April 20, 2023
Our Common Thread: Wildlife Conservation Society Members’ Shirts, Part 1
- as seen by -Julie Larsen and Cynthia Gonzalez
Like the Bronx Zoo itself, the Bronx Zoo Members’ shirts have a long history and proud tradition. As a perk for those who join us, our shirts show that our members are part of our team and part of our brand. Members wear them for the current zoo season and many that follow.
The shirts are our common thread. They are part of our culture.
“Our members save their shirts for years and love to show them off. When we’re in the parks and especially during Member events, it’s like a parade. One member brought along her 1993 Members’ t-shirt (that displayed a red-eyed tree frog) in a plastic bag. It no longer fit her, but had she saved it,” says Debbie Schneiderman, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Executive Director of Digital and Membership.
The first members’ shirts of record featured a red panda in 1987 when there were 30,816 members according to the WCS Annual Report. This year, over 60,000 shirts were produced for our members displaying a tiger for the Bronx Zoo (above) and a jellyfish for the New York Aquarium.
The annual members’ shirts start with a concept from our Membership team. They look to zoo milestones for inspiration like the Bronx Zoo’s Tiger Mountain celebrating its 20th year in 2023. After choosing the subject, a design is made by WCS’s senior graphic designer, Yuan Wu, using some of Julie Larsen’s photos taken at our New York City parks as reference. From there, a prototype is created at a local shirt manufacturer, Con-tees Custom Printing, in Mount Vernon, New York. Colorful inks that match pre-selected Pantone chips are applied one at a time, starting with white, as the shirts spin on a printer. The design is heat-sealed and additional printing on the sleeves and back happens last.
Con-tees business owner Michael Conti says it is a very involved process including art, films, set up, and color matching, to print the shirts. Each step and every shirt are monitored for quality (above, Conti and Cynthia Gonzalez).
“Working with the Bronx Zoo is amazing. The zoo staff understands what we need to help the process of making the shirts go smoothly. It is a pleasure working with WCS,” says Conti.
The results are clear. Those that support our zoos and aquarium wear them for decades.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To become a WCS member and receive a shirt, click here. This year, a hooded sweatshirt (and other products featuring the current design) can be purchased during Members’ events at the parks. Read Our Common Thread, Part 2 here.