Brazilian skateboarder Roberto Dos Anjos and San Francisco hip-hop artist El-Rock often sport T-shirts with Jewish iconography or the word “Shalom” emblazoned across their chests. But neither is Jewish.
Rather, Dos Anjos and El-Rock are “tribesmen” for Salinas-based clothing label Shalom Cultural Peace Project. Label founder Jacob Seedman sponsors a diverse stable of skateboarders, visual artists and musicians, whom he dubs tribesman.
The entrepreneurial Jewish clothing designer launched the Shalom Cultural Peace Project label in 1999 and has since put out more than 10 collections of graphic tees, many of which have Jewish themes. Some previous designs include a white-bearded rabbi blowing a shofar, a hamsa with the word “shalom” overlaid and a group of men dancing atop the words “peace seekers.”
Seedman, 30, grew up in the skater culture in Salinas and San Francisco. Through friendships nurtured in those tight-knit communities, he’s made dozens of connections to add to his tribesmen lineup. The relationships are mutually beneficial: Seedman gifts clothing pieces to his tribesmen each season, and they in turn promote his line by wearing the items at widely attended events.
While the Shalom Cultural Peace Project consistently bears Jewish-themed designs, Seedman’s intention has always been for the shirts to appeal to the general public. Still, he clearly chose the imagery and name with his familial tribe in mind.
As a youth, Seedman went to synagogue and had his bar mitzvah at Temple Beth El in Salinas. And while he goes less consistently as an adult, he still attends temple with his grandmother on holidays — most recently, the two attended Chanukah dinner together.
“I wanted to use the word [shalom] because as a Jew, having grown up in a Jewish household, it was always seen as such a powerful, strong word,” he explains, “and I wanted people to open up and embrace different cultures, different faiths.”Seedman currently sells his wares on his Web site (www.shalomculturalpeaceproject.com) and in stores such as DwnTwn in San Francisco, Aristocrats in San Jose and Evolve 108 in Monterey. He hooked up with Evolve 108 after the shop learned of his green process — he prints all of his shirts using eco-friendly materials.
While friends and tribesmen occasionally assist with production, Seedman essentially runs the whole Shalom Cultural Peace Project show — from design to shipping. He creates a new collection every three months (though he took a few years off in the early 2000s). Each collection begins with a theme based around the same seven words: peace, success, tranquility, comfort, safety, integrity and well-being.
“Something I hope to do is make thought-provoking designs — to make people think outside of the box,” Seedman says. “You can put ‘peace’ on a shirt [and people know what you mean], but you put ‘shalom’ and people think, what is that? What does it mean? It can help them learn and grow.”
The spring 2010 collection will feature a shift from his standard T-shirt designs — he’s added some denim pieces — and fall 2010 will expand the label even further to include button-up shirts and jackets.
Seedman also has another idea for the Shalom Cultural Peace Project — a mix tape highlighting a few of his tribesmen. The collaborative mix will include tracks by reggae artist Prezident Brown, hip-hop act Peoples and El-Rock, among others.
While Seedman still likes to futz around on a skateboard here and there, and occasionally freelances as a designer for other companies, he spends most of his time working to improve and advance his own company.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved with apparel that reflected both skateboarding and art,” he says. “I’ve had a passion for this business.”