By Alexia Hill
In an era where being your own boss and building a creative career is more popular and appealing than ever, it’s easier said than done. Only the dedicated and passionate few push through to make a lasting impact on their community, and Cesar Rodriguez, founder of Imagine Thread Co., is one of those mighty few.
Inspired by comic books, science fiction films, the grunge and punk scene of the ‘90s and skate brands like Thrasher and Volcom, Rodriguez blends these multiple aesthetics seamlessly to create “trippy, punk, alternative” clothing designs.
“Honestly I would say a lot of my childhood and having aspirations to have my own clothing line was a big part of it too,” Rodriguez said. “I think growing up I didn’t really have much, so being able to see other brands and things that I wanted was a big factor there and being able to create my own things at a certain age was something that I really wanted to get to.”
Born and raised in Guadalupe, Arizona, Rodriguez pursued an Associate degree in business and arts at South Mountain Community College before transferring to Northern Arizona University. Despite wanting to set his younger siblings on the right track by going to college, Rodriguez explained that a lot of the information key to entrepreneurship comes from first-hand experience, not the classroom.
“If you’re on the fence about going to college, I feel like it’d be cool to take a step back and kind of see what’s going to work out for you,” Rodriguez said. “The only reason I went to college after thinking about it, was for my own personal success. Nobody in my family had ever graduated college.”
College is the typical transition out of high school, and it can be intimidating to even consider not going. However, running your own business means taking risks, like when Rodriguez quit his reliable banking job to focus on his true passion of designing and running his own brand, Imagine Thread Co.
“I had a career basically, but then there comes a point when you’re like, how do I balance both?” Rodriguez said. “You know, obviously, I was making good money, but I feel like if I can fulfill what I need to do with my own business, the money won’t matter at that point. So I quit.”
Choosing to take risks despite the uncertainty of the reward is just one of the more difficult parts of building a business. Rodriguez explained that self doubt and limited support in the beginning are hard to deal with, but that there is also a ton of good for Rodriguez when it comes to Imagine Thread Co.
“I would definitely say being noticed gives you a lot of assurance, just because then you feel like you’re doing something right,” Rodriguez said. “Initially, I feel like a lot of people start off feeling like they’re gonna get that and usually don’t. It’s kind of like a big punch in the face, just because you expect a lot. You figure with all the work you put in, people are going to take notice and it’s not usually like that and that’s just because people might not know what you’re doing.”
The first event for Imagine Threads was in October of 2018, and since then the brand has taken off with over 7,000 followers on Instagram. Rodriguez credits a large part of his success to networking. His best tip for networking in Arizona? Doing it organically and not letting other people affect your hustle.
“There are a lot of people playing the life, but not living the life and I think that’s the biggest negative for me… I feel like it manipulates the game,” Rodriguez said. “Going in, you can feel a certain type of angst about wanting to be better, but you shouldn’t- just stick to your guns. The biggest thing for me was finding your niche and your demographic, because not everyone’s gonna like what you do, like, and that is the biggest factor.”
Imagine Thread Co. clothing pieces can be found at Open Mind Emporium, Trill, and Pieces on 16th. Rodriguez has high hopes that in time, the brand will be easily recognized by just seeing the artwork on the clothing.
“People around me are like, dude, you’ve done a lot but for me, it’s like never being content with anything is a priority, just because you can get kind of lazy and comfortable with where you’re at and that’s definitely not something I want to do,” Rodriguez said. “I kind of want to become like that main prime [brand] of Arizona.”
The artwork is a vital part of the Imagine Threads vision, but supporting the creative industry and overall Arizona community is just as important to Rodriguez. In July, he brought together over 10 local businesses to host his first annual clothing and water drive for those in need in Phoenix.
“I feel like you fail by not doing it, but wouldn’t you rather fail by doing it? That’s the type of person I am,” Rodriguez said. “If you need inspiration you can definitely come to me…I don’t mind networking, I don’t mind opening the doors up to other people about who I know or how to help you succeed, in Arizona you don’t really get that a lot. I’m not a gatekeeper at all, there’s plenty out there for everyone to win.”
Imagine Thread Co. releases and premieres new designs every First Friday in downtown Phoenix. You can keep up to date with the brand by following @ImagineThreadCo on Instagram.
All images from Imagine Thread Co.’s Instagram