Indie Tee Spotlight: Never In Wonderland (NIWL)

This is the sixth edition of the Indie Tee Spotlight and this week I highlight Daren Girdner and his brand Never In Wonderland Clothing, or, as it is often referred to, NIWL.

Daren started NIWL in July 2007 with the help of his girlfriend, Kassie. Since then, NIWL has been a team effort between both Daren and Kassie with the both of them sharing promotion, packaging and selling duties. I was fortunate to have a word with Daren and we talked a bit about how he runs NIWL, the secret behind the NIWL name, that Johnny Cupcakes incident and how he has used the Internet to market his brand. 

Coty: You started NIWL just a little over a year ago (July 2007) “for fun”, what has the experience been like for you since turning your fun idea into an actual business?

Daren: It’s been really fun! It’s amazing to see how well the reactions are from all these kids who enjoy what my girlfriend, Kassie, and I are doing. NIWL is like our baby, we watched it start out from just a few ideas, and now we are watching it grow.

Coty: The first tee you produced for sale was “Hungry for Cupcakes”, you no longer have that one available for sale on your website. What did that tee look like?

Daren: That tee was printed on American Apparel, and it featured only a 12 inch print, with a little zombie monster holding cupcakes. After we released it, we sold a few, and Johnny Cupcakes and his designers sent us threatening messages, saying we ripped him off, and that we must take it down. At the time I designed that shirt and got it printed, I had no idea who Johnny Cupcakes was, or what he was about. After selling all those shirts, we decided to never print anything with cupcakes on it again. We respect and love what Johnny is doing, we had no intention of copying him! But you live and you learn.

Coty: Your brand name, Never In Wonderland, is an interesting choice. What does it mean and how did you come up with it?

Daren: Honestly, there is no real story about where Never In Wonderland came from. After brainstorming some ideas, I just came up with that name. People think that since Kassie and I don’t use drugs, Never In Wonderland was meant as an anti-drug reference, which is not what our company is about at all. We do what we like, and you do what you like.

Coty: You run your own business and yet you just graduated from high school a few months ago. Other than running NIWL, what else are you up to? Have you followed through with your plans of majoring in photography? If not, what other things are you up to?

Daren: Currently, I am just working on NIWL. Next semester I plan on going to college for photography, but I’m not sure where yet.

Coty: Many indie brands hire artists to design tees for their brand. Do you design the NIWL artwork yourself or do you hire artist to do the drawing for you?

Daren: In the beginning of NIWL, I used to design the stuff myself but after awhile I felt that I would be better off hiring artists.

Coty: There are a ton of quality indie tee brands out there at the moment, which are some of you favorites? Was there any particular brand that inspired you when you first started out?

Daren: Right now I am currently into 410BC. I really enjoy what they are doing, and they have a little bit of something for everyone. I believe that they are going to go a long way if they keep at it.

As for inspiring brands that helped me start there really aren’t any. I mean, when I was growing up my uncles and aunts were all silk screening their own shirts and trying to sell them over the Internet. So I guess I just picked up from that and did my own thing with it. I’ve never really looked up to any brands because I was way to busy looking up to bands like Blink-182. I never figured I would be selling shirts over the Internet. But I love it and seems like a lot of kids are enjoying what we do so that makes it even better. If I had to pick one brand that I look up to currently I would say Johnny Cupcakes.

Coty: One of the most important things for new brands is to get exposure. What are some of the things that NIWL is doing to get the NIWL brand noticed? How have you used the Internet to maximize your brand exposure?

Daren: Well so far we have only used the Internet for exposure. We haven’t sold at any shows or things of that nature. But it seems like the Internet has been getting the job done for us. As corny as it is we just have a MySpace account that kids see and they check out our website and if they dig it hopefully they buy a shirt, and if they don’t then they move on. It is as simple as that. But don’t get us wrong we would love to sell at shows and things like that. We just haven’t had the chance to yet.

Coty: Finally, you’ve mentioned on your blog that your goal would be to open up a NIWL boutique. Running a physical store takes a lot of dedication and hard work. In an ideal world, what would be your time frame for accomplishing this goal? What other goals do you currently have for NIWL?

