A Nelson couple have turned their community pride into a successful small business making stylish tourist tees that highlight our local history and iconic architecture.
Niki Hunter and Sijay James, whose backgrounds are in fashion and graphic design respectively, decided last year that they should combine their talents. Hunter went through the Community Futures program with the idea of starting a t-shirt company. But it wasn’t until they started toying with different graphics that they stumbled upon the idea of developing a line of Nelson tops.
“We look at the Big Orange Bridge every day out our living room window, and it just kind of hit us that nobody had put BOB on a t-shirt before,” Hunter said. “So many people visit Nelson and just love it here. We just thought, let’s see if they’d buy our t-shirts.”
Their first line of Nelson t-shirts, sold under the brand name Love 22, debuted at the Baker Street Christmas Faire in November — and they were an immediate hit. Some 150 shirts sold during the three-day faire, and they also caught the attention of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce who wanted to carry them at the Visitor Centre.
“That’s when we really realized that we were onto something,” Hunter said. “People were hungry for something like this. A lot of people bought them as gifts for their relatives that don’t live in Nelson.”
A few other local stores also agreed to stock their shirts, including Scout, Valhalla Pure and the gift shop at Touchstones Nelson.
With the Christmas rush behind them, the pair are now focused on developing their spring/summer line featuring 10 new designs for men, women and babies. Those will be ready by early May, in time for the tourist and summer market season.
The new line (pictured below) features local wildlife like eagles, bears and moose. Besides being printed on t-shirts, the designs will go on baseball shirts, tank tops and baby onesies. And they’re hoping the new look will be a little more appealing for locals to wear.
“I still haven’t seen anyone wearing one of our shirts around town,” James confessed. “Maybe with the new line that will start to happen.”
Both Hunter and James said they feel incredibly fortunate to have received such a great response to their shirts and want to give back to the community that they’ve drawn their inspiration from. They’ve donated 10 per cent of proceeds from past sales to the Nelson Cares Society. And because their new line features animals, they plan to choose an local ecological charity to donate to next.
“We want people to feel good about buying from us and know that we’re two local people doing this to spread our love for this community,” James said.