I recently received an email from a regular reader here, who has decided to take the plunge and enter into the apparel business. He sent me a a nice email asking me how he might go about having his product reviewed, talked about and posted on my site. I decided that I would do a general post based on his question for others that might be interested in doing the same.Â
I basically break my blog posts about apparel brands into three different categories: brand news/sales, brand reviews and brand interview. The best way to let me know about any of these things is through the contact form in the above menu. Many of my posts originate from tidbits that I find myself through other blogs, forums or social networks. However, a lot of the time, bands will contact me directly.
If you decided to contact me directly then these are some things to remember:
General Brand News/Sales. Any changes to your brand? Big sale?Â
1. Be as specific as you can about the news about your brand/company.Â Provide a link to the news if you made a post about it on your site.
2. Be as specific about the sale as possible. How much is the discount? How long does the sale last? Are there specific products on sale?Â
Brand Reviews. Most of the emails I receive are from different indie brands wanting me to check out their online store/site or to review a product. Here is some insight as to how I decide what to review.Â
1. If you send me a physical product to review (i.e you mailed me something) I will almost always do a post about your product (I’m 100% so far). I have been more inclined as of late to do video reviews in conjunction with a text review of the product you shipped to me. Needless to say, products that are shipped to me typically receive the most attention – since you took the time to send it, it’s the least I could do. You can find my shipping information in the contact menu above.
2. If there is a particular product you want me to check out and possibly review then please provide a specific link to that product. Or include an image of it as an attachment.Â
3. If your brand or a specific tee design jumps out at me (i.e. I really like it) then I will be more inclined to post about it.
4. If your story and/or background excites me then I will be more inclined to post about you.
Brand Interviews. These are a lot of work and I try as hard as I can to pump out at least one Interview a week. Interviews on this site come in two flavors: the Indie Tee Spotlight series and one-off interviews.Â
1. Most of the time, the interview will be a part of my Indie Tee Spotlight series. The Indie Tee Spotlight is always reserved for brands from which I have been sent a product for review and have really enjoyed or that I have purchased from and have really liked. These are usually my biggest posts, in terms of word length, and I try my best to promote these as best as I can.Â
2. Other times, I will do one-off interviews, for instance, if a brand has big news then I might interview them about it or if I really dig a particular brand I might send the them a few questions.Â
That’s it! I look forward to all of your wonderful emails and products. Keep up the great work!
In this weeks Indie Tee Spotlight I feature Jon Wye, a belt and t-shirt designer based out of Washington, D.C. who has been doing his thing for four years now. You might remember that I recently featured the Jon Wye designed Homemaker belt in my last Glorious Nonsensities video review. Jon is the ultimate do-it-yourselfer as he has developed his own methods to produce his signature graphic design belts and buckles. He also has developed a unique method for taking 3D product shots, providing a unique experience for the potential buyer.
I had the opportunity to get to know Jon more and am happy that he was able to share a little about himself and Â the company that he has poured his entire self into for the last couple of years.
Coty: Your signature products are your custom made leather belts and buckles. What was your first experience in working with leather and what propelled you to start a company focused on making original and custom made belts?
Jon: It all started with a girl. I think that’s how a lot of good stories start. One of our first dates was making belt buckles out of wax carvings, plaster casting, and melting craft-catalogue pewter into the mold. And when she moved away to Barcelona (pre-planned before we met) I had a lot of time on my hands and so I kept creating. I didn’t want to be the person “left” behind, I wanted to strive for something. So I started making more belt buckles and eventually moved to belts. And the initial ideas for the graphic belt process came about a year into my brand. It was one of those â€˜ah ha’ from a dream moments. And it kind of consumed me until I perfected it.
Coty: All of your products are custom made in your shop that you’ve named “the funkfactory.” How did you learn to work with the metal and leather mediums that you use for your belts? Did you learn by trial and error or do you have some formal training?
Jon: It was all trial and error. A lot of error! I worked as an Office Manager (glorified receptionist) at a PR firm for about 4 years. I spent a lot of time researching everything on the Internet. A tidbit here, a tadbit there. No one source spells it all out for you. I simply became a good disseminator of information, coupled with an unquenchable thirst to learn more and more. There is so much knowledge available on the internet for the taking. The key is being able to sift through it. And then once you think you’ve sifted through all you can handle you take the plunge and start to put your money on the line and test things out. So my whole shop, process, everything came from being willing to learn and never be too set in my ways, which is something I think a lot of people get hung up on. You have to be fluid.
Coty: We cover a lot about marketing and branding techniques. Have you done anything, either locally or online, different or unique to market the Jon Wye brand? What techniques have worked best for you?
Nothing, absolutely nothing beats getting out into the public! I spent the last 3 years selling at various outdoor events in the DC area, building my name. Every time people saw my display it was bigger and better. When I made money it went right into new displays (all custom built) and new products. People love to see you growing, and love to know that the money they spend on you is helping to build something special… that they had a hand in your success.
I once took out an expensive add in the back of Rolling Stone magazine… worst mistake ever! I spent $2000 thinking I was going to be selling belts and tees like crazy! I think I made about $250 back. I took the spanking and walked away from paid advertising. I started doing what I learned at the PR Firm. I wrote press releases, and came up with unique twists for announcements. And that led to some feature articles in the Washington Post that people still remember to this day.
And I talk about the brand. As one PR person told me, if you don’t talk about you, no one will. It’s true! It might feel odd at first, but if you truly believe in what you are creating it will come across as sincere when you tell people about you creations.