Daren: Depending on how things go with NIWL we hope to get our own store 2-3 years from now. Man, we have so many goals that we would like to accomplish it just takes time. When we first started out one of our goals was to get cut and sew t-shirts made, and we did it. We want to get into a lot more cut and sew things such as sweaters, denim, etc.

*I’d like to thank Daren for allowing me to interview him and also his patience in waiting for me to get the interview questions to him! I’d like to wish both Daren and Kassie the best with NIWL and that in the near future I can shop in a NIWL boutique!

Be sure to check out the NIWL site to buy some awesome NIWL gear and also visit the NIWL MySpace to upload pictures of you in NIWL gear!

The Art of T-Shirt Folding Explained!

Here’s a great video that I found on the Emptees forum board (posted by Cole). The YouTube video, titled “How An Engineer Folds A T-Shirt” shows, step-by-step how you can construct your own fancy T-Shirt folder using a ruler, a razor blade, cardboard and some tape. 

Turns out, based on the replies in the video, this is how many of retailers get that perfect fold on the tees that they stock on their shelves. So if you’re interested in making a fancy tee folder then watch on!

And now for those of you who are too lazy (myself included) to make one of those cardboard concoctions then check out the famous “How To Fold A T-Shirt in Two Seconds Japanese Style!” video.

And for the intellectual types, check out this video explaining the “technicals” of the two second fold (who knew?!).

Indie Tee Spotlight: Rethink Clothing

Welcome to this weeks Indie Tee Spotlight! This week I feature Rethink Clothing and its founder, Andy Meyer. Rethink Clothing is a unique clothing brand with a unique target audience and unique designer base. I was fortunate to have been able to have a word with Rethink’s Andy Meyer to discuss his brand, his designs and the future of Rethink Clothing. 

Coty: Rethink is unlike any other clothing company out there. Your clothing company has adopted a different approach when it comes to choosing designers. Explain this premise to me.

Andy Meyer: At Rethink I am really trying to switch up how things are done design wise. The unique thing is that I chose only college enrolled artists. Now, I am willing to admit I have had one designer who wasn’t in college. You may think, doesn’t this ruin your core premise? Not really, Grant is a high school kid, who has become a friend of mine through Emptees. While he isn’t in college you will be happy to know my money went to buying his parking pass for school and towards his car so he can get to college.

Coty: As graduate student myself, I know the college students are a feisty and particular bunch with a lot of punch. What attracted you to choosing college students as your designers?

Andy Meyer: Actually in my working I have encountered little feistiness and more welcoming arms. I see Rethink as a way for designers to have a great outlet for their talent and great start to a portfolio. Also, any college student who is looking for an actual worthwhile project other than some B.S fake sign for a fictional donut shop. More than that though is the fact that each designer brings some different background, edge, style, talent, and attitude. I think this all leads to a stronger brand with mucho appeal.

Coty: You mentioned in the past that Rethink is run solely by you. Is this still the case? What advice do you have to for intrepid youngsters wanting to start their own line of tees?

Andy Meyer: Rethink is still only staffed by me. Now this isnt really the case, I have a solid support network of friends who help me make decisions, balance books and promote. Advice to all your entrepenureal readers, have your ducks in a row before you start. This was kind of a joke and reaction to some hilarious decisons while at a party and I started something with little knowledge or idea of what I wanted. So make sure you have your mind right. Also gobs of money and gorgeous women to model wouldn’t hurt either.

Coty: You’re about to release some new tee designs to your online store, talk to us a little bit about these designs. How do each of these new designs reflect the Rethink Brand?

Andy Meyer: Yes sir. Well I have only one more new design coming out and new scheme of the super soaker shirt. The shirt by Andrew Olivier is awesome. He is a college freshman from Canada and an awesome artist. His style is something new for rethink, but the theme is something I love. On the shirt you can see a city on a shelf which is falling and there are people parachuting out of the buildings. This is Rethink at its heart – something airy, fun and not what you would expect or find anywhere else. I am starting now to hone my design choosing skills to things that you cant find elsewhere and that have an air of oddity to them, such as a half naked lady on the wing of a space shuttle.

Coty: Aspiring wrestler, Johnny Vinyl, earned sponsorship from Rethink Clothing earlier this year. Any new sponsorship developments?

