MilwaukeeHome makes city pride you can wear

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Photo via Facebook

Photo via Facebook

What started out as a homemade sweatshirt is fast becoming a movement.

Even if you haven’t visited New York, it’s more than likely that you’ve seen the iconic ‘I heart NY’ shirt, designed by Milton Glaser. The logo has promoted America’s biggest city for decades. Now, Melissa Thornton hopes she has created a similar trend for Milwaukee.

Thornton is the founder and creator of MilwaukeeHome, a local clothing and lifestyle company that aims to promote Milwaukee and encourage pride among Brew City natives.

MilwaukeeHome’s design aesthetic and mission is “to keep the designs simple, clean and fresh, just like the city that they represent.” Most designs feature a square and simplistic words reading “MilwaukeeHome.”

Originally from Mukwongo, Wisconsin, Thornton moved to the city in 1998 to study communication design at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She returned to the city about two years ago and noticed much had changed. She noticed how much the city had developed, especially when it came to the arts and culture scene.

“When I went to MIAD, there was nothing in the Third Ward, and everything was closed by six o’ clock. There was nothing going on,” Thornton said. “When I came back from Florida everything seemed to change and was actually cool, and I was just really excited about it.”

She began her company after she had returned to the city when she decided to make a homemade gift for her friend Scott. She created a sweatshirt with the simple words “Milwaukee Home” as a Christmas present. Eventually people began approaching Scott in the street, asking him where he had gotten the the sweatshirt. After the positive response from passersby, Thorton and Scott decided to make a couple of shirts “just to see what happened,” she said.

“It’s very organic, the idea that a brand is built by the community, because they’re the ones who support it,” Thornton said. “At first I thought ‘maybe in three to five years we’ll have a store,’ but it happened in less than a year.”

Since then, the brand has grown and celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 1. Their store, located at 159 N. Jackson St. in the Third Ward, carries more than just hoodies, with items for sale like shirts and mugs designed by Thornton.

For every item the company releases, whether it be a shirt or a pint glass, MilwaukeeHome tries to produce a limited amount so that item don’t over-saturate the city with the same designs.

Word of mouth and social networking sites such as Facebook have helped expand the MilwaukeeHome brand, she said,  the company hasn’t paid for any advertising or marketing.

She also attributes her success to collaboration with other local companies. MilwaukeeHome recently participated in a photo journal with 15 different local entrepreneurs who helped the store out in its first year.

On April 14, or 4/14, to correspond with Milwaukee’s area code, MilwaukeeHome will be part of the citywide series of events planned for Milwaukee Day, a day established to celebrate everything its residents love about the city.

In collaboration with Stag Barbershop, MilwaukeeHome is going to be part of the “414 Fashion Show” at The Hotel Foster, set to start at 4:14 p.m. Thornton will be debuting a new line of tank tops and summer wear to show off much more t-shirts.

“I feel like (Milwaukee is) at the point where it’s going to burst into something great,” Thornton said. “There are younger professionals and creatives really sticking around instead of moving and wanting to leave their mark here.”

While some stereotypes will never fade, like the image of the “cheese and beer” city, the recent arts and culture scene is changing Milwaukee’s image.

“It’s the people of Milwaukee that makes the city. They’re hardworking and friendly,” Thornton said. “We’re a creative group, Milwaukee, and I feel like it’s finally getting acknowledged.”

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