New T–shirt design! What next?
August 9, 2008 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I've got a great idea for a t–shirt design: what are the steps to take it from an idea to a finished product?

I've always worn my t–shirts a certain way and after fiddling about with it a little I feel like I've come up with an original t–shirt design that might appeal to a certain clientele.

However, it is a design, so it's not something I could just create a jpg of and stamp it on a white t–shirt that some online stores offer the possibility of.

What are the steps I would have to take in order to get a 100 t–shirts of these made and then sold in some form? How much would it cost? Do I need to trademark the design in advance and how would one do that?

Thanks so much!
posted by fantasticninety to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It might not be entirely the way you're looking to do it, but threadless is well worth checking out, even if just for the cool user / open submitted designs of others.
posted by protorp at 9:48 AM on August 9, 2008

I've always worn my t–shirts a certain way...
However, it is a design, so it's not something I could just create a jpg of...

It almost seems like you're talking about the actual construction of the t-shirt, rather than graphics printed on the shirt. Am I reading that right?
posted by niles at 10:33 AM on August 9, 2008

There are plenty of companies around offering differing levels of service.

Cafepress will set you up with a web store so you upload the design, they take care of the web shop and printing, and they just send you your cut. But they use a one-off printing process, and I don't know what the quality is like.

As protorp mentions, Threadless screen print and sell users' designs, but I think they are more selective about what they will print. They use screen printing, so the results are just like a store-brought t-shirt.

Alternately, if you can take care of sales yourself, there are probably t-shirt manufacturers in your locality who will produce what you want - check the phone book. Mane sure you ask what kind of manufacturing process they use and confirm it suits your needs.
posted by Mike1024 at 10:48 AM on August 9, 2008

Re: Niles

Design was the wrong word maybe. What I mean to say is that the t–shirt would be a plain white but the cut of the shirt would be original.
posted by fantasticninety at 1:21 PM on August 9, 2008

I think you are going to have a very tough time getting prototype garments produced with any sort of the economy at the volumes you are describing. I doubt there is a reasonable alternative (of the rapid prototyping sort) to basically hand tailoring which would cost a fortune (if it's a modification that could be made to existing t-shirt designs it might be less but I seriously suspect that if a human has to sew it it won't be worth it). Quite a while ago I had an idea about a t-shirt with a novel textile and I would frankly have been much better off immediately forgetting about it. The t-shirt business is geared towards mass-production and standardization. Nobody in business was interested in oddball stuff (even though I was very able to sell these shirts at a profitable margin when I could actually get them placed in retail) and they really didn't see the value of dealing with someone who had single clothing product. And what I was doing wasn't as weird as what you seem to be suggesting - I was at least eventually able to get more or less mass-produced shirts, although from an exotic source that increased the cost considerably. I lost money (though not a ton) and it wasn't really worth it. If you really want to pursue it I'd try googling a phrase like garment prototyping and try to see if anyone does this in some kind of semi-automated way that could bring it into the realm of cost-effectiveness. Work those numbers hard before you sink any real money into it.
posted by nanojath at 3:10 PM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sad news:
One cannot trademark or copyright a design. It’s not legally possible. Someone can copyright a print, pattern; even a color (Mattel has claimed a certain shade of pink in the name of Barbie) but one cannot copyright a design. Years ago Ralph Lauren was brought to court by Yves Saint Laurent on the basis that he had stolen his tuxedo dress idea. After many difficult weeks it was finally decided that garments and the parts that make them up (i.e. collars, sleeves, bodices et all) are essentially public domain to be used by anyone and that someone cannot trademark and/or copyright something that was not entirely created by said person. I.e. a t-shirt is a t-shirt, it’s a jersey knit tube with sleeves. One can’t stake claim to it.
posted by hibery at 2:00 PM on August 10, 2008

Thanks so much for that response! That's kind of a shame, because if my design or "cut" took off it would be very easy for other companies to copy it without paying a license fee. Hmm...
posted by fantasticninety at 4:44 PM on August 10, 2008

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