A Look Behind The Scenes + Plus Sizes, Womenswear and Stretch Goals
I have been looking back on the Kickstarter and we are so, so thrilled that so many people want to get behind this project so that we can have more representation within this amazing fandom. However I would like to address a very common concern throughout, which has been our choice of including womens cuts of underwear as a stretch goal as part of our Kickstarter and also take this as an opportunity to explain a few of our practices and some of our "Why we don't/can't.."s.
Before I get into the meat of it, I'd just like to let you know a few facts about Nomad Complex.
-NC is run by one full-time individual (myself) and the best friend anyone could ask for, who works nights and weekends on top of his full-time job. Oh, and our dogs. They rock.
-NC isn't a large corporation - It is run out of our home in Vancouver, BC. Our office area is three times larger than the room I sleep in, and it is not a large office.
-NC is based in Vancouver, BC, Canada - Attending US conventions at the rate we do is expensive, taxing and difficult. But we do it because we love you guys.
That being said, let's get down to it.
Why did you make womens underwear a stretch goal instead of including them in the regular lineup like the boxer briefs?
Underwear is not like t-shirts, tank tops, bags, hats, sweaters, or anything else that you see in common circulation these days. Most items these days you can create a design and have it printed on to a piece of apparel. Underwear is different. With underwear, you have to source a place to have the fabric created and printed, source a place to have the elastic created and printed, and then find somewhere to have it all sewn together. Then there are the little details, like the size tag, the care tags, etc. We began this Kickstarter with the idea of doing boxer briefs for a couple of reasons.
-They are the most popular cut of underwear that exist.
-We wear them regularly, so we had a better idea of what we, personally, enjoyed the feel of.
-As they are one of the most common cuts, sourcing the folks to put them together was less taxing than creating crazy shapes and patterns.
If you look at our Kickstarter, you'll notice that currently we offer several different design patterns, however only in one style of underwear - Mens boxer briefs. This is because in order to achieve the comfortable product we have now, we had to go through a process called patterning and sampling. Patterning and sampling is when you take your design work to an individual and they "pattern" each individual cut of the garment and fit it to the size ranges that you're going to be offering it in - S-2XL in our cases. This is a process that can take quite a while to nail down. Once the patterning is complete, time is then needed to "sample" the garment - Create a prototype that will serve as the base for the finished product. Doing this entire process for one style of anything is extremely expensive and time consuming. Prototypes typically cost 10-20 times what a product will actually retail for.
We made the decision that we wanted prototypes of each fabric and design to show you before we began our Kickstarter. We didn't want pictures or "rough ideas" of what the underwear would be - We wanted to physically hold them in our hands before we felt the confidence to bring them to you and say "We're ready; here they are." Because we went this route,
The fact of the matter is, creating womens cuts of underwear constitutes the time, money and resources to basically creating a second line of underwear. It doesn't matter that we already have the designs created - It matters that to create womens cuts of underwear, we'd have to start the entire process of sampling, patterning, and creating prototypes over again for essentially what would double our workload thus far. And to top it all off, it's a territory that we are admittedly unfamiliar with.
Okay. So why did you decide to offer it as a stretch goal then? Don't you think that's a bit weird and could upset some people?
Frankly? Yes. We knew it would upset some people. But we also felt more strongly that folks would respond positively to the fact that we are considering these cuts and an entire new spectrum of product in order to fit the fandom. If we have any regrets, it's that we did not post something like this sooner.
The truth of the matter is, we already are in the works of researching, patterning and developing womens cuts of underwear. However due to the expensive nature of the patterning and sampling process, we knew that we couldn't afford to give it the time and attention it needed unless certain goals were met, hence the decision to make it a stretch goal. Hitting that goal will afford us the time and resources to speed up the process to begin the creation of this product. I'd like to pose two questions to you:
-Would you want a product that was rushed, improperly researched, not tested or sampled correctly, given proper feedback and made the most optimal version of what it could be?
-Would you have been more upset if we had completely ignored one half of the fandom entirely and not considered creating these cuts versus letting you know that they're in the works to be created?
