PleaseDressMe TV Launched

Last September I reviewed the then new site, PleaseDressMe so I was automatically interested when I found out on Twitter that the first episode of their new online show was was available. I just wrapped up watching the first episode of PleaseDressMe TV, the show hosted by the Vaynerchuk Brothers, Gary and AJ. I have to say that I did enjoy the first episode, aptly titled as a “beta” by Gary. The show reminded me a lot of the formula used for Wine Library TV. It was shot Gary’s office, which is a familiar setting if you watch the other video’s that Gary posts on his personal site. 

Much like WLTV, PleaseDressMe TV discuses and rates a bunch t-shirts on a 100-point scale. They rated a total of 7 shirts, each coming from a different vendor/brand (i.e. Threadless, Design by Humans). They rate these items based on different factors that are very subjective like design, feel, comfort and color. So it’s interesting to see how they will rate simple t-shirts vs. more complex t-shirts in the future (just because it has 12 colors doesn’t mean it deserves a score of 90+). 

I liked how Gary intertwined some of his business sense into the show, especially when they started talking about personal branding during the Kid Robot segment. The only issue I had with the Kid Robot segment is when they scored the shirt low because of pricing (the shirt cost $50). I think that the review should be based more so on design rather then pricing, just my opinion. 

They did give one bad review on the show, with Gary calling the Collar Free tee Freedom by Rachel Cobb “ugly.” This was interesting to watch, since praise is so commonplace in the t-shirt culture. I’ll be looking forward to more harsh reviews – it’s entertaining. 

Gary and AJ also give away free tee’s on the show, in varying sizes, so that’s great. Also, they have live interaction via Ustream which is awesome in terms of user interactivity and feedback. 

All in all I enjoyed the show. I’ll be watching future interviews and it may have inspired me to do a couple more video posts of my own in the future! Click on to watch the show:

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Say Hello to Threadless’ Mr. September!

The official winners of the Threadless Calendar Contest were announced today and guess what, I’m Mr. September! That’s right, my entry, Connect It USB Head, made it into the Threadless Bloggers Calender! I’m pretty excited. When September rolls around, my headless body will be hanging on many a Threadless fans walls. 

Check out the winners by month:

January is gigguli (2nd Place Winner)

February is jenraskopf (3rd Place Winner)

March is nikolina

April is WarDrobeInSpareOom

May is theczar

June is ytfelmi

July is chengui

August is Goldendust

September is iCoty

October is bhoomika

November is ir0cko (1st Place Winner)

December is angelito

If you’re interested in getting your paws on one of these Threadless Calendars then please feel free to contact ladykay81 at gmail dot com. She organized the contest and will be distributing the calendars to the winners. The cost of the calendars are $15 flat and that includes shipping to anywhere in the US. And also:

If you want, you can replace up to one (1) photo with a photo of your own for your calendar! I won’t do any editing for that, so send me a photo exactly as you’d like it printed, it must be at least 2240 pixels wide and the dimensions must be 11.2 x 8.7. Let me know what month you want your photo to appear in for your calendar (don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody who you’re replacing). 

Connect It USB Head – Vote For ME!

Voting is now open for the Threadless Calendar Contest. Show your support and vote for my entry so that I can be in the Calendar and win that Threadless quilt! Here is my submission just to refreshen your memory. Check out the official Threadless vote thread for more information. 

5 Things We Can Learn From The Threadless Story

Threadless was started by two guys that decided to invest in the prize money they won from an online contest. They created a business that allowed its community of diehard followers to create, hype and decide what products get made. There are a lot of things that indie brands can learn from the Threadless model, here, I present five things we can learn from the Threadless story. 

1. You Can Build A Business With Minimal Startup Funds. Threadless Co-Founders, Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart started Threadless using the $1000 prize money won from another online design contest. If you have extra cash lying around, invest in it wisely, Jake and Jacob did and now they run a multi-million dollar business whose model is built on handing out cash to design winners. The point is, in the grand scheme of things, you don’t need large sums of money to start a business. If you are driven and you  have a solid idea then you will be successful – in one way or another. 

2. Community Can Drive A Business. The Threadless model is entirely built around it’s community of dedicated users. People submit designs and people vote. All the while, free hype and publicity for these designs are generated by the community itself. Threadless is a self-sustaining business, unlike old-school fashions brands like Levi’s, Guess and Quicksilver, that spend millions of dollars in marketing and print ads to generate hype, Threadless let’s it’s community take care of that for them.