Andy Meyer: Not for now. Johnny is a wild man though which is awesome, he is quite the college entrepenuer which is what really make me wanna sponsor the guy. Also, It is always nice to know my shirts are being worn by a man flying off the ropes, it brings up my brands street cred. I am always looking to sponsor someone who has a unique edge to them, whether that be an awesome band or a collegiate underwater basket weaving team. Know anyone???

Coty: Shirt.Woot has featured Rethink clothing as side deals twice now. Have you submitted Rethink designs to be a Shirt.Woot tee of the day? How has being featured on Shirt.Woot affected sales at Rethink?

Andy Meyer: Awesome, Awesome, is all I can say about Shirt.Woot and Phil at Woot in general. They have extended to me an amazing oppurtunity that has helped expand me into a fledgling little business. I haven’t submitted anything to Woot on the design side, probably because most of my designs look like I did them while drunk and in MS Paint.

Coty: Finally, for students interested in designing for your company, how would they go about doing this?

Andy Meyer: Really, the way I do it now is by having students send me an email saying they are interested, what style they like to do and a portfolio of some past work. When I see a project that will be awesome for the brand then I will hit them up!

*Thanks to Andy Meyer and Rethink Clothing for taking the time to discuss all the cool things happening at Rethink. Keep up the great work!

Jimiyo Takes 4th Place in DBH Contest

Featured Indie Tee Spotlight artist, Jimiyo, finished 4th place in the big $10,000 Design By Humans contest. Not the finish he wanted, but nonetheless, he finished in the top end amongst a handful of very talented artists. Here’s what he had to say on his blog:

“At least it’s a hot looking shirt. One color too.. and they are selling it for $24? They are going to be making some good margin on this shirt, as well as, for the $1000 payout to me, I did some massive promotions. Was all the work worth it? Not sure. The $1000 is definitely not worth the time investment, but then is having participated and reached the top tier level of the contest worth the time investment? Because theoretically, many new eyes have been exposed to my name and work. Still feel Defeated, but elated it’s finally over. Now I can start workin!” – Jimiyo

Only thing left to do now is to go and buy his T-shirt! 

My Spreadshirt Experience: A Review

A few weeks ago I decided to test out Spreadshirt by having a couple of shirts printed with the Glorious Nonsensities logo. Mr. Elephant on a brain wanted his own tee and so I gave Spreadshirt a shot. I was skeptical at first since I had previously tried CafePress and was unimpressed with the results. The CafePress shirt I had printed a year or two ago seemed very cheap and the print resembled an iron-on. Needless to say, I didn’t expect much from the Spreadshirt print but out of curiosity was still interested to see what the final product looked like compared to my CafePress print. 

The Spreadshirt experience begins with the interactive and easy to use T-shirt Designer. Using the T-shirt Designer is essentially a three step process: 1. choose your product (i.e. type of t-shirt), 2. upload and placement of your design and/or text, 3. checkout. It really is as easy as that three step process. Spreadshirt comes with a couple of preloaded designs for you to add to your T-shirt, if none of those are to your liking then you are free to upload your own designs. You can easily increases and decrease the size of the design in the T-shirt Designer as needed and there are tools that allow you to easily align your design. 

Once your custom tee is designed you can easily select the size and quantity of shirts that you would like to order. The only problem here is that if you wanted to different sizes, you would need to go through the design process for each size. It would be much more convenient if you could design once and then select different sizes (for a specific product) and quantities. The way that it is now, you can only select one size per design and then adjust the amount of that particular size you would like to order. 

Prices vary depending on the product you decide to print on. Prices for mens tees start off at around 10 bucks for lightweight tees, while American Apparel tees start at a more pricey 19 bucks. And of course you get charged for each design you upload or text you decide to print. I paid $12.40 for each of the three shirts that I ordered (two guy tees and one ladies tee). I received my product within a week, which is pretty speedy considering I live in Hawaii and that it is a custom product. Shipping costs cary depending on how you much spend (shipping for me cost $4.99 for the three tees I ordered). 

I was very happy with the tees that I received. They were much better, quality wise, compared to my past experience with CafePress. If you plan to print hundreds of tees then Spreadshirt is probably too pricey of an option. However, if you need a custom, one off tee, then I highly recommend Spreadshirt!

If you want to learn more, here are links to info on how Spreadshirt prints their shirts and info on digital printing. 

