Ever been to a national park souvenir shop? Slim pickings, right? We’re not expecting a T-shirt to capture the grandeur of Yosemite, but shirts like this are pretty lame. Keith Eshelman and Sevag Kazanci, co-founders of the Parks Project, saw the need for better, cooler designs. Working with their team of artists and eight different graphic designers, they intervened to give a more deserving nod to the national parks.
Each season, Eshelman reaches out to an artist who has an affinity for the parks and can put a unique spin on the apparel. The artists get complete freedom and creative liberty to dream up designs. That’s how Bigfoot ended up on these Yosemite T-shirts. These “Rad Truck” tees came from a collaboration with artist Kevin Butler, who drew a national park in the window of each truck featured on the shirts. Los Angeles–based artist Steve Harrington gave his contemporary psychedelic treatment to this shirt saluting Big Sur, which technically isn’t a national park, but is definitely a pastoral piece of land and fits in with the collection.
The Parks Project came about soon after Eshelman and Kazanci were volunteering at state parks in California alongside retirees a few years back. While the guys still volunteer in the parks, they are now using their Parks Project collections as another way to educate people about the parks and give back. Though they declined to tell us the exact number, a portion of the team's sales goes to benefit things like trail restoration in Big Bend and saving alligators in the Everglades. In all, more than 20 parks projects are supported, and the pair has ambitions to eventually help fund 100 already established projects.
This year, the brand added an American Prairie tee to support the American Prairie Reserve, which is creating a nature reserve in Montana. And an early look at the fall 2017 collection, its sixth, that launches in July, looks like the Parks Project will be giving some more love to Muir Woods and Yosemite. For the upcoming line, the team chose faded colors such as a smoky light gray and a vintage black, and it's giving hats a more deconstructed look. Before these designs even make it on to T-shirts, the Parks Project team gives unanimous approval of the gear at an “awesome review day.” “We took inspiration from vintage park tees, scoured thrift shops and eBay, looked at archival posters,” Eshelman says. You can check out all the Parks Project gear here.