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3. Make It Fun and Stick With It. Everything about Threadless screams fun. From the designs they select to the layout of the website. The point here is, if you have a theme to your business, push that theme hard and follow through. Even though the ongoing design contest is a constant, they still have smaller “theme” contests, like the current Threadless Loves Travel contest. Their product shots keep with the fun theme as do the weekly videocast. If your brand has a theme, stick to it ad push it hard. 

4. The Appeal of Limited Edition is Hard to Resist. Whenever things have the “Limited Edition” moniker slapped on it, people buy it up. I think that having a design available for purchase on a limited basis and then marketing it as such was a brilliant move by Threadless. “Limited Edition” provides a sense of urgency whenever a potential customer is deciding whether or not they should buy a tee and instills the idea of “I should buy it now or else it won’t be available next time I visit.” I’m surprised that there aren’t many indie tee designers that market their tees as being a limited prints when in fact they are, especially when they print just 50 or 100 of a particular design. I think independent designers should take advantage of the “Limited Edition” moniker. If you do, let me know if people start to buy your stuff up. 

5. The Physical and Online Worlds Can Mesh. Threadless was able to build a physical store from the success of its online store. Johnny Cupcakes did the same thing. The physical and online worlds can mesh if there is value in both. The online community is the strong point of the online Threadless store. The physical Threadless store is able to incorporate things that they otherwise would not be able to do on the online store, for instance, the Threadless Art Gallery. Building and maintaining an online store is relatively cheap compared to opening and managing a physical store. A physical store might not always be necessary, but, if your brand can grow and if there is added value to the physical store than it might be something to consider.

Was this article helpful? Let me know. Have your incorporated in Threadless techniques into your own business model? If so, how? 

Horsebites Featured at the Threadless Gallery

Congratulations to fellow Emptees member, Horsebites, for being the featured artist at the Threadless Galleries in Chicago. If you’re in the Chicago area be sure to check out the new Horsebites gallery at the Threadless Store. The gallery will be up until November 5!

Follow along as Richard Minino aka Horsebites talks about some of his art up in the Threadless Gallery.

HorseBites is the design and artwork of Orlando, Florida based artist Richard Minino. His inspiration includes the juxtaposition of the enchantment forced upon him growing up in the shadow of Mickey Mouse and the disenchantment of punk rock (also very near and dear to his heart). His work explores the true meaning of aggression and violently shoes the mind into another realm of the imagination. His most recent work revolves around music with delightfully tacky, aggro works ranging from CD layouts, t-shirt designs, advertisements and tour posters. He has worked closely with bands like Less Than Jake and New Mexican Disaster Squad.

5 Tips That Will Improve Your Online Store

Places like Big Cartel make it easy for anyone interested in selling their custom merchandise to folks in InternetLAND. Big Cartel offers a slew of options and the ability to customize individual stores. Here I offer a few easy tips that people can use to enhance their online stores, like the ones on Big Cartel, and a couple of more complex tips that can be used by people that have coded their own shops and built their sites from scratch.

Each of these tips will hopefully increase user interaction and improve the way that people browse and purchase tees from your site!

1. Large Previews. One of the things that annoy me the most about online stores are small previews. If I can’t get a nice large view of the product then chances are I won’t buy the item. Thumbnails are too small to get an idea of the detail of the design. Threadless uses nice and large preview images for each of the shirts that they sell. They use previews that are 640 pixels wide – this is a nice size, anything larger might be overkill. 

2. Actual Product Shots. Photoshop mockups are great and look nice but what’s even better are actual shots of the printed item to supplement the mockups. You can do this by doing you own photo shoot or you can make it interactive by encouraging buyers or fans of your brand to send you their photos. Another idea would be to set up a Flickr account for your brand and have a Flickr group so that your customers who are Flickr users can upload their photos directly to your group. 

3. Make Your Site Social. Comments are great to building a community. Why not have the ability for users to make comments on individual product pages. iTunes does this quite well by allowing members of the iTunes community to comment and rate tunes that they purchase. Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave a comment and even rate tees that you purchased on the product page of the design you loved? 

4. Top Sellers List. Having a section that lists the top 5 or 10 designs in your store is a great way to sell even more of your most popular items. People tend to gravitate toward items that they know are popular. These can either be based on sales, ratings or a combination of both. Having a Top Sellers or Popular Items list points these customers in the right direction! 

5. Out of Print Gallery. Indie tee designs are pieces of art and they should be treated as such. I often wonder what out-of-print designs from my favorite designers looked like. Why not have a section set up that showed off your designs that people can NO LONGER buy. Make people want what they can’t have! This will make people want to buy items that you currently have in stock (in fear of them being sold out and gone forever) and will provide word of mouth (they’ll start talking about your old stuff that they can’t have).

