About Us

OUR VISION

We make clothes we like to wear. Over time, our tastes change. It’s just a natural process we all go through. But it opens us up to different types of designs. We believe in quality sourcing. It is important to us to source in the USA, because we are supportive of sweat-shop free goods. All of our shirts & prints are made in the USA. We support the arts. Many of our friends are performers (actors, musicians), craftsmen, writers, visual artists, and so forth. We don’t get to do what we do without their encouragement and inspiration.

We are committed to our community. We are active volunteers in Chicago. Through volunteering, we have met so many wonderful people in great organizations. Whatever time you have to offer, you can always find somewhere to help out.

We have fun.This is just as important as anything else. Life is too short to not have fun doing what you love. Find us at a concert or a street fest and chat with us. It is through those moments that we get to meet so many wonderful people.

 

THE BEGINNING

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Hiya. My name is Isabel Lee. 

I am the founder/designer of Wishful Thinker. Although WT officially started in 2009, it unofficially started in my high school daydreams. I happen to believe all great things begin in daydreams.

Growing up in Hawaii, I was immersed in the island culture of wearing skate and surf brands. Whether or not you really skated or surfed, nearly everyone wore the likes of Quiksilver, Roxy, Volcom, RVCA, Billabong, and a whole slew of others. And as I started listening to more music, especially pop/punk rock, band shirts started catching my eye as well. The graphic tee is such a simple and universal article of clothing. That’s probably why I love it so much.

Through my first years of college, I began experimenting with design and iron on tees. My friends were such good sports and wore my first visions proudly. (Photos: Left- Not pictured is the U and I pieces together on the sleeve. It's apparently been one of my favorite concepts. Right- You can really see the iron-on in this one. These are just two of many. They may not be the best, but it was where I began, and I'm proud of that.)

 

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MAKING THE DREAM A REALITY

As soon as I graduated from college, I thought it was my chance to finally make something of those dreams. Of course, everyone knows the first step is the toughest. The first step means you have to face if you’re either going to make it or break it. But it’s always worth the risk. And with that first design, one that I did not even design myself, I had a launch party in a dingy basement bar. 

But the turnout was amazing. I will probably repeat this often, but this brand would not have made it out of my dreams if it had not been for the friends and family around me. (And you may need this, too. By all means, if you can rid yourself of naysayers, you’re one step closer to achieving your goals. Negativity can only spawn negativity.) Two of my closest friends helped me specially package our first batch. We invited all of our friends and made a night of it. By the end of the night, we were all sporting my very first shirt in a plethora of colors. (Photos: Left- Some friends the night of the launch. Right- Matt and I packaging our first release.)

 

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NEXT STEPS

So I had my first design. But sitting on a single design with no avenue of sales was where I hit a wall. I tried my best to sell to friends who were interested, but the buck stopped there. I worked on a new design and another. I put out one design every nine months and sold what I could. My friend Stephanie started her own card/gift store and took a chance on selling my SkyFlash design. I got a website together and got some of my performer friends to wear WT shirts every now and then. It was as slow start. It still is. This is not easy when you aren’t super outgoing. (Photos: Left- Little Lisa from Dot Dot Dot rockin' the Skyflash tee at a show. Right- Our first tee on display at Inkling.)

BEST CONCERT EVER

My friends in Dot Dot Dot were having a show at the House of Blues, and of course, most of our crew showed up. The night in itself was tons of fun, but it got a whole lot better. From across the room, I spotted the WT SkyFlash shirt. The white at the angle on a black shirt stuck out to me. And I had to approach it to be sure. Low and behold, someone I have never met was wearing my shirt! I quickly ran up to him, told him I liked his shirt, asked him where he got it, and instinctively pointed at him and myself repeatedly yelling that it was my design. I was losing it. My first sighting in nature! He was just the sweetest and even sent me a follow up email. We met again at another Dot show, and now I’m proud to say he is a friend of mine. 

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The outcome of that is exactly the best case scenario of it all. I’m not here to build a fan base, I’m here to grow our circle, meet new people, add to the family. At the end of the day, the relationships built out of it this really make it worthwhile.  

Not even half an hour thereafter, my friend Charles approaches me with a proposition. He and Henry wanted to partake in the WT adventures and become business partners. After knowing Charles for some time, I knew this would be a great match. I trusted him. It was because of this offer that we have been able to grow as rapidly as we have within the first couple years of working together. (Photos: Left- The first guy I ever saw repping WT in the wild, Chris & I at the second Dot show. Right- Charles & I the night we decided to run with WT together.)

 

CHARLES' STORY

Hey there! I am Charles Wartemberg co-owner of Wishful Thinker Clothing and here's a quick snapshot about myself!

Born in NYC, grew up in Ghana, college at Tufts, and finishing up MBA at the University of Chicago. BORING. That's not what I really want to tell you. What you should know about me is that Wishful Thinker has been a labor of love. Never did I think growing up would I design t-shirts and run a business that is all about the greatest city in the world...Chicago. 

I relish working with Isabel and Henry, creating products for our customers with love. Small confession: I can't draw. At all. But I do consider myself quite trendy (check out the pic above), and so I chime in on some of the designs that Isabel dreams up. I contribute to Wishful via business development, strategy and logistics. 

Wishful Thinker was conceived in daydreams and the team and I hope to strap on to that rocket ship and shoot for the stars. 

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