The Online T-Shirt Revolution
There is a T-Shirt revolution underway online. Over the next couple of weeks PSFK's Alex Singh will catch up with the players (large and small) in this new community of fashion companies to show you how they tick. We hope these interviews will give our readers a complete picture of the first Web 2.0 fashion companies out there.
Interview 1 – People Like Us
1) Can you explain the inspiration behind the direction and ideals of your brand and your product(s)?
Our business name is not just our business name – it’s our philosophy. We wanted to make t-shirts for people like us – people who care about where the actual t-shirts are made (i.e. American Apparel, no sweat shops, etc.) and people who care about the design and don’t want to just have a regular generic design you can find in any shops in Paddington [a popular shopping area in Sydney] – no more spray paints, no more numbers – no Industrie (http://www.industrie.com.au) stuff. And no Threadles stuff either, or BustedTees which both do purely graphic tees. Things for artists – and we really wanted to promote the artists as well. One of the other things we do is try and get them jobs. As a graphic designer I have access to a wide range of jobs and those that I get which I can’t do, don’t want to do or don’t have time to do I outsource to them, and we’ve gotten our artists several freelance gigs. But we really want to promote them as artists instead of “hey here’s a t-shirt” – which at the end is the reason why you buy it because you like the design and you like the t-shirt, but people always read what’s going on with the designer and look at their website and our artists have reported increased hits to their sites. So we wanted to create things for people just like us – what would we want to wear? What would we want to do? That’s where the inspiration is – and to promote the art and design of upcoming designers as well as more established ones and letting them do a tee when they may not have done one before.
2) So the t-shirt is essentially more of a canvas for the artwork?
That’s exactly what it is – we used to say that we make art prints and we just print them on t-shirts.
3) What keeps you coming back each day rather than calling it quits and doing something else?
The fact that we’re doing something different and being able to promote this art. I’ve got t-shirts and other clothing from major labels and I can’t find out who designed it. I really want to know about that as a designer and we market to designers and designers want to know – when they see a piece of good design – who did it and how they did it and so on. So that’s what it is – it’s about giving people access (all our designers have their e-mail addresses, and one even puts his mobile number on the packaging that goes out). So it’s accessible and affordable and something that is unique. Only 200 people in the world will wear this t-shirt – in the world! And that’s not very many people.
4) What was that one inspirational and motivating spark that invigorated you and pushed you over the edge – to go ahead and just “do it”?
I remember that moment! And we had been working on the idea and I had a full time job and Jonathan had a full time job and we never really did anything with it apart from on days off and weekends – so we just laughed and never really did anything with it. And it got to a point where it
5) Are there any plans to shake up what you’re doing right now?
Yes there are big plans..I’ll tell you the plans you can write about! Just like Threadless and Oddica and we’ve had the idea from the start – kids tees. Especially with some of the designers we’ve got at the moment. There’s a big big market and big money for kids tees. That’s probably the biggest thing I can tell you about..Yeah, that’s kind of where we’re going with that….There’s other stuff I *want* to tell you about.
6) Like the Vans stuff?
No I’m happy to tell you about that because it has nothing to do with t-shirts. The Vans stuff is just using our collective of artists and getting them to do customised Vans. We talked to Vans and they’re doing something similar down in Melbourne and we want to put on an exhibition. It’s a side project but it would be “People Like Us” branded.
7) What is your take on traditional fashion labels and are you interested in becoming one yourself?
We don’t think of our stuff as fashion. We’re in the fashion business – but we don’t do fashion. We don’t do seasons, we don’t do long sleeves. It’s about the print. It’s also about the quality of the garment and the cut as the American Apparel cut is very different to a lot of peoples. There’s a
8) Have you considered developing your own clothing rather than using the stuff that’s already out there?
Yeah we are looking into producing our own tees. Being environmentally and socially aware we don’t want to have things made in sweat shops so it’ll be all Aussie made. I’m always looking into new ways of doing new stuff and trying to cut our costs because the minute you stop doing that you stop making any money. So we’re committed to doing that but..You never know where you’re going to be but for now it’s just t-shirts.
9) What current trends have you noticed affecting People Like Us?
With colours we’re very colour orientated. Our artists have first choice on what colour fabric they want to print on but it does come through us. We don’t want to put out three green tees at the same time, for example. We try and do more fashion colours. Threadless has all your brights and a couple other bits – a grey marle. Instead we try and mix the colour of our design with the colour of our design and incorporate a more fashion coloured tee. For example with the Cranberry colour which everybody loves – and the asphalt which is not black, but it’s not grey, but it’s not navy which people love and you can’t find anything like that. It works quite well as a dressier tee. Most of the guys
10) What’s the most passionate and invigorating part of the business for you?
We get great responses from customers. Every customer gets a personal e-mail from me or from Jonathan. Once we send off a tee I want them to know when it was sent and how long it’s going to take and so I start a lot of conversations and friendships through this business and it’s really nice. Some I’ve asked for help – say if they know of a store in their area – but most of the time it’s just “we sent your t-shirt out and we’re really glad you bought it”. When they get the tee they are inclined to write something about it. We really encourage generosity and you get a 10% discount for buying it as a present and anyone can tick that box. Hopefully people will be honest with it! So we get a lot of people writing back about how much they loved it or their sister or brother loved the present. We print out a birthday card with their message as well so it’s all very personalised.
11) Would you ever consider collaborating rather than competing with your traditional competitors to collectively explore and develop your products/artwork/business model/etc?
Probably not because I don’t know how much we’d gain from one another. At the core we do the same kind of thing there’s not much to be gained. All of us have slight differences and points of