Do you run your own online store and have tips that you would like to add? Feel free to mention them in the comment section below! Think these ideas suck or wouldn’t work – let me know why!

Connect It USB Head

So I wanted in on the Threadless Quilt Contest but I had to work for it. One of the requirements to even be eligible to win the custom Threadless quilt was that you had to submit an entry into the Threadless Calendar Contest. There are twelve months and therefore twelve potential winners! I hope my entry makes the Top 12! And even if I don’t get the Threadless Quilt, if my calendar entry makes it to the Top 12 I win a Threadless gift certificate and a free calendar with me in it!

Here are some of my favorites from the other entries:

Desired Hearts – A Charitable Business Model

Desired Hearts is the newest fashion startup from Roby Fitzhenry, Creative Director of  Always Creative and Matthew Fruge. They are the latest to join the handful of T-shirt design submission sites that have ongoing contests for cash prizes. The most well known site based on this model is Threadless, however, both Roby and Matt are quick to point out that Desired Hearts has no desire to compete with the Threadless powerhouse. Instead, they plan to have the ongoing contests be a component to the larger plan – to develop a top fashion label by enlisting well-known and established artists and designers, while at the same time making sure that proceeds from profits earned is donated to deserving charities. 

I had the fortunate opportunity to talk to Roby and Matt from Desired Hearts. They talk a bit about how Desired Hearts was founded and how the charitable model was conceived. Matt and Roby also discuss how they are challenging themselves, collectively as a team, to develop a quality driven fashion label. 

Coty: Charity plays a big role in Desired Hearts’ business model. How did the idea of making charity a major component of Desired Hearts come about?

Roby: Matt came to us (Always Creative) with the idea of starting a clothing company that gives to charity. Our entire team became immediately interested and a business deal was struck. The more we thought about the idea, the more we all loved it, which eventually led to us even renaming the idea to Desired Hearts. Our name represents the love that everyone seeks out whether it be from support for your t-shirt design, support of a specific charity or even just the feeling that you’re a part of something greater. Hopefully in the future we can change the way businesses look at philanthropy.

Matt: I don’t remember the exact moment I had the idea. I think it came to be over a period of time thinking about different ways of doing business. The guys and gals at Threadless really pioneered the community driven business model. I didn’t really want Desired Hearts to be another Threadless, but the value of your customers’ feedback before you go into production is priceless. We really want to bring that model to the world of fashion, with custom garments from designers who might not have the resources available to get it done themselves. The charity part was always going to be part of whatever the business became. Like Roby mentioned, the original name was Donor Threads…lol! Looking back, I’m glad they worked their re-branding magic on the name.

Coty: The charity component has changed a bit and you have also elicited input from the Emptees community as to how Desired Hearts should go about “giving” to charities. Explain a bit about how the charity part of Desired Hearts works.

Roby: I love the Emptees community and respect their opinions. Although I’m still a rather new member, we decided to put our questions to the community in hopes of solid feedback. Initially, we were going to just give $2 per shirt to charity, $3 per shirt to the winning designer as well as initial winnings of $500. However, we’ve decided to give $5 per shirt to charity and $500 to the winning designer with the choice to keep the cash or give some or all to a charity of their choice. Everyone needs a little cash sometimes and we respect that. We just hope that as the site grows, the amount of proceeds we give to charities grows with it.

Matt: Ditto!

Coty: The online communities that have developed at Threadless and Design By Humans seems to be a driving force behind the growth of those brands. How do you plan to build the community at Desired Hearts and do you have any plans for utilizing the various social networking tools (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc) available to build you community?

Roby: Great question. One thing we feel is very different about Desired Hearts is that we are really trying to develop a fashion label. Although we will have ongoing contests, we’re also seeking out and commissioning top designers to collaborate with our in-house team. We already have two amazing designers lined up for collaboration so stay tuned for the news! We will also continue to be as fully integrated in social media platforms as we can. We’re on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter and will be expanding to others soon. Our fingers are crossed that people realize that you can support a fashion label and the world around you simultaneously.

Matt: The Social Media movement, or whatever you want to call it, has really kind of taken the place of what T.V. used to represent in people’s lives. It’s a connection with the rest of the world, and what they are doing on a whole new level.  And as far as marketing goes, I’ll be the first to admit that online ads are just as annoying as T.V. commercials, but marketing through your own network of people that are somewhat interested in whatever you are doing is taking the ability of targeted marketing to companies that don’t have an advertising budget. And it’s not an “in the face” approach like traditional ads. People can come to you on their own terms, which makes for a higher quality user. We plan on using these resources as best we can in order to grow our community of like-minded people.

