We are what we wear. That’s a bold statement, but for some of us, the clothes we choose to invest in and put on our backs really do “say” something about us.
When you walk into a local watering hole after a day of knee deep pow, crushing hero dirt, or wading the dream stream, what are you wearing? If it could be a t-shirt that helps protect the very places you love to play in, would you choose it?
Many of us proudly label ourselves as skiers, climbers, riders, river runners, and more. And, thankfully, there are companies out there that help us showcase our identity while simultaneously supporting our passion for conserving the trails, waters, and spaces we love – like South Fork-based Wildbird Threads.
I collaborate with WBT occasionally and wanted to learn more about what they do and why they do it. So, I sat down with front-woman, Elizabeth Bailey, to drink some mojitos, swap stories, and learn a thing or two about this little southern Colorado-based apparel company of hers.
EO: How did you get into the apparel business and what makes WBT a little different?
Bailey: My husband (Justin) started an apparel business in 2014 and we were printing custom logos and designs for other people (businesses, festivals, etc.). It was fun, but it started feeling really monotonous and lacked passion and connection. So, we started to think about how we could incorporate our passions and what we love about where we live, which is getting out in nature with our kids and for our own sanity. We feel a strong connection to the outdoors and wanted to encourage other people to connect with that, too, and the idea for Wildbird Threads was born! We print nature & outdoor-inspired art on apparel [using] water-based, eco-friendly inks. So rather than sitting on top of a shirt [like a traditional screen print], the ink goes into the fibers of the garment. And as digital printers, we can print endless amounts of colors in one graphic and capture really intricate art.
EO: Why “Wildbird Threads”? What’s in the name & how does it portray what your company is all about?
Bailey: Justin acquired the nickname of “Wild Bird” and we thought it was fun and unique. So as the vision materialized, since we’re not really “artists” ourselves, we wanted to connect with other people who have the same passions as us in hopes of creating a community. We want to sell our product, of course, but we want [WBT] to be a place where you not only find cool graphics on apparel, but also connect with the artists and the outdoor education and activism most of them are involved in. The hope is that our community will further their stoke for the outdoors and want to help protect it like we do.
EO: WBT has an inherent connection to the outdoors – apparel featuring outdoor scenes and art created in wild places. Where do your outdoor roots start?
Bailey: I grew up in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and did a little snowboarding and hiking as a teenager. But honestly, I didn’t really appreciate it until I left the valley, came back, and had my first child here. This is a small, rural area and at that time, there were few younger families. As a stay-at-home mom, I felt incredibly lonely and isolated. So for me, getting outdoors became my sanity. Justin kept encouraging me, but I was so stubborn and busy and lonely, I couldn’t even gather myself to go outside and leave the house. But when I finally made those efforts and started to connect with nature, it was clear that that was what had been missing. And also as our children were growing up, it was really important to see them connecting with nature, too. We started camping, hiking, skiing with them from a young age… it’s just become a pretty necessary way of life.
EO: Outside of featuring outdoors-related imagery on your apparel, how do you stay connected and involved in the outdoor community?
Bailey: In this small community, people are itching to connect with others to get outside. I’ve organized some hiking and cross-country skiing meet-ups/outdoor gatherings and was an ambassador for a women’s hiking organization for a bit. I think, especially with the way that the world is right now, it’s so important to create genuine connections connections around the things that you love in hopes that it will inspire other people to want to protect those things.
EO: WBT is a “1% for the Planet” partner, a National Park Foundation donor, and supporter of other non-profit initiatives like Access Fund. By supporting these groups and giving back to their causes, what do you hope to inspire in the outdoor community?
Bailey: In line with the idea that we want our website to be a place where people can connect with our mission, philosophy, and contributing artists, we also want people to feel good about the product they’re purchasing. This is more than just something that you buy and then it goes on your back and the money goes in our pocket. We want to give back. We’ve donated to the Bear’s Ears protection efforts, and each year we donate and support Birds of Prey Northwest, which is this really cool organization outside of Coeur D’alene, Idaho. They rehabilitate injured falcons, but the biggest component is education. They’re trying to tell the public how important these birds are for a healthy ecosystem and how to protect them. We’ve found that the outdoor industry has become incredibly trendy right now, but we think it’s important to do our part to give back. We don’t want to just jump on that bandwagon, we want to put our money where our mouth is.
EO: What new projects does WBT have coming down the trail?
Bailey: We’re always looking forward to working with new people who share our passion and each season, we try to bring on new artists [and] artwork. The goal is to continue to collaborate and work with artists and the outdoor community. Right now, I’m thinking about new ways to collaborate with our artists outside of printing their art… doing a backpacking trip, a hike-and-paint, a trail clean-up… something that brings in more people.
Interested in rocking some WBT apparel? You can find them at Mountainside Gear Rental in Golden, Little Red Tricycle in Salida, and CKS in Buena Vista and 24/7 at wildbirdthreads.com and @wildbirdthreads on instagram. You can also find Elizabeth slinging shirts at festivals and other events around Colorado.