Wearing awareness — Local T-shirt line features designs with a cause

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 14, 2012

 Todd Wilkes, the creator and lead designer behind the Detroit Remedy T-shirt line, works with a silk screen at J’s Silkscreens in Eastpointe.

Todd Wilkes, the creator and lead designer behind the Detroit Remedy T-shirt line, works with a silk screen at J’s Silkscreens in Eastpointe.

Photo by Sara Kandel

EASTPOINTE — There’s one for cancer, another in support of the troops and another paying tribute to the healing power of cayenne pepper.

Todd Wilke is the creator behind the Detroit Remedy T-shirt line. Most of his designs are tied to a topic he wants to bring awareness to or a cause he’s supporting, and he’s always supporting something.

Sometimes it’s another artist, sometimes it’s a charity, sometimes it’s a local business, but there is always something.

“I have 12 different shirts right now that have an awareness behind them,” says Wilke. “Like this one; it’s about cancer.”

Wilke points to his chest. His shirt reads, “Canswer?” He says it’s about awareness and health and nutrition. When someone buys the shirt from his website, he includes in the packaging a page-long write-up on the topic. The one included with this shirt is about cancer: the chemicals added to foods that could be causing cancer and the healthy food and supplements that, he says, go a long way in treating it.

He’s outspoken about the things, people and businesses he believes in.

Friend and fellow designer Sidney Smith of Lifestyle Apparel says Wilke is so passionate about certain topics that he can talk for hours about just one thing.

“The guy has a good heart,” Smith says. “He’s into many things, and he’ll talk your ear off about all of it or any of it”

Aside from designing and printing shirts — Wilke prints the Detroit Remedy line himself at J’s Silkscreening, where he’s worked for 24 years — he is most passionate about health issues. Wilke, 41, loves all-natural cooking and caters on the side.

It was his passion for health and nutrition that spawned the name for the line. He came up with the idea for Detroit Remedy when a friend joked that he had a home remedy for everything, and with the support of friends and fellow designers, Detroit Remedy was born. That was 11 years ago.

He says his father inspired much of what he does and loves. His father raised him and two siblings. He worked in a print shop and Wilke spent summers with him there learning the trade.

“My mother left when I was younger and my dad was the cook and the health guy: vitamins, supplements, eating healthy,” Wilke says, laughing as he recalls placing bets with his friends, well into his father’s 60s, that his dad could beat them in a race.

“And he would; my dad would beat them running and I’d think to myself, ‘Wow, I want to be this guy.’ My dad took care of himself and he had 85 great years of his life. That’s where the inspiration came from. He was working every day and had dinner on the table every night.”

When he’s not cooking or designing and printing T-shirts, he dabbles in fundraising, gardening and the production of mixed tapes.

His passion for the things he loves is loud, but his shirts are not. Many are understated at best, seamlessly weaving in a symbol of support in an overall design, like two chili peppers roughly shaped into a heart or skull, with a nose that vaguely resembles the silhouette of a bee.

“My main thing right now is this military one,” Wilke says. “Whenever someone buys a shirt with this symbol on it, half of the profits goes to this group that supports the troops. I am working on a design for the urban garden right now, too. It will be ready for when they get things started up next year, and a portion of the proceeds from its sale will go to them. I do a lot to help people with Remedy.”

While Wilke enjoys designing and printing, and he dreams of having his own store one day, he says the main goal of the line is to help others and create awareness of important issues. He throws events and places shirts at struggling businesses to drum up support. He finds ways to sponsor and promote the things and people he believes in: models, stunt riders, musical artists, businesses and, for a while, a mixed martial arts champion. Sometimes it’s through events or fundraisers. Sometimes it’s through advertisements on the back of his business card. Sometimes he prints their attire for free. He always finds a way to give back, cross-promote and support.

“He always tries to help everyone,” Smith says. “Todd has this ultimate end and ultimate goal of helping everyone.”

And Todd admits it’s true.

“It works when we are all helping each other,” Wilke says. “I try to help people as much as I can with what I do. I always try to help everybody. It isn’t just about me and my T-shirts. My main goal behind all of this is just to create awareness, so a lot of my designs are based on what I am trying to create awareness to, and to help people out.”

Detroit Remedy shirts can be found online at www.detroitremedy.com.