La Cañada entrepreneurs tap local artists for T-shirt business

In a garage on Crown Avenue, three enterprising La Cañada High School graduates who recently returned from college are pooling their talents and ambitions to launch a one-of-a-kind T-shirt company.

Co-founder Francis Pollara said that [SIC] Apparel draws its name and inspiration from the Latin-based term ‘sic,' meaning “intentionally so written.”

“Our company is centered around the concept of referencing artwork and designs exactly as they were originally created,” he said.

In addition to giving their chosen artists free rein to design what they please, the company is offering artists a 35% commission on each sale of a T-shirt bearing their work.

Pollara, with co-founders Anya Rosen and Walter Mansilla, officially launched [SIC] Apparel with a party at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design March 25. The event celebrated the start of the company's drive for start-up capital on the popular crowd-sourced fundraising website, Kickstarter.

The trio, all 2007 graduates of La Cañada High School, said they reunited after graduating from college in 2011 to apply their various skills to a common goal.

“We had all just gotten out of school and are trying to be entrepreneurs and pursue something we can put our skill sets toward,” said Pollara.

Rosen, who earned a degree in fine art from Carnegie Mellon University, handles most of the creative decisions. Mansilla, who graduated from the University of La Verne, handles the financials. Pollara, who graduated from Pasadena's Art Center College of Design, is responsible for marketing and social media.

The trio lined up a supplier in Los Angeles to provide custom cotton T-shirts. Rosen's parents' garage is where they've set up a radial screen printing press that can produce from 100 to 300 shirts an hour.

If the Kickstarter drive, which aims to raise $18,000, is successful, the group plans to buy more equipment.

For now, the only way to get a shirt is to donate to the Kickstarter project before the drive concludes on April 25. But in the near future Mansilla, Pollara and Rosen plan to sell shirts from their website, Pollara said they also hope to sell their wares at temporary “pop-up” shops while they eye retail outlets that might be right fit to carry their clothing.

Rosen said they're incorporating designs from artists as far away as the East Coast and London, but they like working locally. Taking advantage of their proximity to Art Center, they have signed up a roster of 15 artists so far.

“Art Center is really close to La Cañada, Francis is an alum, so he has a lot of connections there; and we're local, so it just makes sense to look for artists there,” she said.

Pollara said that keeping the company local also offers the artists a hands-on opportunity to place their work into the stream of commerce.

“We try to get the artists to branch out, learn the technique, and run the machine themselves,” he said.

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