I was gonna use my go-to example and start this post with the €510 Balenciaga t-shirt that says PS5.
But looks like I've been out of the freelance Tech Pack designer game for so long, there's a new contender (that I know all of you Streetwear dudes are itching to copy) called Mastermind World, selling logo t-shirts for over €700!
And let's not forget about Enfants Riches Déprimés. Seriously, guys, the name says it all: if you're not a trust fund baby yourself, don't try to get a piece of their market.
Again, this post is here to tell you: it is possible to make excellent t-shirts even if you can't put a price tag like that.
Since luxury t-shirts are costing the same as hoodies, let's assume again that a really good quality t-shirt costs less than €45 to be manufactured - but you still need to either:
- a. Know your technical basics, so you know what to look for
- b. Work with the same factories that manufacture for the cool brands (and pay them whatever they ask for to work with your newbie ass + accept that your order WILL NOT be their priority and will be delayed a few days during the sampling stage, then a couple of weeks during mass production).
The "but I don't wanna learn shit, and I want everything ASAP" t-shirt
Just wanna drop it? Cause everyone's saying they love your style, and they'll definitely be your customer?
You might be in for a surprise (ever heard of the book called The 4-hour work week? The writer's spot-on when he says: "Don't ask people IF they'd buy it. Ask them to BUY IT").
Now, dropping a t-shirt line is actually ridiculously f*ckin simple, and I can't tell you how many brands I've seen with a Stanley/Stella or Gildan tag still attached.
I've even seen a t-shirt line in a showroom during Paris Fashion Week that I could swear was made with ready-made t-shirts - even though it came with a long ass tag describing how unique their fabric was, and how conceptual their designs were (basic unisex t-shirts screen printed with basic French greetings... yep, never seen this on IG before).
Copy-pasted tutorial from the Luxury sweatshirt fabric guide:
- Find the nearest garment printing company;
- Choose a ready-made t-shirt from their catalog;
- Send them your artwork but don't go too crazy: keep it smaller than 30 x 40 cm, with less than 3 colours, and don't be so specific they'll have to make your ink to order;
- Oh - here I'm talking about basic screen printing (just like Balenciaga's). Try too hard to be creative and you're gonna need different techniques, with wildly different prices;
- Order 10 to 30 pieces for €6-16 per piece;
- Don’t forget to create a brand label blablabla…
The t-shirt you can be proud to charge over €70 for
See, I'm not just copy-pasting from the sweatshirt post - I changed the price!
€70 ~ €120 is still a really expensive t-shirt, and you can work on making the best product possible.
210 gsm and 310 gsm t-shirt jersey swatches - from the same manufacturer where I did the research for high-end sweatshirts (will I finally disclose their info? Keep reading)
While most sweatshirts out there will use 340 gsm (aka whatever sweatshirt fabric), some luxury t-shirts will use 310 gsm jersey.
Open end cotton jersey, 310 gsm.
This swatch was made with Open-end cotton, that kind of coarse, stiff jersey that Acne Studios love to use.
You might like it, or you might think it feels weird.
Or worse: your customer might think "eew, why is my t-shirt not soft? Are they selling me old t-shirts washed in sea water?".
210 gsm is a good fabric weight for Streetwear and classic unisex t-shirts, but here's a secret: if you look up the fabric weight carefully on the online catalogues for print-ready t-shirts, you'll notice that you can still find plenty of options in 190 gsm and 203 gsm.
So for a Fashion startup, is it really worth it making t-shirts for your first drop?
I made this assumption myself: I must have an entry-level item, t-shirts are a staple, total must-have, it's an easy sale...
That did not make any difference when my marketing plan was all wrong.
Sure, there are people like tech bros who love a quirky tee - but they get those in abundance & for FREE in all the conferences they attend.
Sure, making super expensive versions of promotional t-shirts and touristy souvenirs works brilliantly well for Vetements/ Balenciaga - but would it work for you?
Now, if you used a finer jersey in a lighter fabric weight...
- I love that it drapes like shirting fabric, but still feels comfy like a t-shirt;
- I hated sewing it because it was extremely delicate: my needles had to be constantly replaced, because a slightly dull needle = holes in my fabric.
In this guide, I didn't follow the same structure as the Luxury sweatshirt fabric guide, and ended up talking about Fabric Composition and Fabric Handle as I showed some of the swatches I have in my studio.
But what if you worked with the high-end apparel manufacturer in Portugal I keep not telling you about?