And lastly, my Pink Ducky sticker. One of my supremely talented artists, David William, helped me create a JonWye iconic image. My Pink Ducky sticker is known around DC and is included in every order from online. It was a big risk to create the stickers considering I give them away for free, but I have seen my return 100 fold. People love the darn thing and are shocked that I give it away for free. It’s waterproof and really durable. I made sure the quality of the sticker matched the quality of my brand.
Coty: You’ve been building the Jon Wye brand for three years now. What has been your greatest experience so far? What has been the most difficult or stressful part of running your own small business?
Jon: Actually I’ve been building it for 4 years as of January 2nd. YEAH… 4 year Anniversary! That’s why the JUNK buckles are on sale for $10. It was the first buckle!
I used to look for that great moment, the tipping point (BTW, I highly suggest reading â€˜The Tipping Point’) but it’s been more of a slow and steady build. Each year is better than the last. Each year has great moments, but all in all it’s been the whole of it, the journey, the mental game of creating something that has been the most rewarding.
The most difficult or stressful part? OYE! Sticking to my ideas even though every sign around me said it wasn’t right. There were many moments where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make my credit card payments. Times when I invested in new machines and products when I didn’t necessarily have the money. It is no joke when I say that I have put everything I have into this company, and then some. Thing are still tight, but thanks to all the wonderful people that have supported me the light at the end of the tunnel is peering through.
Coty: How much do you think the D.C. culture has influenced your designs and the direction of your clothing line?
Jon: The easy answer is that I am a product of my environment. I grew up here. I know people in DC, myself included, talk about politics on a more regular basis, as we are inundated. But I am separated from the political scene. And DC’s rich underbelly of Punk Rock, Bike Polo, etc is something I am just now becoming more aware of.
Fresh off his big $10,000 Design By Humans win, AJ Dimarucot (aka CollisionTheory) sat down to talk with me about his winning design Black Hole Sun, the stress of competition and the power of networking and family.Â
Coty: Congratulations on winning the Design By Humans $10,000 contest!Â You must be really excited. DBH stretched out announcing the winnerÂ for an entire week. Did that stress you out? How did you find out thatÂ you won and how did you respond?
AJ: I was stressed out during the whole competition from the Final 10 toÂ the announcement of the winner! I found out I won through my Mom andÂ Dad who called me up 4:30am Saturday my time. It was cool and sort ofÂ expected, only because the daily votes indicated that I was on the topÂ spot for the whole finals week. My first response was to check out theÂ site on my crappy cellphone.
Coty: What was your inspiration for Black Hole Sun? What did you try andÂ accomplish with this design?
AJ: I’ve recently been inspired by space/galaxy imagery and I’ve alwaysÂ wanted to do a design based on the solar eclipse. I like simpleÂ designs that overpower the shirt, also thought it was cool to useÂ negative space – the shirt color being the “hole”, indicating the moonÂ blocking the sun. DBH mentioned they can print anything with up to 14Â colors so I really pushed the original design without thinking aboutÂ color restrictions. I really think that the colors made the design.
Coty: DBH changed the colorways for the printed version of the shirt. HowÂ do you feel about this? Do you prefer your original colors over theÂ DBH assigned colors?
AJ: I was really hoping they printed the original colors because it reallyÂ made the design come alive on the shirt. In fact, I was expecting toÂ see that when I checked my phone after I found out I won. When I sawÂ the yellow and red on black I just thought my phone was acting up andÂ the colors were off. I only realized it was the colorway they choseÂ when I finally checked the site on my laptop.
They did print the correct colors on the white and grey tees thoughÂ which was cool. Just thought the design itself got printed bigger,Â either that or the model was wearing an extra small shirt. To beÂ honest, I was a bit sad at first but I guess DBH has their technicalÂ reasons and can do whatever they want with the design since it’s nowÂ theirs. I just hope people who voted for the original colorway stillÂ buy the shirt.
Coty: To win you had to get a ton of votes. Jimiyo went all out withÂ promoting his top 5 tee. Did you do anything special or extra toÂ publicize Black Hole Sun?
AJ: Funny you mentioned Jimiyo because every time he came out withÂ something to promote his design, I tried to come with something on myÂ own because it pressured me to get more votes!!!
Here’s some of the things that probably helped me win:
a) I gave away a couple of vectors at vecteezy.com after I saw JimiyoÂ give away animal vectors on gomediazine.com. I asked for votes inÂ return.
b) Also placed some banner ads on targeted websites during theÂ semi-finals week. I figured I could spend up to $1,000 to win theÂ $10,000. I ended up spending around $300 worth of banner ads.
c) My parents became my best campaign managers after they emailÂ blasted the plea for votes to everyone they knew. They have a hugeÂ network and it just created a ripple effect.
d) I emailed a local newspaper about being a finalist and theyÂ featured me,my t-shirt designs, and my plea for votes.
e) I was an invited speaker at a local design conference calledÂ Graphika Manila, which included Tokidoki, Pixar, and other FilipinoÂ artists. So I ended up pimping my design to around 1,000 people.
Coty: Finally, I think most people are interested to know how you’reÂ going to spend/use the cash prize?
AJ: Well I’m a family man so this goes partly to investing for the future.Â But before that, I’m bringing the family to Hong Kong for some R&R, maybeÂ upgrade my laptop (Mac?). Also planning to give some money to ourÂ supportive parents. Lastly, I’m putting up a baby clothing businessÂ with my wife – we want to do onesies. So I guess I’m also going to beÂ the designer for that. Do watch out for it. =)
Black Hole Sun is now available in the Design By Humans online store in three different shirt colorways. AJ, a Manila native, who calligraphy and bold patterns. He enjoys freelance and collaborative work. You can find out more about him and his work at his site, Collision Theory.