Hannah Kim invented a holiday to advertise her hand-printed chicken shirts.
Through her National Chicken Shirt Days, which occur sporadically throughout the year with the support of her friends, Kim grew her own T-shirt line under the name of CHINGOOZ, a word which translates to “friends” in Korean. The second-year art student founded the line in April 2015 and has since sold more than 500 of her hand-crafted shirts.
Kim has also created seven different T-shirt designs, four of which are available to buy online. Kim said her first design, the signature sketch of a bright red chicken, launched CHINGOOZ into popularity with its distinctive artwork and ambiguous meaning.
Kim originally started sketching chickens for a class project, which featured a large white chicken sitting atop a nest filled with eggs. After practicing the doodle in notebooks during class, Kim began to enjoy drawing the animal, she said.
“The chicken is still a mystery to me,” Kim said. “I like to say that it was just kind of this weird muse that I was having.”
When her high school announced its annual art show, Kim wanted to submit a piece that was different than a painting or a sketch that would give observers a more active role in the show. Her obsession with drawing chickens led her to create T-shirts so people could walk around with her design, she said.
Using her school’s art supplies, Kim created a large stamp by carefully carving a sketch of a chicken into a rubber slab. She then placed a wooden ring around a white T-shirt to keep it taut, coated the stamp in red fabric paint and lowered the shirt onto the stamp.
After pressing on the design, Kim completes the T-shirt by painting the initials of her name by the chicken’s feet. Kim forgot to carve her initials into the stamp, but the omission allowed her to add a personal signature to each shirt, she said.
At the art show, Kim said she sold one T-shirt for $10 and left the show with around 50 more orders. Within six months, the shirt’s popularity spread throughout her high school as the chicken shirt began spreading through word-of-mouth and Kim’s invented holiday.
“It was a lot more popular than I expected,” Kim said. “When I fulfilled those first 50 orders, I expected for that to just be it.”
National Chicken Shirt Days began with a Facebook event in June 2015, to promote the T-shirt and encourage customers to wear a CHINGOOZ shirt in support of the company.
Kim’s high school friend Shannon McGrath said many students donned Kim’s chicken shirt – even her mother bought and wore one. On National Chicken Shirt Days, McGrath wore her chicken shirt and posed with her friends for pictures in their matching tops.
McGrath said students submitted similar pictures to Kim through Snapchat or Facebook Messenger, which Kim then reposted on CHINGOOZ’s social media accounts. Kim’s childhood friend Annie Koo said she wore the CHINGOOZ T-shirt about once a week in support of her friend. The quirky design paralleled Kim’s personality — unconventional and outside of the box, Koo said.
“If you know (Kim), it’s very (Kim),” Koo said. “It’s very quirky and different.”
Koo said the chicken shirt trend began as a joke among their close group of friends, but soon spread throughout the school. Even students who did not know Kim approached her asking where they could purchase the shirt, she said.
Now a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Koo said she still wears her chicken shirt for Kim’s National Chicken Shirt Days, the latest of which occurred in June 2017.
With the support of a larger consumer base, Kim said she hopes that CHINGOOZ can begin printing shirts through a manufacturer to expedite the process. Kim added she is also working on new random designs for the shirts similar to her original chicken drawing.
“It was just something random,” Kim said. “But it just spurred into this whole chicken shirt manifestation.”