T-Shirt Revolution – The Oddica Interview
There is a T-Shirt revolution underway online. This is Alex Singh's second interview in the series. This time with Oddica. We hope these interviews will...
There is a T-Shirt revolution underway online. This is Alex Singh’s second interview in the series. This time with Oddica. We hope these interviews will give our readers a complete picture of the first Web 2.0 fashion companies out there. Alex will also set up his own Web 2.0 T-Shirt project the progress of which he’ll track on his blog ‘Flavour Comes First‘.
For the complete set of interviews click the T Shirt Revolution link.
We are inspired by the medium itself. There’s something invigorating about taking a T-shirt, a mundane necessity, and making into something cool. The brand itself is still in its infancy, but we want to play around with the medium, try different things, and see where we go. Right now, we are operating in a fairly safe mode, but we will experiment more as we build our Customer base.
2) What keeps you coming back each day rather than calling it quits and doing something else?
Well, Oddica is only three months old, so we’re not tired and jaded, but fresh and invigorated. There’s a passion that is being fed daily. Plus, there’s an inescapable responsibility to the Artists and Customers to continue a brand once you develop a following. In only three months, we’ve developed a network of Customers and Artists who really care about Oddica, and it would be extremely difficult to ever call it quits.
3) What was that one inspirational and motivating spark that invigorated you and pushed you over the edge – to go ahead and just "do it"?
A variety of factors led to Oddica actually happening. A corporate agreement with my business partner prevented me from pursuing something apparel-related outside of that corporation, but I was able to negotiate an out, and get permission to proceed with an untitled T-shirt project in late December. The name Oddica didn’t come till March I think. A group of friends came together, like Voltron, and as a group, we make steady progress daily, while all of us work other jobs.
4) Are there any plans to shake up what you’re doing right now? Any plans down the road? Where are you striving to have the business at in the future?
We have some new and different things on tap, nothing mind-blowing, just some fun stuff here and there.
5) What is your take on traditional fashion labels? Are you interested in becoming one yourself? Are you afraid they may begin to "catch on" and start up similar projects? (NB: A "traditional" label is one that produces a range of different garments on a seasonal basis)
We had a swimwear and apparel brand that took off, until a partner problem forced us to put the brand on the back burner. Building a traditional brand is something totally different than screenprinting on blank T-shirts. I enjoyed it, but at the time, all the trade shows didn’t really mesh well with having two small children, and I’m glad we got off that track. As far as labels starting similar projects — RVCA started an Artists Network, and was followed by several others. Everyone riffs off everyone else, and the online T-shirt space is no different.
6) Have you considered developing your own clothing rather than using the stuff that’s already out there? (AA, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom etc.). Have you considered utilising other types of clothing? V-Necks? Pants? Whatever?
We are fortunate to have a network of sources that can produce a variety of garments for us, to our specifications. Our main problem right now is that we are too small and underfunded to really act on all our impulses. But we will do more custom development in the future. We are happy with american Apparel. Our relationship with them goes back to 1998, and there are some truly wonderful people there.
7 You’ve done tees – what is the next thing you’re going to develop?
I have my head in a lot of different clouds, but the main cloud right now is Oddica.
8) What current trends have you noticed affecting Oddica?
One trend we are watching is the desire for people to wear clothes without a brand.
Most people like our Oddica logo on the shirt — some of the Artists want the logo bigger —
and we’ve received a lot of requests for Oddica logo tees. But we also understand that some people just want the Art on the shirt, with no logo. We’ve gone both ways, and we’ll continue to experiment and try to find a middle ground.
9) What’s the most passionate and invigorating part of the business for you?
No one thing. It’s fun working with a variety of people, working with Artists, watching T-shirts roll off the line, hearing great Customer feedback, designing things that help support the brand. All of that is fun. I have two wonderful kids, and watching them light up when they hear a new design is coming, and then seeing them wear some of the shirts, makes it all worth it. Having my son say, "Dad, when’s the next Kenneth Lavallee shirt coming?" tickles me to death.
