Indie Tee Spotlight #11: Goodie Two Sleeves

It’s time for Indie Tee Spotlight #11, yes, that’s right my friends – number 11! It is so awesome (most appropriate word, you’ll understand if you read on) that for the big 1-1 I got to talk to Gabe Connor of Goodie Two Sleeves!

The guys at Goodie Two Sleeves have spent the last couple of years building their brand and company. Goodie Two Sleeves specializes in humorous and light-hearted tees that are positive and fun. They pride themselves in producing not only quality products but quality products with original designs. Since the company began in 2002, Goodie Two Sleeves designs have appeared in many large retail chains, the hands (and torsos) of some very famous celebrities and of course the many faithful Goodie Two Sleeves fans.

Coty: You recently made a blog post mentioning that Goodie Two Sleeves was officially a federally registered corporation. What was that process like? Has it sunk in that you now run your own “corporation”?

Gabe: Haha, well the Goodie Two Sleeves ® brand name was trademarked several years ago and as far as being a corporate entity, it’s sort of like turning 18. You grow up thinking ‘I can’t wait! It’s going to be awesome!’ and then it’s your birthday and you don’t FEEL any awesomer (or older), and your parents want you to pick out a college and stuff. Well, it was cooler than that maybe. We made a giant ‘®’ shirt to commemorate the occasion (which we’re re-releasing soon), but I don’t think there’s ever really a moment where you go ‘This is it! We’re finally a real company!’ because this business is a rotating door and there’s always room for improvement.

 

Coty: In that same blog post you mentioned that you also recently held the Goodie Two Sleeves 2009 Gameplan/2008 Review meeting. What exactly are some of the goals that Goodie Two Sleeves has for the upcoming year? Do you feel that your goals from 2008 were reached?

Gabe: 2008 has been an awesome year for us. We’re already doing better than ’07 and the year isn’t even over yet. Considering however that people are having so much trouble making their house payments and filling their gas tanks, we really wanted to go into next year prepared for anything. We went over everyday stuff like new designs and turn around times but we also paid attention to what we can do better for our customers, especially online. We have some really great friends and fans who shop online and we really want to make that experience awesome for them. For that matter we want to make our retail experience even better too.

Most of our business is in retail. You mentioned in an earlier post that something you can learn from Johnny Cupcakes is to avoid the mass market, but you can also do really well with them. I wouldn’t say that one way is better, they’re just different. Since Goodie’s M.O. was to reach a bunch of people and try and be a positive influence, our aim was at larger retail chains.

Coty: Goodie Two Sleeves was born a couple years ago and like many other indie tee brands, you sold tees out of the trunk of your car. What were some of the growing pains that Goodie Two Sleeves experienced? In retrospect, would you do anything differently?

Gabe: Well, that’s kind of a long story. A friend and I created the brand in 2002 after seeing some raunchy shirts in a huge store (that rhymes with Yarget). We thought ‘We could do this’ and so we tried. Even since then we’ve had an affinity for the word ‘awesome.’ We didn’t know what we were doing at first and it was back breaking work for a long time. I mean sleepless nights, $4 a day food budgets (to split… at Burger King…), no social life. We hit the pavement for weeks with these silly shirts, selling out of our trunk trying to get some sales. It was all really difficult but we ended up with so many awesome stories and we loved every minute of it. One night (and day, and night) in particular I stayed up for 52 hours preparing for a trade show, printing shirts, driving for hours, going to meetings. It was nuts.

After a couple years Goodie Two Sleeves was like this crazy monster out of our control. The brand was being carried in Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters, Delia*s, Nordstrom, Zumiez, Journeys, a whole slew of places, but I was only nineteen when we started and we were sort of learning as we went.

Well, our growth was sort of like locking a teenager in a mall with mom’s credit card. It was the coolest ride until we got home and saw the bill (and the 26% interest). We were still pretty much kids and we just couldn’t figure out how to make it work even after several years. It strained our friendship and the company closed in 2006, my friend and I going our separate ways.