Finally, here’s a promotional video from Spreadshirt (which is pretty neat to watch I have to say). 

Indie Tee Spotlight: Jimiyo

This is week three of the Indie Tee Spotlight and I have to admit that I have been happy with the success of this particular segment on my blog. I’ve received a bunch of emails from tee brands/designers wanting to be featured here. I appreciate all of the interest and if you sent me an email then you should have gotten a response on how you can be featured here! And if you’re interested please feel free to contact me!

Having said that, I am happy to announce Jimiyo as our featured Indie Designer for this week! Jimiyo is well known within the Indie Tee community and has had much success with his designs. His designs has been featured on Tee Fury, Shirt.Woot, Uneetee, and Design by Humans. More recently, one of Jimiyo’s designs, Fight The Good Fight, was announced as a top 5 finalist in the $10,000 Design by Humans contest.

I was fortunate enough to talk with Jimiyo about his passion, designing tees. 

Coty: It’s no secret that you’re participating in the Design By Humans ongoing T-Shirt contest. You’ve been making strides within the tee community to up your vote count for the DBH contest (submitted 10 designs to DBH, sent out newsletters to family and friends, posted on social networks like MySpace and have spoken to classes to gain DBH votes). You recently announced your biggest move yet by offering 10 people $100 each if you win the $10,000 DBH prize. All they have to do is vote and leave a comment on your DBH design. Why does this contest mean so much to you?

Jimiyo: I suppose my main motivation is what the money will buy. It’s not material possessions that I want, its Freedom. It would buy me approximately 3 months of guilt free time that I could use to to work on projects I have put on the back burner since there is always some anxiety now about finances since I am freelancing. Obviously there are other advantages, like exposure for my freelance career, a nice line to add to the CV, prestige, etc, but all those are secondary.

Coty: One could argue that you are artificially creating votes for yourself or that you are “buying” your votes. What would your response to this be?

Jimiyo: I won’t be offended if people think I have bought votes, because I provided DBH with my best effort art that is obviously indicative of some skill. It would be different if I had submitted a shoddy piece of work and then bought votes.

What is the difference between buying votes with money, and buying the votes with time and effort that I have invested in creating a piece of art that I hope that people like?
In contrast, I have focused at least a decade of my life to refining my craft with great effort and dedication.

$1000 of $10,000 is nothing in comparison, especially when there’s absolutely no risk to me whatsoever. I do not have to expend $1000 if I do not win. I have already expended many hours, many days, daresay many months, creating art, which if you could quantify the experience and skillset I have fostered over the years, is it repulsive to say, I am essentially buying votes with a horrendously large amount of philosophical cash?

1. DBH created this monster prize contest to drive traffic as well as drive a higher quantity and quality of art to their site.

2. By offering money as an incentive, artists promoted themselves and most likely drove a significant amount of users to join the community. Since the artists probably contacted their fan base for votes, fans will be more inclined to purchasing a product to whom they associate.

Essentially, I did just the same. I offered an incentive, for which there is only potential gain, in which the final result is a symbiotic return on each party’s efforts.

As far as “artificial” votes, that wording would imply fraudulent behavior similar to creating fake accounts. That is not the case. With my tactic, Im bringing DBH real people who actually have to sign up to vote and comment. With that, DBH is one major step closer to having a new customer.

Coty: Your shirts have been accepted for print at both shirt.woot and at teefury (have your designs been accepted at Threadless?). Which of these ongoing contest sites do you like the best and why?

Jimiyo: I have not been accepted at Threadless. My best efforts were moderately ignored there. My style doesnt not fit with their market.

I love shirt.woot. They payout $1000+. Joel is fantastic, no, Terrific, to deal with and I truly enjoy the mentality of Wooter consumer base. Their approval is difficult to earn, and thankfully, somehow, I have been able to win a small portion of their acceptance.
TeeFury does not have as big a market as Woot, so although the payout is not as great, there is nothing greater than being able to submit a design I created without catering to a specific market and have it be accepted. With Woot, I do have to take into consideration their market.
Also the advantage of no copyright restrictions at TeeFury has allowed me get the most financially out of my designs.

I can’t say that there’s one I like the best. They are like friends. There are things about each my friends that I hate and love.