Coty: How did you go about selecting the initial crop of charities that Desired Hearts and its designers will be donating too? Any plans on expanding this list of charities in the future?

Matt: We know there are thousands of non-profits out there doing great things, and we would love to be able to touch them all. However, just starting out, we wanted to use some that maybe everyone has heard of. Another reason for keeping the list small is impact. If we started out with 20 different charities, then each one might be getting $2.50 every three months or so (we pay out donations quarterly). We figured we could have a greater impact if we were giving $100 or whatever instead. So until business picks up a little, we would like to keep the list around the same size. But we definitely will be adding to the list as the company’s capabilities to help those charities grow.

Roby: Ditto back at Matt! However, I wanted to also mention that we really are planning to push DH as a way to help community efforts such as fundraisers, etc. Once we fine-tune all these details, we’ll make some updates on the site so people know what’s up.

Coty: As the co-founder of Desired Hearts, what has the experience of building a startup been like? Has it been everything you’ve expected?

Roby: Luckily, Always Creative has been in business just long enough for us all to know what to expect: nothing at all. Startups are never guaranteed and I think that’s what makes it so exciting. We’ve taken an idea we’re extremely proud of, used endless hours and cups of coffee to refine it, and then sent it out for the world to see (and hopefully love). Lesson for those interested: you need capital. Trust me on that one.

Matt: Definitely need money! Not to say you can’t bootstrap it, because we are. You have to be smart about what you spend your money on for sure. If you run out, you’re pretty much dead in the water. Luckily we are still swimming…ha-ha. And I’m glad we are debt free. It would be awesome to have a loan amount big enough to do everything we want to do right off the bat, but sometimes it’s best to go slow so you don’t make the mistakes that end up costing thousands of dollars. And at the end of the month, who wants to worry about another bill! Moral of the story: know what size fish you are and eat accordingly.

Coty: Finally, what are some of the goals that you and the rest of the Desired Hearts team have set for the new site?

Matt: We want to continue to polish the site and add new features, both on the front end and the back end. This is my first web-based project, and I must say I had no idea how much development takes place when creating a site from scratch. The guys at Downtown Cartel and Always Creative, have done an amazing job conceptualizing, branding, a building the site. We’ve had our ups and downs, but overall it’s been one of the coolest and most rewarding things I’ve done.

Roby: Haha .. happy Matt doesn’t hate us. One of our team members, Jimmy, the guy who did all the sweet icons and helped with the overall site design, is definitely becoming our “Director of Cool”. He has thrown out some great ideas about how we can make Desired Hearts run with the best. Some of our ideas include making our own custom shirts which will most likely come from a “cut and sew” competition. We plan to continue to make as many small videos of our adventures as possible and work with some of the top talent in the industry. We’re also gearing up to launch shirts that focus more on our identity just to give people options. I’d say our biggest goal is just to challenge what’s expected out of a company our size. No one on our collective team backs down to a challenge. Our challenge: to create a high-end, custom fashion label that is respected for quality, individuality, the ability to give and the guts to take things on head first.

I definitely have to thanks both Roby and Matt for agreeing to take the time out to do this interview with me – it is very much appreciated! Also a big shout out to Roby for working closely with me on this, going back and forth on email was definitely worth it! I wish the Desired Hearts team the best of luck with this awesome venture!

And just in case you haven’t already seen this, here’s a behind the scenes sneak peak at the Desired Hearts photo shoot for the initial set of t-shirt prints.

Threads – A New Threadless iPhone App!

Here’s a great and fun little iPhone app that I just discovered while perusing the Threadless forum boards. Developed by Threadless user Ian Marsh (eeenmachine), Threads allows you to easily browse in-stock designs at Threadless straight from the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Not only can you browse Threadless tees, but you can buy tees directly from within the App (ok, this is a stretch, the app forwards you to the Threadless site via Safari). The app also makes use of the accelerometer – you are shown a different tee design every time you shake the phone while the app.

Even cooler, you can save these beautiful designs directly to your iPhone by tapping on the camera icon. Onc you click the camera icon all onscreen menus disappear and your left just with the design. From there you use the screen capture trick and then images are saved to your photo album and can then be used as Wallpaper for your iPhone! Pretty slick little app, I think! The app itself is snappy and works excellently on my first generation iPhone.