That was a pretty terrible time actually because it all coincided with some awful news at home. I can definitively say that was the worst time in my life, but amazingly it gave me perspective about the everything. The purpose of what we do, of the company, is to try and be a positive clothing alternative to all the low-brow, crass t-shirts out there. I’m personally very motivated by my faith in Jesus and I feel like he really saw me through that time because in January of 2007 the Goodie Two Sleeves® trademark was able to come back under a different parent company. That year it did better in every way then it ever had under the old set up. Just remembering the unlikelihood of Goodie rising from the ashes is staggering and pretty amazing (dare I say, awesome?). I wouldn’t do anything differently only because the bad times give us perseverance, and perseverance builds character; and character, hope.

Coty: If someone were to ask you what your brand was all about what would your response be?

Gabe: In an industry filled with easy outs and sometimes scandalous content, Goodie Two Sleeves is on a mission to ‘keep it clean.’ We want to make people feel good on the inside and out (our shirts are really soft). More then that we just want to make people laugh and use encouraging humor to do so. Furthermore, we love what we do and we have a lot of fun with the company.

We are also big advocates that you can do anything if you try. Goodie started with two people and as much as we’ve grown we still operate with only a few more. If Goodie Two Sleeves could come out of that, I am so excited for the ideas that other people have!

Coty: Captain Awesome is one of my recent favorites from the Goodie Two Sleeves collection (I’m thinking about picking that one up!). What are some of your favorite Goodie Two Sleeves designs?

Gabe: Man, that’s difficult. We’ve cataloged over 600 designs over the last several years so picking one is a tall order. I really loved this one we did of Motorcycle CHP officers riding giant goldfish and it said ‘FiSH & CHiPs’ on it. ‘This Is Prolly My Awesomest Shirt’ is a fun one. I also like the stomach ache tee we did that shows you the stuff you ate, and some stuff that’s been in development for a while. My all time favorite might be ‘There are cooler ways to die’ just because it’s one of our oldest. Oddly enough it’s one of our most ripped off shirts too.

Coty: One of my favorite parts of the Goodie Two Sleeves website has got to be the celebrity sighting blog posts. What’s it like seeing your tees in a major periodical like Rolling Stone and InTouch?

Gabe: That’s one of our favorite things too. For me, it’s the same feeling seeing Danny Masterson wearing one of our shirts as it is seeing someone I don’t know wearing one of our shirts. It’s so encouraging to know that someone liked what you do enough to invest in you, to wear your idea and artwork… It’s just an amazing feeling.

Coty: What has been your most memorable experience, so far, running Goodie Two Sleeves?

Gabe: That’s hard too. It seems like something happens every other week that’s crazy. Getting to hang out with Relient K on warped tour was awesome, meeting P. Diddy was memorable (his diamond earrings were as big as grapes), and even really old stuff like when we use to sell shirts at concerts and getting our first warehouse. We had a book keeper steal some money from us which was more funny than anything, we spun out and got turned around on a freeway in Mexico (which was wicked awesome and terrifying), we hand printed shirts for rad bands, our ‘Wall of Boxes’ in our garage before we had an office, convincing our roommate we got robbed while he was out of town, starting an acoustic band to help fund the company, getting into our first real store, seeing a ‘cat-owl’ in the middle of the night on some feeder road and freaking out like we were 4 year olds…. The entire journey is full of experiences that I will never forget.

Coty: Finally, any words of wisdom for aspiring indie tee designers?

Gabe: Do what you love and do what you want. No matter how much work it takes, if you believe in or enjoy what you’re doing, it will be immensely rewarding. Be confident in your choices, but be humble if they work out. If you’re going to work with friends, be sure you treat each other like colleagues and not buddies. Do your best not to borrow money from loans or IOU’s, but reinvest what you earn back into your business, even if that means you’ll need to keep your day job for a couple more years. Try to stick to your word. If you know something will be late, then say so from the get-go. Also, enjoy it while it lasts because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Even the really difficult times can be rewarding. Wine grapes grow best in dry, rocky soil because they have to work harder, thus giving the grapes more character, but lazy grapes make for crappy wine. Those struggles help us become awesome grown ups.

Number of times the word ‘awesome’ was used: 15!

I’d like to thank Gabe for 1. making the most out of the word Awesome and 2. giving us some insight into the Goodie Two Sleeves history! I wish you and the rest of the Goodie Two Sleeves gang all the best.

