IU alumni create unique T-shirt company with global message

'Coexist' profits on shirts while giving back to society

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Mar. 24, 2005 


In the fashion world, it pays to think globally. Joe Sadler is doing just that.

Sadler, an IU alumnus and Martinsville, Ind., native, created Coexist, a clothing line that "aims to expose the distraction of discrimination."

By using an eye-catching logo consisting of three monotheistic symbols -- a star of David, a cross and the crescent moon of Islam -- on its apparel, the company has set itself apart from its competitors. Within the past year, Coexist has gone from selling T-shirts to local retailers such as Cha Cha on Kirkwood Avenue, who has sold out of Coexist apparel already, to major boutiques, including Fred Segal in Los Angeles.

"By pairing our concept with fine fabrics and great design, we knew we could be successful," Sadler said.

Sadler's career in fashion started not in the classroom, but on the baseball field. As a member of the IU baseball team, he learned a lot of skills that would eventually help him succeed in business.

"Coach (Bob) Morgan and baseball was the best 'class' I took at IU," he said. "I learned leadership skills and a good work ethic, which is so important."

The Individualized Major Program at IU enabled Sadler's aspirations to become reality, he said.

"I created my own major, Lifestyle Design, because I had a passion for so many things," he said. "I studied graphic design, music, photography and interior design. I used every class I took at IU to relate it to Coexist."

Despite lacking formal fashion training, Sadler and his roommate Chris Tierney created a few shirt samples with the Coexist logo.

They were an instant hit.

"The demand was there, so we said, 'Let's develop this into a lifestyle brand'," Sadler said.

With the help of Sadler and three other IU alumni -- his roommate; his brother-in-law, Kyle Boyd; and publicist Mike Irving -- Coexist is now available in boutiques in Japan, Canada and the United States.

"Kyle was generous enough to contribute money toward the business," Sadler said. "Without it, it would have been tough. He gave us enough to cover business cards, the shirts and marketing."

Irving, the company's publicist, feels Coexist fulfills a need in the apparel marketplace.

"We have a very defined concept," he said. "It's not only a brand, it's a lifestyle. It's all about creative conscious, unity and embracing life."

He also explained what makes Coexist shirts unique.

"Each one of our shirts tells a story by using a lot of details, like vintage floral prints and contrast stitching."

Corey Medaris is one of Coexist's most loyal fans. Medaris is the co-owner of Emporium, a fashion-forward boutique in Indianapolis.

"I think (these) shirts are really cool, with a different message," Medaris said. "He needed a place to get started, and I helped him out."

Medaris said the premium cotton T-shirts, which retail from $52 to $80 each, are popular items at Emporium.

"They're selling extremely well," he said. "People are constantly asking about them."

Medaris has also helped Sadler promote his message of tolerance.

"My business partner and I wore Coexist shirts to the Magic Trade Show in Las Vegas last August, and everyone was asking about them," he said. "I told them that they had a good product and needed to get going on it."

Medaris believes that Coexist's philosophy is what really makes the shirts so attractive.

"Everyone gets it and likes the message," he said. "People are willing to pay a little more for a great message."

Sadler feels it's important for his company to contribute to society.

"You've got to give to get back," he said. "I would really like for Coexist to sponsor art festivals and charity events and be able to donate a portion of the proceeds from our sales."

Sadler hopes in the future for Coexist to expand with denim, jackets, furniture and housewares.

Young entrepreneurs can take a cue from Sadler and his message.

"You have to take risks. You can't be intimidated," he said. "Believe in what you're doing."

For more information, visit Coexist apparel is not currently available for purchase online.

-- Contact Staff Writer Kama Korvela at


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