Coty: These online tee design contests are very competitive, yet you’ve done pretty well in them. Do you have any suggestions or tips for people considering entering these contests or for those who have entered but have been unsuccessful?

Jimiyo: Beyond making sure you output your best artistic effort, it’s a numbers game. The only reason I am seemingly successful is because I have submitted a significant number of entries to several different contests.
Also, just keep trying to win. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Just do it. Gotta be in it to win it.

I am thoroughly impressed with WanderingBert from If you look at his profile, I think he was up to about 100 submissions until he won his first Threadless contest. It was through shear tenacity, as well as great art, that he won. Soon after his first printing, they printed several more.

You have to be willing to sacrifice for longterm accomplishments, and be willing to lose, over and over again.

I plan on writing a year end results of my experience in January 09, until then here is a small blog I wrote with tips and information about my experiences with contests so far.

Coty: You’re recent print, The Upgradead, sold 2499 prints and eventually sold out on shirt.woot. Why do you think this print was so successful? What do you think is up with the t-shirt communities obsession with zombies, skulls and guts?

Jimiyo: I studied a bit before creating this design. has a running stock of about 30 designs, which they eliminate 7 of every week with replacements. Some of the longest running designs I noticed were zombie related designs.

Beyond that, as far as the success of the tees, I don’t attribute it to anything more than the sheer traffic that is able to harness. You offer a moderately entertaining design on a soft, quality American Apparel tee for $10 to 75,000-150,000 views, a 2% close rate isn’t all that impressive.

As far as t-shirt communities being inclined towards a specific topic, I have no idea. I love LOLCatz, some people don’t.

Coty: OK, there are 5 designs left in the running ofr the big DBH $10,000 grand prize. IF you had to choose a design, other than yours to win, which design would it be and why?

Jimiyo: Collision Theory. He is my internet friend. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to really become friends with the other artists. Besides, AJ is a stand up guy. It seems people are prone to being more truthful in their identities on the internet, and AJ has always exhibited a kind and amicable persona.
Also, this will sound crazy, but if I am correct, the monetary conversion rate for the Phillipines is incredible. I imagine there would be a greater benefit for AJ to receive the prize money than it would benefit me. I am a single man with only myself to take care of. I believe AJ is a family man.

*Thanks to Jimiyo for taking the time out to have a word with me, it’s very much appreciated! Now, be sure to go to Design by Humans and vote for Jimiyo!

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.

Indie Tee Spotlight: Linty Fresh

I LOVE t-shirts, especially one-of-a-kind indie T-Shirts that are available online. A nice T-Shirt is like eye candy, it’ll make your eyes drool and mouth all wattery (ok, that hardly made any sense). So, in lieu of the Glorious Nonsensities podcast I thought that every week or so I would highlight a couple of indie tee designers whose work I admire and whose tees I wear!

For the inaugaral post I thought I would start off with a brand that I just learned about a month ago, and that brand is Linty Fresh. Linty Fresh was started by Eric Terry, who runs Linty Fresh out of his home in Marietta, Georgia. It all started for him when he began submitting tees into the never ending Threadless design competitions. His design, Once Upon A War, although was not selected to be printed, earned him positive reviews and more importantly, tee cred! And so Eric decided that he would do a limited print of Once Upon A War and offer it up for pre-sale. To his surprise, people were buying the shirt, and thus the Linty Fresh, or the beginnings of Linty Fresh, was born! 


Now if you notice Eric’s designs, many of them contain characters that look quite similar, with the mouth being the defining characteristic (in my opinion, Eric might disagree). Nonetheless his branding efforts are obvious and effective. I even think that his characters have the potential to go mainstream, they’ve got delicious-I-want-to-squeeze-you feel like those adorable Sanrio characters. 

The price points at Linty Fresh are in line with other indie tee brands. Tee’s are usually in the 20 buck range and hoodies in the 40 buck range. If those sound expensive don’t fret, I’ve bought Linty Fresh shirts for as little as 5 bucks, you just need to be on the look out for special discounts (In fact, he’s got a 5 bucks shirt on sale right now). The shirts themselves are made from American Apparel tees, so you know they are sweatshop free! And the actual product that you receive in the mail is quite professional. So if you like what you see here, be sure to check Linty Fresh out on the web! And let me know what you think of his designs and what companies you think I should check out for the next Indie Tee Spotlight.