Be sure to check to check out the Goodie Two Sleeves website to browse and purchase some awesome tees!

Indie Tee Spotlight: Electric Zombie

I can’t believe 5 weeks have flown by since I started the Indie Tee Spotlight! For the 5th edition of the Indie Tee Spotlight, I am more than happy to introduce Kyle Crawford and his clothing brand, Electric Zombie. Kyle has an eclectic style and works full time as a designer for Equal Vision Records and has previously worked at Warner Bros. Records. Many of the designs that he does for Equal Vision can be found at tee haven Hot Topic. Let’s just say that Kyle is no amateur, he is a seasoned pro, that is currently making a living for himself doing what he loves.Â

“You just have to adapt, and suck it up. It comes with the job. There’s a million designers, a million brands, all trying to be the best. Throwing in the towel really just isn’t an option.” – Kyle Crawford

I had the fortunate opportunity of interviewing Kyle about his brand Electric Zombie, his upcoming Halloween line as well as his taste in music. He currently has a ticker going on his MySpace and once that ticker hits zero, he’ll unveil his new Halloween line. He also provides unique insights, both positive and negative, regarding the clothing industry.Â

Coty: You used to work for a fellow indie clothing company, Rockett Clothing. How was your experience at Rockett and what made you leave to start Electric Zombie?

Kyle: Working with those dudes was amazing. They gave me such great opportunities. I probably would have never started band merch design if it weren’t for them. The first band designs I ever did were for Versus the Mirror. The thing thats crazy is I now work for the label they were signed to, crazy how things work out. Things on the other hand did not work out for Rockett and I because we’re just too different of people. It went from designing for them to being friends with them. They are so laid back and chill and I’m pretty serious about my work. When things don’t go a certain way I freak out and panic and become a real asshole. So I think after time it just became more grueling for the both of us. Other things led to the breaking of the relationship. As you can see by their product now, there’s nothing we really have in common anymore.

So due to financial problems, and those said differences I made a few calls and started printing the first EZ line in October of last year. Put it out in Decemeber and it’s been a pretty cool experience ever since. A lot of people, friends, and bands supported me and got me to do it. I’m pretty thankful for making the decision.

Coty: You’ve got a new Halloween line coming out this month (See the ticker on his MySpace to find out exactly when the line will be released). Tell us a little about the new designs.

Kyle: This to me is the best thing I’ve ever done, period. I know a lot of brands say that, just to get the hype. But I have 8 really strong pieces coming out. It’s been way stressful and yet exciting/rewarding at the same time. I hired out for half of the line because I’m not the only one who has the same passion for this holiday. I’m trying new things such as techniques to make the shirts look more vintage, as well as printing on a new type of tee. I’m just trying to go over the top, well as far up as I can handle and just make it fun for everyone. There’s some limited edition poster packs coming out, hand numbered and packed with a 8×8 sticker and some buttons and candy. Every order 2 shirts and under, gets their order in a pretty awesome box I put together with some of my work and 2 other artists. I have a massive contest. It’s just going to be amazing. I still have so much more work to do, I’m not even close to finished!

Coty: You spoke quite passionately on your blog a few days ago about companies that sell their tees for a premium of $30 to $40. Why does this make you so mad? How has this influenced how you operate at Electric Zombie?

Kyle: I mean I just don’t get it. I know how much things cost and I know how everything works. It just blows my mine that people charge that much. With me selling my stuff at the prices I do, I’m already making more than double my money back… I understand we all want to make money. But you also have to keep your customer happy. I run Electric Zombie as if I were the customer. I’m definitely not in it for the money. I just want kids to respect and rep my line. They’re are some lines that do deserve to charge that much, because they do massively custom products. But for someone to charge 28+ dollars for a shirt with a a 2 color print no bigger than 12 inches. It’s pretty insulting, but hey they get away with it.

I will say that my prices will go up a little more just due to the fact that I’m doing 8-10 color shirts now. Custom boxes, crazy extras, a new custom type of tee and just the time I spend getting all these things together. Lots of people and brands have help, I don’t have that luxury. I try and make it as fun as possible for myself. I watched 2 movies back to back while putting 500 goodie bags together. You just have to do it. I might not have the money or the funds to make my company blow up. I’m hoping that the hard work will make it happen.

