggest callout, that stuck in my mind is simply:

People Are Lazy

He admits that he’s probably not the best at starting a record label or creating a film, but what separates him from the more talented is that he actually bothered to try.

He detailed the process of creating his labour of love, the film “One Nine Nine Four” despite not having any film making experience. Which was about 90’s punk rock where he got to interview some of the biggest punk rock bands including Green Day, Blink 182 and NOFX, while also being narrated by none other than Tony Hawk! Unfortunately the film has been stuck in development hell due to music licenses.

He’s since moved on from the label, and now has a creative agency One Meaning Communicated Differently.

Go Make

While Jake’s theme of “Make” was very clear. All the presenters had the similar theme, of taking action even if you have doubts (or do not even know what you are doing!), even if you fail at least you’ll learn from it.


It was difficult to walk away from the talk without being inspired, or at least guilty that you have not even tried!

So go MAKE!

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