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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys,

I'm just in the process of starting my own t-shirt line. At the moment I'm spending a lot of time choosing a blank t-shirt. There's so much to choose from and it can get a get a bit daunting at times trying to decide whether to go for the cheaper blanks or the expensive ones. But lately I've been thinking a lot about a certain aspect of the blank tee.

The general consensus with regards to designing an indie/urban/streetwear brand is that American Apparel is the blank to go with, and then to advertise the fact that "We Use American Apparel", because all the cool kids love AA and they will buy your designed t-shirt for that reason.

Generally speaking, I don't really believe this to be true. And on top of that, I believe that letting your customers know what blanks you print on, will cheapen your brand. It kinda ruins the magic, if you know what I mean. Even if I did print on AA, mentioning "blank tees" to your customers just sounds a bit amateur-ish and homemade. I wouldn't want my brand to give off that kind of vibe, personally.

We t-shirt designers/printers are very savvy when it comes to blank tees, and we assume that our customers are the same, also. Again, I don't think that is generally the case.

Back when I didn't design t-shirts and was just another average Joe going shopping for tees, I didn't dwell on what brand of blank shirt was used to print on. If I liked the design and look of the tee and was excited by the vibes the brand was giving off, then I would buy it. I would pay top dollar for it too.

What does everyone else think?
 

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Re: Advertising what "blanks" you use, to your cutomers.

I agree withe everything you just said and you pretty much answered your own questions.

If i saw a sweet *** design on a Gildan shirt I probably wouldn't buy it. People just know that the shirts are cheap and not fashion focused. So why would some one buy a fashion focused design on a less quality shirt. If any thing remove the labels for your own brand security cause in most cases people cant tell the difference if the tag is removed.

There's know reason to claim what blanks you are using. It looks cheap, even if its AA that your using. When I look at new brands I'm looking for that brand to own that shirt. My shirt, my logo, my brands blanks. Not AA's not any body else's, mine!

Don't leave any traces of another company on your shirts.
 

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Re: Advertising what "blanks" you use, to your cutomers.

If you are retailing the shirts direct to consumer, then yes, I think there is some value to advertising that you use AA blanks. There is value in using a brand that consumers are familiar with and know how it fits and feels. Especially when selling online. Consumers are weary of buying a shirt without touching it and trying it on. But if they know it's AA, perhaps they will feel comfortable and confident in making the purchase. And after all, you are paying premium prices for AA, so you may as well get every advantage you can get. This theory only applies to premium blanks. I wouldn't advertise using Gildan. But I would advertise using AA.

But if you are selling through retailers, then I think it's important to give the perceived value of a custom style. I think retailers expect this as well. They don't want to carry brands that are simply "printed on blanks." It makes them look like they are carrying some knockoff, not an original brand. So I think brands owe it to their retailers to have the best perceived value possible.

Pricing is another factor here. If you're going to advertise using AA, then I think it's important to price according to AA. Don't expect to retail at $40 when AA sells at $20. Many consumers will be savvy enough to see through that. If your brand and artwork generate enough demand to raise prices to that level, then that's different. But chances are, by the time that happens, you will have upgraded to a custom style garment anyway.

As for consumer preference, it depends on your target market. Fashion conscious consumers will care about the fit and style, not just the design. But if you are targeting a niche, and your design focuses on that niche, then I agree that the design matters more than the fit or style of the garment.
 

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Re: Advertising what "blanks" you use, to your cutomers.

AA is a bit different than other brands like say "Article1" or "Next Level Apparel" in that American Apparel does have a LOT of brand recognition outside of the designer/t-shirt world.

They have retail stores in some of the busiest shopping places in the world where they sell their "blank tees" for $20 with NO design.

So mentioning that you use a familiar blank t-shirt brand that has spent time marketing itself as a "cool" brand can have its benefits if your customers are in that demographic.

Generally speaking though, if you're selling slogan t-shirts to middle America, it might not make a big difference, but in that case you may want to mention that your t-shirts are Made in America which might be a benefit.

Another benefit of mentioning what t-shirt brand you use is for sizing. A customer buying online can't try on your t-shirt, but if they do have another t-shirt in their closet from American Apparel, they will know which size to buy, which helps you with the sale.

Hanes is also another familiar brand of t-shirt, so if you're using Hanes Beefy tees, it can help customers get an idea of the t-shirt fit and style.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to write a response. You all make some very good points.

I agree that selling t-shirts (or any clothing) online is a totally different ball-game because customers can't touch, feel, try on the garment they're buying. Which is why printing on an established brand will give the buyer peace of mind because they're familiar with the AA fit.

That said though, what if you're not a fan of the American Apparel fit? I am actually one of those people. A few weeks ago I saw a t-shirt on Threadless.com that I really liked, but was turned off buying it because it was printed on AA.

The thing I find with AA (and I know other people who feel this way too) is that if you're not built like the AA models in their adverts, i.e... tall, stick thin, washboard stomach..etc.. then their t-shirts can actually be quite un-flattering. Not to mention that there's people who just hate American Apparel as a company. That's why I think having the 'WE USE AMERICAN APPAREL' banner on your website can have a negative effect as well as positive.


Don't leave any traces of another company on your shirts.

I personally think that's the best policy. What I don't want is customers looking at what blanks I've used, figuring out the cost of the blank, getting their calculator out, doing the maths in their head and deciding whether my t-shirt is good value for money or not, based on that. :D
 

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what does it mean to have upgraded to a custom style garment?
When indy brands start getting popular and are carried in retail stores, boutiques, etc, they usually upgrade from using off-the-shelf blank garments to using garments that are customized to their exact specifications (style and fit). This customization is what sets them apart from other brands, especially brands that are using common blanks like Gildan, Anvil, American Apparel, Article1, etc. There's certainly nothing wrong with using these brands, but using custom garments is what takes your brand to the next level.

Where do you obtain those?
Most domestic suppliers offer private label programs, but it usually requires high minimums. If you really start doing high volume, you may want to look into overseas factories (China, India, Pakistan, Honduras, etc).
 

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That said though, what if you're not a fan of the American Apparel fit? I am actually one of those people. A few weeks ago I saw a t-shirt on Threadless.com that I really liked, but was turned off buying it because it was printed on AA.
If you are using American Apparel, but don't want your customers to know because they may not like the fit, then you'll probably have more returns than necessary.

I think it's better to be transparent about it. If the customer doesn't like the brand of t-shirt you're using, then they probably won't like it when they get it home.

I think it's better to have an excited customer than one that isn't 100% happy with what they got.

The thing I find with AA (and I know other people who feel this way too) is that if you're not built like the AA models in their adverts, i.e... tall, stick thin, washboard stomach..etc.. then their t-shirts can actually be quite un-flattering.
I am definitely not stick thin and don't fit the typical "AA" look, but I think the AA 2001 t-shirts fit very well (and I wear a XXL or XXXL). I prefer the longer length.

Some of their other styles are more slim fitting, but that one isn't as much.

Not to mention that there's people who just hate American Apparel as a company. That's why I think having the 'WE USE AMERICAN APPAREL' banner on your website can have a negative effect as well as positive.
Those people probably wouldn't want to be your customers anyway if they knew you were using a brand you hate.

Why not let them make the decision before they buy instead of having them find out later some other way and have them spread the negative word about your company?
 

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I think it's better to be secretive about it.
but definitely post the specs of the shirt.
If you just post the specs of the fit...even if it is AA, it is more your line, than just another line printed on "enter brand here"
I think it brings perceived value and you should always bring more value to your brand.
but remember value doesn't always equal sales.

Granted if you are just trying to sell more shirts to the "AA" crowd....advertising you use them would be very beneficial.

kimura-mma is right, custom garments is how the big boys do it, and if you can get to that level, it will distinguish your brand.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I think it's better to be secretive about it.
but definitely post the specs of the shirt.
Yea, I think having all the specifications is the important thing. Not just the chest size but also collar, length, sleeve...etc. Also, if you have a model modeling your shirts - putting the height and weight of the model is a good idea. I used to notice a lot of Ebay sellers do this when selling clothing. Now a few professional clothing sites I've seen have adopted this method too.
 

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I was under the impression that AA didn't like people designing on their garments...from what i read somewhere, someone approached their flag ship store in central london with regards to purchasing a bulk lot, and were informed that this was against AA'd protocol and wasn't allowed. Not sure if this applies to each country or if that was just the store being arsy... I obviously know that many people on here do print on AA's, but from what i find, most of you are based in the States or outside of Europe, which is why AA is that much harder to import direct, and so far there don't appear to be any suppliers dealing with AA in the UK, apart from AA themselves whom don't sell to the public.

But maybe i'm wrong...:confused:

As has been said already...it's nigh on impossible to find a tagless t-shirt of a high calibre and design. The best you would come across is Continental...i say best for quality, but i know many have issues with their size, and they also include a tag with their logo inside the garment...and whilst not a neck label, is still a label so isn't entirely tagless since their brand can still be seen. To get an unbranded/tagless t-shirt designed to your specification means you really have to go bespoke, and that would mean getting yourself over to a country where they can manufacture your tees. However, as said previously, this means purchasing MOQ's which usually are 600 pieces per size/colour, which to be honest, unless you have orders on hold is going to be hard for an up and coming label. Every label started somewhere, and i would say, testing your designs on a branded shirt, ie Gildan/FOTL, getting your sales and then moving on from their....Dont' start running before you can walk as the t-shirt printing is a saturated market.
 

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I was under the impression that AA didn't like people designing on their garments...from what i read somewhere, someone approached their flag ship store in central london with regards to purchasing a bulk lot, and were informed that this was against AA'd protocol and wasn't allowed.
That's totally incorrect :)

AmericanApparel has a very active wholesale department that sells to garment decorators who print other people's designs on them.

You can't go into an AA retail store and try to buy wholesale, but if you're a qualified buyer, you can buy wholesale AA blanks to decorate directly from AA or from one of their distributors like Sun Apparel or TSCApparel.
 

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If you are using American Apparel, but don't want your customers to know because they may not like the fit, then you'll probably have more returns than necessary.

I think it's better to be transparent about it. If the customer doesn't like the brand of t-shirt you're using, then they probably won't like it when they get it home.

I think it's better to have an excited customer than one that isn't 100% happy with what they got.



I am definitely not stick thin and don't fit the typical "AA" look, but I think the AA 2001 t-shirts fit very well (and I wear a XXL or XXXL). I prefer the longer length.

Some of their other styles are more slim fitting, but that one isn't as much.



Those people probably wouldn't want to be your customers anyway if they knew you were using a brand you hate.

Why not let them make the decision before they buy instead of having them find out later some other way and have them spread the negative word about your company?
i don't think i'd like to advertise which brand T's i'm useing just because i agree with the people saying they feel it MAY cheapen the look for certain buyers..

BUT you are 100% correct about being transparent rather then haveing negative people buy your product and spread bad words about it. that and if they knew before hand that they wouldnt like the fit of a certain shirt because you refused to tell them specifically on the basis that they may not buy it because of the fit.. that doesn't seem like a very smart way to run a business.

by the way, i'm very new to this forum, and haven't made a single t-shirt in my entire life (except for maybe drawing on them in kindergarten). just so as you all know where im coming from with this opinion, lol.
 

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I am not sure how it is in areas outside of SoCal but here, American Apparel is not a brand recognized as "Streetwear" or "Urban" as far as regular t-shirts are concerned. AA is soft and fitted it is more for the designer brand. Urban labels prefer the heavyweight brands like ProClub or Shakawear. If you advertise that you use ProClub it might be an advantage to some because then people know what to expect as far as shirt quality.
 

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I agree but there are different types of consumers and I feel also it depends on 'what' is on the shirt. There IS a crowd of people who buy -say something like an 'artist series' t-shirt- who may like the fact that they know the print is on a familiar shirt they know will fit them in a certain way but on the other hand there is also a set of people who scorn certain companies like AA and will automatically hate your brand because of it.
I personally like the magic and mystery of not knowing but I guess I can definitely see how saying 'who it is' could work for people.
 

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I def think its a matter of knowing your market. I personally HATE AA, but my clients want American made or organic or both.

I also use Royal Apparel and Alternative, so instead of saying I use these brands I just describe how the fabric feels (Pima cotton super soft) or where it's made (usa) or whether it is organic.

I also sew my labels in the shirts because I have to comply with CPSIA (kids clothing).
 

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i agree with u mrvixx. but i think in hollywood, which is a major tshirt area, the AA type wear is considered urban. its what all the kids and hipsters wear with skinny jeans and hightops and such. u know from the tattoo artist to the screen writers in the coffee shops.

what are the alternatives or competition to AA?
 
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