I feel like I’m being set up as a lightening rod. Quite a few people continue to send me messages, calls and tips regarding this new breed of “fashion designer”. I’m sensing this is a topic people want to discuss, so come on in. The door is open, comment away. You’re going to be sorry you asked.
DE means Designer-Entrepreneur. DEs are lean, pull-manufacturers who scare up the time, talent and resources to produce products they thought of themselves (for the most part). I help DEs. These new people are WOATS (Words On A Tee Shirt) and then there’s GOATS (Graphics On A Tee Shirt). There are several kinds of WOATS/GOATS. Some of them are genuine artists selling reprints of their work on shirts, some are outgrowths of political and other product sites but I’m not referring to those. I’m talking about self-proclaimed fashion WOATS.
It annoys me when people co-opt words. If I don’t like it when home sewing book authors call themselves industrial or couture experts, or even industrial and couture experts, or brand-in-a-can shake-n-bake manufacturers lauding their own brilliance, you know I’m not going to like WOATS who call themselves fashion designers. This particular breed of WOATS seem to be 20-something otherwise-unemployed graphic-artists or marketing majors who have co-opted the term “fashion”. They can call themselves unique original fashion designers all they like but how do they expect anyone to take them seriously? I must get 3 phone calls and 10 emails a week from WOATS -who don’t want to buy the book but they expect me to provide them with personalized answers and get nasty if I don’t. They’re rude. I asked yesterday’s WOAT how I was making money on his phone call if he didn’t even buy my book and he graciously offered to “advertise” me once he’d made it. Why would I want every Tom, Dick and Mary he knows to call me for free advice? I think he was surely possessed by demons. What’s with this new generation of entrepreneurs? Why do they think everything is free? Why am I supposed to grovel and feel grateful for the privilege of providing advice free? But it gets worse.
Judging from an informal survey of WOATS websites, original art and design has been reduced to rectangularly shaped, knitted cotton staples with dye slapped on it. That’s it. They proudly proclaim they’re not like “the big guys” or use sweatshops -as though we did. Is that the best they can do? It’s frightening. The only thing that WOATS produce beyond bad attitude are graphic images in the form of narcissistic sound bites or similar trivialities silk screened on a tee-shirt. The market is so huge that they have discussion forums. A popular topic on one site was the protection of their intellectual property rights. Concerned about this purportedly rampant design theft, I surveyed their websites but I didn’t see anything that would have been worth anyone’s time or effort to copy. If anybody’s copying anybody, they’re copying each other on their same level -the themes were all the same- who else would want to copy them? The one thing they do well is logo and website design. Their sites and logos are fabulous (the most-posted thread on that site was PR) but their products are sad. Their talk doesn’t match their walk.
Here’s a list of terms used on their sites (in bold) with the translation next to it:
- all new: New ink colors
- classy: tee shirts for low-rent prostitutes
- colorful: one color graphic on a white background
- hip: v-neck tee shirt rather than round-necked
- diva: see classy
- eclectic: items found on the ground outside of a dumpster are glued to a tee-shirt
- edgy: sleeveless tee-shirts
- inspired by ___ (pick one): forests, the ocean, the mountains, japan, bikes, music etc
- limited edition: we sunk every cent we had into one tee shirt (many sites only had one).
- one of a kind: I couldn’t manage quality control if my life depended on it.
- original: ubiquitous
- retro, modern and urban art: tee shirts laundered after the ribbing was torn off.
- subtle, clever, and witty: candy hearts prose + potty mouth
- tops/blouses: tee shirts
- unique: camouflaged screen print with a peace sign
- vintage: 70’s era polyester thrift-store-reject tee shirts.
- wearable art: stencil-painted tee shirts
- whimsical art: barnyard animals silk-screened on tee shirts
The market is so huge that there’s sub-categories, like the WOAS (Words On A Skirt) people, WOATB (Words On A Tote Bag) who are similarly inspired. Here’s some of what they say:
- vintage finds: new, cheap vinyl handbags and cheap solid color socks
- fantastic detail: the print of the cheap fabric store cotton fabric of the tote bag with cheap webbing straps, is detailed.
- couture-designer fitted pencil skirt: the skirt fits sizes 4-12 with a drawstring waist. And no, I’m not kidding
- designer skirt: two rectangles with an elastic waist with a 4″ ruffle at skirt edge. Comes with or without words or an image
If this is the best they can do, we’re in worse shape than I thought. Maybe I should go back to school; I’ve always been interested in environmental engineering.