Limited editions have turned the lowly t-shirt into a status symbol. Often intentionally crude or unpolished, they provide consumers an affordable way to express their individuality. And, while it may seem the limited edition concept would have a limited shelf life, its success shows no sign of fading. A few ways limited edition tees are staying au courant:
Locking In Subscribers
Buddies Paul Marlow and Matthew Sandager made a few cool tees in their Brooklyn basement. Their eureka moment? One day a friend prepaid them for their next 5 designs. Now a $145 subscription to kadorable.com gets members one hip tee a month for 5 months. They've been going strong since 2003 and are now up to "issue" #42 and the subscription idea has been widely copied (see Punk Planet merchandise).
Big Business + Maverick Artists
Limited Edition tees and big business may not be incompatible after all. Sports giant Fila has tapped the emerging artists of the New York Collective for the Arts to create a limited edition t-shirt series. The theme? Artists like sports, too. The shirts will be available at US Fila retail stores on a bi-weekly basis starting in April 2006.
Tapping an Unlimited Design Source
The basis of any successful tee is a cool design. And threadless.com has come up with an inexhaustible resource: consumers themselves. The site is basically an ongoing shirt design competition. Anyone can enter, and submissions are scored by site visitors. High-scoring designs are then printed in small batches which (unsurprisingly) almost always sell out. Threadless also fudges the notion of true 'limited' editions, since they'll reprint a design if there's consumer demand.
For the last word, let's turn to The TeeJunkie. Always in search of his next t-shirt fix, his eponymous website (teejunkie.com) reviews and rates the latest offerings from an estimated 1,500 web retailers of limited edition t-shirts. Having noticed the increasing commoditization of his passion, he's changed his site's tagline to: "this is where you are gonna find the next t-shirt Urban Outfitters is gonna rip off."