Luxury t-shirt jersey guide


Picking up from where I left off over a year ago:

Click here to read my Luxury sweatshirt fabric guide.

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.

BUT

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

or

  • 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.

Fabric weight T-shirt jersey samples from a top manufacturer

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 gms

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 cotton jersey
210 gsm samples. What's the difference? TBH I don't remember. It says Anti-pilling in one of them, but I never had too much of a problem with those little fuzz balls in any of my cotton t-shirts.

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...

Fine cotton jersey swatches
Fine cotton jersey swacthes, 145 ~180 gsm.
Special finishings developed by Tintex Portugal for a smoother touch, almost like shirting fabric. Still, they're very good at attracting cat hair, but that's the life I chose...
Fine cotton jersey comparison
Alright, a finer fabric makes it clear your t-shirt is not from a printing company that supplies ready-made pieces to every call centre in your area!
But wait: COS sells really nice t-shirts in fine jersey. For €17 each, or €45 for a pack with 3.
Shit.
Also, here's my unbiased review of the Tintex PLUMMY jersey that I in previous collections:
  • 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 = where is Life's undo button?

In conclusion:

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.

I don't wanna overwhelm you with technical information because I shared something more important: what if you do actually make the best fuckin t-shirt on the planet... and nobody buys it???
Or not even that: what I see with most people is that they get so wrapped up with the technical stuff, they never make an actual sample to get that first hand experience of what works vs. what doesn't.
And that's what design work is all about! Research & Development, not Research obsessively until you're 100% sure your idea will work perfectly on the first try.

Discouraging facts followed by sales pitch:

But what if you worked with the top-notch factory I keep not telling you about?
The one manufacturing for Balenciaga and Acne, and making thousands of pieces for Pangaia every week? If you're in the industry, you know which one I'm talking about.
If you're not, sure, they'll take your order.
But as I said in the intro, you WILL NOT be their priority and your order will be delayed a few days during the sampling stage, then a couple of weeks during mass production.
Meaning, a 3-month process becomes almost 5 months. This is the kind of delay that end up discouraging new brands.
Are you ready to go face-first into the Apparel manufacturing industry with zero experience and zero guidance?
If your answer is a HELL, NO! - click here to learn about my Mentorship sessions.