Coty: Your designs have been featured by bands and retail stores like Hot Topic. Who are some of the bands that you’ve worked with? What’s it like for you to walk into a retail store like a Hot Topic and see your designs.

Kyle: The whole band merch thing is way crazy. I can’t believe how popular it’s been for me. I seriously only like about 15% of the work I do. When I think back to when I graduated high school all I did was play around on Photoshop, backyard wrestle and go to shows. Music was pretty much everything to me from high school and on. Some of my favorite bands are now friends of mine. It’s super weird. I would have never thought in a million years that James Dewees would ask me to be Hungry Bear on tour, or that he’d call em up to talk about his cd art and doing merch for his final tour. Or Chad from New Found Glory calling me up randomly to ask for EZ shirts and to tell me how well their merch I designed is selling. I’m still just a fan boy. It’s just insane.

The first real band job that I got that wasn’t associated with Rockett was, Avenged Sevenfold. I remember getting a phone call saying they loved my art and wanted some merch designs done. They bought 3 of my designs which went to Hot Topic. Ever since then they were slowly going in there. Hit The Lights was the next, then From First To Last, H.I.M, it just kept growing and growing. I still can’t believe it.

To me it’s like an every day thing, it’s part of my job here at the label so it’s not as exciting. I go into Hot Topic at least once a month to see how many shirts are in there and to see what everyone else is doing. I see a lot of Skull With Hair, Cobra Starship Stuff.

It was way overwhelming at first, but now it’s just so common. Still an amazing feeling though!

Coty: You currently work for independent record label, Equal Vision Records. What has that experience been like for you? Explain to us a bit about what you do at Equal Vision and what that experience has been like for you.

Kyle: I had been an Employee of Warner Bros Records at the time when the whole EVR thing happened. My contract was expiring with WB and they wanted me to move out. I even had the apartment secure, all my stuff was packed and everything just fell apart. Such a huge entity like WB, they have so many people involved. Lawyers, contracts, negotiating, on and on and on. I was over it. I had been freelancing for EVR for about 2 years. They also helped me and provided me with a lot of the Hot Topic work. I would just touch base with them and be like, you know my contract is expiring. You know I wouldn’t mind moving. It was on going for a few months. They finally flew me out in January and I was blown away. With the label to the scenery, it’s awesome. The seasons are changing now, the colder weather and leaves and what not. Man it’s so great! HA! but back to the question at hand. Basically what I do here is merch design, go figure right? I do most of the ads for publications for the label. Believe it or not a lot of Hot Topic stuff comes from here, so I’m basically the Hot Topic designer here, which is why I was so nonchalant about it. So basically 9-6 every day of just shirts. It’s a really cool laid back place to work. The people here are nice. It’s like a tight knit family. I feel lucky to have been given the job.

Coty: Since you work at a Record Label, I am sure that your taste in music is quite eclectic. What bands/groups are you currently into?

Kyle: Oh man this is such a good question. I would have to say my favorite albums this year are definitely (in no order of course): Dead and Divine, Misery Signals, The Faint (album of the year for me), A Static Lullaby, Underoath and Weezer. I’m super weird and I have different tastes of music in different times of the year. Once summer ends, it’s like goodbye Angels and Airwaves, hello August Burns Red and Deftones! I have a nice mix up, poppy to hard breakdown driven to dance, like chromeo for example. Such a good band. I have a pretty wide range but it’s also a very picky one.

Coty: I usually end these interviews by asking what bit of advice you’d give to an aspiring indie tee designer. I’m going to change it up a bit for you and ask you something different. What keeps you motivated to keep on working on Electric Zombie despite the negative aspects of the merchandise world?

Kyle: When you love what you do and are passionate about something, there’s nothing that can stop you, especially from your dreams and goals.

There’s times when I’ve felt like giving up, I think everyone has. But you just have to look at the big picture. I feel so lucky to have the success I have. I think sometimes your best work comes from when you’re the most down. Like you have something to prove. So I welcome the negativity, it matches my attitude and I thrive on being challenged. I like that I design for a shitload of bands, I like that I’m the Hot Topic guy. I’m stoked at the popularity of EZ. If you want things like that to continue, you just have to adapt, and suck it up. It comes with the job. There’s a million designers, a million brands, all trying to be the best. Throwing in the towel really just isn’t an option.

