WICKER PARK — Streetwear pioneer Joe Freshgoods is closing his signature storefront, Fat Tiger Workshop, for good Jan. 9.
The Wicker Park shop at 836 N. Milwaukee Ave. has become renowned as a central hub for Chicago creatives. It was started eight years ago by Freshgoods — Joe Robinson — and three friends: designers Terrell “Rello” Jones, Des Owusu and Vic Lloyd.
The collaborators announced the closure on social media, saying the shop is thriving but “was never intended to go on forever.”
“We don’t consider the closing of the store as a moment of sadness, it’s a moment of triumph and now it’s time for us to move on and chase down different dreams,” the founders wrote in a shared statement. “This may seem unorthodox but in many ways Fat Tiger Workshop is like Wu-Tang. We’re just a gang of talented and eccentric brothers that the gods put together to tell a story.”
Freshgoods met Jones, Owusu and Lloyd during his early days selling homemade T-shirts under the counter at Downtown streetwear store Leaders. In 2014, the collective opened their first shop in Logan Square as a space to bring together their individual lines, including Freshgoods’ Don’t Be Mad work, famously worn by Chance The Rapper, and Jones’ Vita label, known for its “Chicago Over Everything” pieces.
At the heart of each founder’s brand is a fierce loyalty to Chicago.
“I think we can all agree when I say Fat Tiger workshop was a breath of fresh air to the city of Chicago,” Owusu, founder of We All We Got, wrote in a post on Instagram. “Hate it or love it, a group of young Black men from the west and Southside of Chicago opened up what stood physically as a retail space but transcended into this living and working vehicle of Black (youth) entrepreneurship, creativity and safe space for community.”
Fat Tiger Workshop held album listening parties for up-and-coming Chicago artists and was a good spot to find rappers hanging out, including Mick Jenkins, Rockie Fresh, Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper.
The owners held workshops on entrepreneurship for local youth, creating intimate classrooms for Freshgoods to pass on his knowledge of the fashion industry. Many Fat Tiger Workshop employees and interns, under the tutelage of Freshgoods and company, have gone on to their own successful careers in streetwear.
The store was so popular it had to move into a bigger space three times in its first five years, according to Complex. Lines out the door were the expectation anytime Freshgoods dropped a new clothing line. The designer has collaborated with major corporations, including 7-Eleven, AT&T, Nike, Adidas, McDonalds, the Bears and New Balance.
Freshgoods enjoyed a national breakthrough moment when the famously stoic Kawhi Leonard wore his “No Emotions Are Emotions” New Balance shoes at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago.
Born and raised on the West Side, Freshgoods grew into local lore as Chance The Rapper routinely rocked his tie-dye “Dope Boy Magic” hoodie in 2013. His “Thank U Obama” collection dropped and immediately sold out shortly after former President Barack Obama left office.
“What a run,” Freshgoods wrote on Twitter.
The store will stay active in its final weeks and is showcasing Rello’s exhibit “Art Can Heal The World” through Dec. 24.
Freshgoods is forging ahead with fresh goods. On Wednesday, he announced a collaboration with the White Sox and Mitchell & Ness, set to drop this weekend.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: