This simple idea was the beginning of Shirt Folk. What grew from that idea was a desire to not only gather curated shirts, but deliver shirts of the best possible quality while still being affordable to buy. We didn’t want do just get awesome illustrators designing our shirts; instead, we wanted those artists to be paid upfront and to have creative freedom to showcase their skills. In short, our thinking moved from our wants to create awesome apparel to creating awesome apparel made and worn by happy people.
Shirt Folk was founded in early 2019 by Rob Green, a screen printer from Westminster, Maryland. He loved seeing the art and creativity that passed through his shop, but felt there was a need for a brand centering around the eclectic nature of creativity. Plus, he knew that providing a new, sustainable platform for illustrators to gain exposure and get paid was always a good thing. So he got to work and began planning.
Rob had been a manual screen printer for seven years before starting Shirt Folk. His first instinct was to go with manual printing and limit the runs to fifty shirts in order to be cost effective and provide a well-crafted product. There were some problems with that, though:
Paying upfront money to purchase blank shirts is a prohibitive and outdated model.
By sinking money into the shirts, there wouldn’t be much money to invest in top-tier talent.
Limiting the runs to fifty meant having to sacrifice the complexity of art. It isn’t profitable for anyone doing a process print on fifty shirts if the goal is to be sustainable, meaning colors and scope would have to be limited. Not good.
Luckily, Rob’s shop had acquired a direct-to-garment (DTG) machine in late 2017 and the printing became a non-issue. DTG isn’t a perfect process, but there are some great perks:
The process is made for small runs of one hundred shirts and under. Making it a perfect print method to operate in the short-run model Rob had envisioned.
If the shirts are treated properly, the prints turn out amazingly soft and colors remain vibrant.
There are nearly no limits on color or complexity and placements become more open. For instance, a full-color, intricate design could be printed over a seam or wrapping around the shirt with relative ease.
With the printing question settled, it was time to find a canvas.
BELLA+CANVAS had been a staple at Rob’s shop for a number of years. Their combination of high-quality blanks, affordable pricing, and ethical manufacturing practices made them a perfect fit for our brand. We are proud to say we print exclusively on BELLA+CANVAS apparel. Here are the models we are currently using in our catalog.
After finding our print method and canvas it was on to the art! Rob had always wanted Shirt Folk to be artist-centric, an ethos we employ by tagging all of our artists in any social media post, featuring them prominently on our Artists section, and, most importantly, paying them in a way that is fair and timely. Each artist is picked by Rob, asked for their rates, and, if the stars align, are commissioned to create a design based off a prompt of our choosing.
Sometimes the prompts have a bit of story. Sometimes simply words. But, in any case, they are brought to life by the hard work of creative people sharing their gifts with us for a bit of time. We are grateful for their time and effort!
If you would like to be a part of the process, please reach out to Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Transparency is an important part of our brand. So we wanted to detail how we price our shirts:
Cost of printing: We personally print all of our shirts and can control the cost to a degree, but we pride ourselves in providing work not only for illustrators, but printers as well. All shirts purchased are acquired from warehouses located in the USA, BELLA+CANVAS ensures that at least some portion of their shirts are made in the USA, and we proudly print our shirts in a partnership with WGM Printing, a print shop located in Westminster, Maryland.
Artist Rates: Our goal is to provide artists with a rate they choose. If we are unable to do that, we would rather wait to work with them when we can provide an affordable garment and have a happy artist then to forfeit either in the pursuit of pushing a project out.
This is a large variable in our printing cost, but we are proud of our artists and will do everything we can to meet their needs.
Shipping + Packaging: We strive to use the most eco-friendly shipping materials we can muster. We are not perfect, but the folks at EcoEnclose provide excellent products at a fair price. We don’t have the cheapest shipping fees, but we don’t want to.
1.6%?!?: Normal retail standards are to charge a 1.9% fee on the cost of a product. In our case, because of the use of DTG printing, we feel confident that a 1.6% charge is a sufficient rate to keep our platform profitable and sustainable for not only us but our printing partners.
In April 2019, Shirt Folk shifted focus to a space to celebrate the apparel industry. We are excited to meet so many amazing people moving forward and we can’t thank you enough for your continued support.
Your time and attention means so much to us.