I thank Kyle for taking some time out of his busy schedule to talk a little bit about tees and music with me! I am sure that this is not the last that I’ll be writing about Kyle or Electric Zombie. If you’re interested in learning more about Kyle be sure to check out his website and blog or if you want to purchase some of his tees then be sure to check out his online store!


Indie Tee Spotlight: Pyknic Clothing

I kicked off the Indie Tee Spotlight last week by highlighting Eric Terry’s brand, Linty Fresh. Now in my quest to find the next great indie tee maker to spotlight I thought I’d go straight to my mailbox and highlight a company from which I received a freshly purchased tee from. 

This week Glorious Nonsensities spotlights Indie Tee designers Andrew Marshall and Stephen Thompson of Pyknic Clothing. Marshall and his business partner, Stephen Thompson, have turned the indie tee design scene upside down since first opening up shop nearly 2 years ago. 

The Pyknic brand mantra is “Life’s a Pyknic so eat it up!” and it’s fair enough to say that their clothing line more than fits the slogan. With funky and loud t-shirt designs that sport typical things you’d find at picnic, Marshall has found a sweet spot that is as appealing to junior high kids as it is to college students. 

We were fortunate enough to chat it up with Pyknic duder Stephen Thompson.

Coty: How did you come up with the idea of using typical picnic stuff as the centerpiece of your designs and ultimately your brand?

Pyknic: Well for two years we were geared at the surf-skate-snow market. It is very hard to compete against big brands with great brand recognition on international scales (ie. Billabong, Quicksilver, etc.) with huge budgets. When we took a step back and looked at the overall picture: why would consumers or stores buy our shirt versus one by Billlabong, for instance, with similar designs? It would not matter if ours was better, they had a name to go with theirs.

So one night we went to Red Lobster and that’s when we turned our [picnic] tables. We thought of a new direction we could take the brand that was logical to our name and could create its own niche. Weird or not, people enjoy food as much as they do clothing. The two together would be dessert.

Coty: I’ve read that you use “contracted artists.” What percentage of the designs that actually make it to print are your own work as compared to those that are outsourced? 

Pyknic: A lot (if not all) of the shirts are actually concepts that we have created and thought out. We’re very fortunate to work with some great artists that can also see our vision and execute. 

Coty: You’re known in the indie tee world for making it big by actually scoring a deal with Hot Topic. How did that come about? Do you plan on connecting with other retailers? Do you have any plans for international domination?!

Pyknic: It was a last minute decision but we decided to attend Bamboozle Left. Upon returning home, I received an email from a Hot Topic buyer who was actually out at the event and loved the shirts. After a few phone call meetings, we got things rolling and eventually started putting merchandise in the stores.

I actually just got back from Magic Tradeshow and Agenda Tradeshow. There were a good amount of stores interested and either placed orders or planned on emailing that over. Right now most of our accounts are international. We have taken Europe, Asia, and Australia by storm. Most recently we distributed our newest line to all of them. 

Coty: Pyknic has turned into a nice venture for you. Do you plan on continuing the brand after college? Where do you see Pyknic in the next 3 to 5 years? 

Pyknic: Next year the Chef and I plan on moving out to California where we will be close to different production sources. Most of our products are sent out there as well so it only makes sense. 

In the next 3 to 5 years, I see us in more major US outlets with the possibility of our own.

Coty: Any words of inspiration for up and coming indie tee designers wanting to make it big?

Pyknic: I think the most important thing is to be unique. The last thing anyone wants to do is get lost in the shuffle. Very cliche but practice makes perfect, no one’s a hit overnight. 

When we started this brand three years ago, we saw ourselves in this position eventually. We knew it took a lot of work to get to this point but we were willing to do whatever it took. “If you can dream it…”

*Special thanks to Stephen for chatting it up with us! Be on the look out for next weeks Indie Tee Spotlight! And if you’re an Indie Tee Designer and would like to be featured here then please feel free to contact me to find out how you can do just that.