On sellouts, guerrilla spirit and Oakland as hella cool

 On sellouts, guerrilla spirit and Oakland as hella cool
Angela Tsay took her selfie at the Oaklandish offices in Oakland.

Oaklanders think their town is hella cool, so the California section's Lee Romney grilled Oaklandish CEO and creative director Angela Tsay at the company warehouse in Jack London Square, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling stacks of the edgily boosterish "local love" apparel she pioneered. We later emailed her questions and crunched the conversation into this:

Oaklandish was started by your ex in 2000 as a guerrilla art collective in response to the first S.F. tech boom. Soon posters were going up around town. What was your personal relationship to wheat paste?


I was mostly an expert by association, trying to clean it out of pots in the kitchen and finding dried blobs of it all over the car.

What was that early group of die-hard Oakland lovers like, and what did people from San Francisco think?

They came from all different backgrounds and there was a mix of Oakland natives and transplants. They were mostly musicians, artists and creatives with punk rock spirits and a shared irreverence for the status quo. I don't think S.F. was clued in enough to have an opinion. We were still the poor bastard children across the bridge.

A real turning point was the reopening of the Fox Theater in 2009. We opened our flagship store downtown in July 2011. Then the New York Times ran a piece rating Oakland No. 5 on their list of Top 45 Places to Go. Now San Franciscans either live in Oakland or have friends in Oakland — it's somewhere new for them to explore and take a break from S.F. life.

The city has been pretty good at stitching together community from a patchwork of differences, but tensions are running high, right?

There's so much good happening in Oakland: the people, the food, the music, the constant movement toward innovation and social justice. When people feel that they are truly part of their communities, they'll make the best choices for helping those communities thrive.

You're taking what you learned and marketing it to Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities?

Each has its own set of myths and legends, unofficial landmarks, nicknames and histories. These are the qualities that inspire us to design, engage with and support these communities. And like all cities, they're remaking themselves all the time.

Who can claim to be "Oaklandish"?

For me the qualifications are as simple as investing in the city, what is here, what has been here and what's to come.

Are you sellouts?

If celebrating the place you live and love makes us a sellout, so be it.

Oakland vs. S.F.?

Oakland, and the score was 24-13.


To stay true to that early guerrilla spirit, Oaklandish channels profits every month to local artists and nonprofits. Name a few.

Town Park Skate Park. Children's Fairyland, the original storybook theme park. And Youth ALIVE! who work tirelessly to nurture leadership and life skills in young people affected by violence.

You say you have a terrible sense of humor. Talk about the shirt you created that no one seemed to like.

Over the years, an influx of geese and their constant droppings kept Oaklanders from hanging out around Lake Merritt. The shirt design had a Canadian goose in a crate with a label that read "Return to Sender." Animal lovers were not pleased.