"I've seen this cool shirt, can you do it for me?"
First things first. This is not meant as a pop at anyone. My belief is that there is room in the market for everyone. I don't try to trash our competition, because I don't see them as competition. I see them as another company in the same business who are doing what they need to do to make money in a tough market place, they provide you with the choice that you, as a consumer, deserve to have.
That being said, here is why they don't bother me. Open a new tab in your browser and google "Quints Shark Fishing t-shirt"
What's the first thing you noticed? The thing I noticed was that there were a whole lot of shirts and they all looked pretty much the same. In some cases exactly the same. And some of them were being sold by the same company, at different prices! So what's going on here?
The simple answer is that a lot of the companies you're seeing are fufilment companies. They allow you to upload a design, and sell it through their website, when you get a sale they will print the shirt and ship it for you. What do they get? they get a % of the sale.
Now this is a great idea, used at its best. It means that artists who want their designs on a shirt can get it at a reasonable cost without having to commit to a fairly large print run, and the considerable outlay that entails, at a screen printers.
They can do this because they use a process called DTG (Direct To Garment) printing. Think of your computer printer, but much bigger, and it prints on a shirt not paper. There is nothing wrong with DTG printing, as long as its done well, and that you as a consumer follow the care instructions properly, it should provide a fairly durable print with a fairly good feel. But even the DTG makers admit it isn't the same quality as a screen print.
But there are problems with the fufilment model. I'm sure you've spotted the main one. There is nothing stopping you downloading a "Quints" design this afternoon and then sending it off to one of these services. Hell, if you're feeling creative you might change a font, or as has happened in some of the examples I saw on my google search, just flip the shark image, or not even bother with that.
I am not in any way saying these companies are doing anything wrong by the way, they rely on the honesty of the people uploading designs. Never having used one, I dont know what checks they do, but I do know that I have a friend who used one of these companies for a while, and he said that he had to tick a box saying the design was his and he wasnt breaching any copyright. (I must stress he was selling his own original artwork).
From those companies it's just a small step to have other shirt printers do a variation on one of these designs. Believe me, it's tempting. They sell! We all need to make money, and I know I could knock up a "Quints" design this afternoon, make it just diffrent enough, and start selling it, and i'm pretty confident it would do well. Hell yes, its tempting.
You can even try to justify it, "there are so many people doing it, I wouldn't even know who I was really copying anymore", "everyone is doing it, why shouldn't I?", "If I don't do it, you'll buy the shirt from someone who is, and I need the money".
So back to the question, Why DON'T we print a "Quints Shark Fishing" design? To answer the question, let's look at the 3 core values that we have as a company. The 3 things that I really believe make the Namless City Apparel brand.
Customer Service, Quality and Originality.
We really try hard on the customer service front. We try to go way above and beyond what we have to do by law. We try to go above what we think is good cuastomer service. Lots of our reviews mention customer service, and they are the reviews I am most proud of.
Let's touch on the quality side. All of our designs are hand screen printed. We use Discharge ink on dark shirts and Water Base on light shirts. The Discharge ink uses a chemical process to re dye the shirt. To explain it in a very simplified manner, it bleaches out the dye that the shirt manufacturer used to make that natural cotton shirt black and re dyes it with the Red, or Blue or Yellow or whatever colour ink we are putting down in the design. What this means is that the ink, and therefore the design, forms a part of the shirt. After it's been washed for the first time to get rid of any residue, you can't feel the ink, in the same way that you cant feel the black dye on the rest of the shirt. As the design is now part of the shirt, you can iron it, (try that with one of those heavy plastisol prints if you want to destoy the print and or your iron!) It wont crack or peel and it'll wear nicely with the shirt. And one of the things I love, especialy in this heat we are having, is that it breathes.
The drawbacks of this ink? Well, it does need washing before you wear it and its quite wasteful to the printer. You don't need to worry about the wash before wear by the way, we do that for you. See? Customer service. Most people who use this ink will just send a Wash Before Wear instruction with your shirt, and some won't even bother with that.
There are other drawbacks as well, but they are all drawbacks to the printer during the print process, so we don't need to worry about them here. But those drawbacks mean that most printers will charge you a large premium for shirts printed in this ink.
At this point, check that google search again, look at the prices of lots of those "Quints" shirts. Some of them are pretty expensive, certainly more than our shirts. That's another problem with the fufilment company model, for the person uploading the design to make money, they have to charge you more to cover the cut taken by the fufilment company. And remember, those shirts are printed DTG.
Finaly, let's look at our 3rd value, originality. This is the crux of the reason we don't print "Quints".
I want to tell you about something that happened when I was just starting out, I wasn't selling shirts at this point, I was printing for myself and giving the odd shirt away. I had done a couple of designs I liked, and decided to look at doing a design for the John Carpenter film "The Fog". I did a design, printed it up and gave one to my mate Andy. Both of us liked the design, I was a happy bunny. Until I saw a shirt that looked suspiciously like the one I had done. It wasnt exactly the same, but the concept was the same. So I did a google image search. And low and behold, much like the search you guys did for "Quints" I saw lots of stuff that looked like what I had done, and lots of shirts that looked exactly the same as each other. Maybe i'd already seen this shirt in the past and it stuck in my memory and I unwittingly copied it? I dont know. But I do know how I felt. I stopped doing that print straight away, I sent an email to the company that my shirt most closely resembled apologising for copying their idea, bear in mind here, I wasnt selling my stuff and the chances of that company seeing the shirt I had printed were non existant, but that isnt important. What is important is that I knew I wanted and needed to be original.
So that brings us to today. We believe that the designs we sell are unique. They are our take on the books and films we love. This is both our strength and our weakness. We are operating in a niche market here, and by going against the established designs, we know that we loose some sales. Hell, that "Quints" design is being done by so many people for the simple reason that its popular. It sells.
So I know that some of you will look at our range and be diaspointed we dont carry a "Quints". Or a "USCSS Nostromo", or an "Overlook Hotel". All I can tell you is that we will try to continue to push the envelope with our designs, we will try to be as original as we can be whilst still giving you that cool expierence of a real fan acknowledging the shirt you are wearing, of "getting it".
And sometimes we totally miss. "Fay Wray", "Valar Morghulis". Neither of those have clicked at all. But that's the way with design, just because I like something, doesn't mean its going to appeal to anyone else. Why dont these sell? Maybe they are just too inside, they are certainly fairly obscure. Or maybe they are just not great designs.
But I'd rather take them down and try again to get something that hits, rather than just print a shirt with "Winter is Coming" or "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" on it.
Ok, if youve made it this far, thank you so much. I hope you understand what i'm trying to achieve with Nameless City Apparel, and I hope it's something you want.
If you do want one of the "Quints" shirts, and many others like it, please try to find the companies that made those designs in the first place. Here in the UK I would suggest a company whose initials are LETN, they seem to be the source of lots of the designs that get copied the most. At least if youre buying from them you are giving your money to the people who put in the initial work and who should benefit from their designs. And they screen print by the way. I am in no way affiliated with them, and they probably don't even know i exist, I am mentioning them as they are the company whose "Fog" design I unwittingly copied and they were really gracious with their reply to my email at the time.
If you want a different take on Jaws, have a look at our 2 Jaws shirts here, and if you want a unique take on the "Fog" have a look here. This is the design done for us exclusively by the awesome Kevin McHugh, you can buy a mug of this design from him here. Some of our more sucessful designs are done by the great Andy Soar, find him on Instagram here.
For our full range of shirts, click here
Nameless City Apparel