10) Would you ever consider collaborating rather than competing with your traditional competitors to collectively explore and develop your products/artwork/business model/etc.
Sure. We don’t want to be tied into one approach, one structure, one way of doing things. That’s fairly boring. We don’t ever want to get complacent. And having the feeling that there are competitors nipping at your heels, is the surest way to improving your company.
12) Do you plan on giving your customers any control over your business at all?
We already give Customers that in a sense. There are a handful of changes we’ve already made where a well-reasoned e-mail from a Customer swayed our opinion and resulted in us making a change. In the future, we might surprise a loyal Customer and give them free reign
to pick the next Oddica design. Or run Oddica for a day?
13) Your packaging idea was a recent innovation in this particular area (and arguably in the fashion industry itself) – can you share with us any other plans you have to "do something different" in this or any other area of your business?
We had never seen anything like this for clothing, though it’s just basic packaging that you’d use for perishable food. So we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that others are going to copy it, and we aren’t going to sweat it. We are going to make two improvements to our packaging. We now round the corners. (They are a bit sharp). and we are going to put a small sticker on the packaging with a picture of a pair of scissors, just to prompt the Customer to cut the package because sometimes it rips unevenly. When the bags run out, we’ll come up with something else cool.
14) Threadless led with a customer approach – you went with a creative approach instead – which do you think will win out? (Or which do you feel will do better in the long term)
Hmmm, well, not sure how accurate that description is, but I understand you’re speaking in general terms. I think Jack Cheng (www.jackcheng.com) summed it up by pointing out that Threadless has the community-based approach and ours is more creator-centric. I might as well say a few things because everyone wants to put us up as a competitor to Threadless. We are not in their league. We have 3,000 people signed up on our site, Threadless has somewhere around 400,000. They started six years ago, we started a few months ago. It’s like a little cardboard ship being compared to the Titanic. We certainly respect and admire what they’ve accomplished, and as fellow entrepreneurs, we want them to keep kicking ass. There’s room for all these online T-shirt companies to reach new Customers every single day. The Customer base has barely been tapped. They will obviously do better than us in the long run. Our plan is to never get that big. The goal is to be small enough so that we always have same- or next-day shipping, same-day Customer-service replies, and that becomes increasingly difficult the larger you get. There gets to be a point where you’re so big that you lose your ability to do what you do well, and you lose that specialness that made people want to buy your stuff in the first place. So maybe we will do something crazy, like cap our Customer base at a certain manageable number, and not let any johnny-come-lately Customers in the gates, and only sell to the Customers who got us that far. :D Who knows? We are a bit odd, so that sounds like a plan.
15) We love your policy of giving 41% of the company with the artists that you work with is a very noble and original undertaking. What motivated you to do this?
Well we have a notion that Artist-based T-shirts sell because of the Art — the creative execution of a good idea — not the business model, the shiny 2.0 web site, or the people running the site. Those things factor in obviously, but if you have crummy designs, you sell zero T-shirts. But for some reason, traditionally, the Artists role always seems to be diminished, when in fact, with this type of T-shirt, it should be elevated. We’re not talking about people buying brands — like a Hurley or Lucky Brand, where the design is important, but the brand itself is the most compelling factor that leads to a purchase — but people buying expressions of Artwork on shirts. That’s the space we entered, so it was a no-brainer, given this notion, that the Artists should absolutely NOT be on the wrong end of spec work (doing work for free on the hopes it gets chosen) and work-for-hire (doing work for a specific price and signing over all rights to it) and they should not have a design reprinted to death with no further compensation, but should instead be rewarded if a design does well, or if the company does well, not forgotten about when a company does well. There are a lot of forgotten-about Artists out there, who aren’t happy when they are forgotten about. So our plan ensures that nobody is forgotten about. And in the end, we’d rather be a generous company than a greedy company. Greed is definitely not good. ;)
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