Continuing the conversation: Birmingham native designs T-shirt with historical significance

Photo by Drew Crenshaw/Staff Photographer
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Rob Zeigler’s featured collection is inspired by MLK’s The Letter from the Birmingham jail photo.

Juwayriah Wright
CityLifestyle Reporter

Growing up in the Acipco-Finley neighborhood, Rob Zeigler has always identified as a strong Birminghamian. 

Believing in the Civil Rights movement, Zeigler said he knew he wanted to carry on the legacy, but with his own twist. Now, he sells Martin Luther King designed T-shirts that have been worn by Mayor Randall Woodfin and NFL All Star CJ Mosley and NBA All Star Demarcus Cousins. 

Zeigler is a Birmingham native and self-proclaimed creative activist with a background in graphic design and digital media and now uses apparel to shed light on history.  Describing himself as an introvert, Zeigler said he wanted to create a way for people to communicate what they stand for without saying anything.  

“I’ve always been inspired by MLK as well as other pioneers in the civil rights era, because it is close to home,” Ziegler said. “I feel it, it’s like I feel it in my bones.  I find other ways to say what needs to be said that may be unconventional. That’s where I am today and I’m still learning as I go.” 

Zeigler said his work is directly influenced by his surroundings and his studies, which helped transform what would simply be art into a business and entrepreneurship. 

“I went into apparel design thinking I was gonna end up in the sport apparel field, but that led me nowhere but back home,” Ziegler said. “I resettled and honestly a part of what I do is founded in my faith, so I put two and two together.”  

Photo courtesy by Rob Zeigler

mlk tee and woodfin    mlk tee cousins

The T-shirt has been worn by DeMarcus Cousins and Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Zeigler said the literal proximity to such a historically influential city is a part of why he chose to do what he does, and that there is a responsibility to finish where civil rights leaders left off. Zeigler’s MLK tee works not just to be a hip design but maintains historical importance by standing for a cause.

Zeigler said the tee has allowed him to meet an array of influential people, including Mayor Woodfin.

“A t-shirt design has opened so many doors, so I’ll always tell my friends the one thing I don’t want to do is sell people a ‘cool’ t-shirt,” Ziegler said. "What you see here and behind the scenes, it’s always about people. It’s always about finding resolutions to whatever injustices need to be resolved.” 

The aspiration within his work does not seem to be one-sided; the aim is to open up dialogue within all communities. “There’s always another level, and for me, being a graphic designer, I wasn’t content with that,” Ziegler said.The next level is ‘how can I affect people in a positive way?’ and one of the mottos of the brand is to spark a convo.”

Find out more about the MLK tee on Instagram @rob.zilla or at

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