When Joe Willis and Shayna Samuels first met at Santa Monica High School in 1994, they had no idea they would launch and scale a successful business that tied them to a family tradition of apparel makers.
“My grandparents were in the kid’s clothing business,” Samuels says. Next year, the sustainable children’s apparel brand, City Threads, that she founded with her husband, Willis, will celebrate its 20th anniversary. The company, located in the fashion district in Downtown L.A., exclusively sells locally knit and dyed styles, fashions the brand promotes as bringing “comfort and joy.” “Comfort is very important to us, and trying to get the comfort right for our customers in the development process takes almost a year,” Willis says.
The name was inspired by Willis’ musical life. One evening, as he and his band members sat together discussing the apparel company’s possibilities, guitarist Aron Cowen blurted out the words “city threads,” and it landed.
During the early stages of the company, Willis and Samuels were focused on making children’s sweatshirts and hoodies with embroidered city names. Eventually, they started to sway away from the 2000s fashion trends and turned towards organic cotton and sensory-friendly basics.
“I think becoming a basic line is a lot easier than before,” Samuels says. “We used to go to trade shows in New York and kept having to come up with new samples of fashion lines.” Turning to the basics allowed them to focus on making their products as environmentally clean as possible. The company prides itself on partnering with local manufacturers to create dyed and sewn products in L.A.
“Manufacturing locally allows us to oversee our production and be involved in the process and to ensure the best quality and consistency in all our styles,” says Willis.
As they approach their 20-year anniversary, Willis and Samuels say they hope more people fall in love with the basics they create for children — one born out of a family legacy and the couple’s contemporary twist on it. Learn more at citythreads.