All proceeds from the "We R Chi" shirt, designed by 21-year-old… (James Robinson )
Growing up on 83rd Street in the Wrightwood neighborhood, James Robinson has seen a side of Chicago that isn’t always pretty.
“We don’t see a lot of unity from our point of view,” said Robinson, a South Side native who said the lack of solidarity in everything from the music industry to Chicago itself isn’t just palpable, it’s damaging. “You have these rappers trying to outdo one another, and even the city is really divided and segregated. Wouldn’t we just work better if we were working together?”
At the age of 21, Robinson is trying to make that happen.
Last month, Robinson, a senior studying supply chain management at Iowa State University, unveiled the “We R Chi” t-shirt, a project that he hopes will bring every part of the city together. The design is based off of the “Toys ‘R’ Us” brand logo, a fitting inspiration, considering all of the proceeds go towards the Toys for Tots Foundation.
Robinson said the t-shirt and design were both made with the entire city in mind, not just the South Side.
“I incorporated the colors of the Chicago flag because we’re trying not just to market this to the South Side, but to the city as a whole,” said Robinson, who is selling the t-shirt at three different prices ($25, $50, $100). “It’s a project for everyone, so we want to give customers a chance to value the cause.”
The project is funded and supported by several local brands, all with Chicago roots and young entrepreneurs at the helm. In his time at Whitney Young High School, Robinson excelled in graphic design and business, two fields that led him to found INoV8 (pronounced “innovate”) in May 2011. The company designs clothing and promotes projects that work to, as Robinson said, “change the game.”
“INoV8 is all about doing something different and trying to stand out,” said Robinson. “We want to take this whole industry and put a spin on it.”
One of the partnering brands is L.O.O.P. (Living Out Our Potential), a Chicago-based group that invests in a variety of artistic ventures, including clothing design, music production and photography. The brand’s creator, Allen Davis, a classmate of Robinson’s at Iowa State University, said that the “We R Chi” project hits close to home.
“Personally, this project means a lot to me,” said Davis, 21, a native of Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood. “The South Side is notorious for crime and low-income families, who sometimes don’t have enough to get by. But we can make it easier for them.”
Davis, who is affected by a physical disability, said he hopes to work in Human Services one day and help children and students also affected by physical disabilities. Together, Robinson and Davis said they want to make the future brighter for their fellow young Chicagoans.
“We are Chicago,” said Robinson. “And we are responsible for the future of this city.”
To purchase a “We R Chi” t-shirt or for more information, visit WeRChi.bigcartel.com.
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