Picking up from where I left off over a year ago: 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.
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 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.
While most sweatshirts out there will use 340 gsm (aka whatever sweatshirt fabric), some luxury t-shirts will use 310 gsm jersey.
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 maybe your customer will 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...
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 also sells really nice t-shirts in fine jersey... for €17 each, or €45 for a pack with 3. No way you're gonna beat those prices!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.
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 that's not the most important thing.