What if you don't hit your stretch goal? Are you still going to create underwear for women?
Yes! Absolutely! It won't be right away, but it is the next focus that we have. Keep in mind the name of the platform we used; Kickstarter. This is just the beginning of the Nomad underwear line. There is so, so much more to come as we learn, grow and get better at this!
I see other online retailers offering their design in womens cuts, and can even print it on bags and mugs too. They even have 4XL+ shirts. Why can't you?
This is a very common question we get that will take quite a lot of explaining to answer. The first point we need to make is the difference between what we're going to call the At Home Business (AHB) versus the Print To Order business (PTOB). An AHB is a business that is run from someones home or office and they are responsible for the sourcing, printing, and fulfilment of all of their own stock. A PTOB is a business that offers a service where an individual, usually an independent artist, can host their designs and the hosting website both prints and ships these items based on the orders they receive from the artists customers. An AHB will typically keep a stock on hand of all of their merchandise versus a PTOB who will not physically carry any of their stock. A PTOB will use a DTG (Direct to garment) style printer which offers the ability to print one piece at a time, however at a much reduced quality.
Each of these methods has their pros and cons.
Pros/Cons of an AHB:
-Has complete quality control over the stock that both comes in and goes out of their business; can ensure maximum quality of their product.
-Usually has a lower cost per item leaving their home as they buy in bulk and keep a stock of merchandise on hand.
-Is easy to contact regarding customer service needs, special requests and sale inquiries.
-More personal feel - You have the comfort of knowing you're supporting individuals directly and not paying the bulk of your cash to a large corporate website.
-Able to maintain control over virtually every aspect of their operation without sacrificing quality or integrity.
-Can keep costs lower, as with PTOB sites you are usually fighting for the profit you make - forcing you to raise the prices to make money money.
-Limits the number of items one may have available per design.
-Doesn't offer an endless restock of the items either - A size can be sold out for some time before replenishment can occur.
-Riskier and more expensive - If a design you put on a PTO flops, you lose the time spent on that design. If a design in an AHB flops, you end up with stock you cannot sell and may lose money.
Pros/Cons of a PTOB:
-Fantastic for individual creators/artists - Offers their designs in a wide range of products for their consumers needs
-Offers those who don't have the capital/time to create these products themselves the capacity to do so and reach their audience.
-Takes all the guesswork out of their designs - If they flop, thankfully the creator is not out any investment capital.
-The print quality is a gamble. You have no idea if the customer you sold a shirt to is receiving a well printed design or not - It's risky.
-Pays next to nothing. In many cases, artists can receive $1 from a sale of a t-shirt with their design while the company is making a profit of $15+.
-Virtually no control of your experience. Once your designs are on there, it is out of your hands; You can't insert business cards, sale ads, or write thank you notes to your customers.
-PTO sites are NOTORIOUS for having intellectual property theft. Designs are stolen and reposted constantly and they do not care as long as their bottom line is untouched. They make it hell to try and get your copyrighted works by someone taken down also. (We currently have had some of our designs up there for 3 weeks now by someone who stole them with still no resolution.)
-No personal feel whatsoever. You have no idea who is involved in the process of creating your item; just that it got to your customer, and hopefully looks okay.
-Limited to whatever brand/style the hosting website allows. (For example, we could not post bandanimals up on one of these sites.)
As we stated before, we are an AHB. This gives us several fantastic opportunities that those running a PTOB business do not have.
-We have personally visit and helped in the creation of all of our merchandise; several of our shirts are printed by yours truly.
-We know the working conditions of everyone who is printing your goods. They're fantastic.
-Everything is done within 15 minutes of where we happen to be located, which is just so freaking cool.
So now that we have all of that out of the way, let's circle back to the question; I see other online retailers offering womens cuts of clothing, why can't you? The reason that we can't is because it is far more expensive for us to put a product into motion than it is to put a design on a website and offer it in whatever poor quality the PTOB decides to allow their products out the door.
The majority of the retailers you see right now, that are small independent artists or small companies that offer womens cuts of clothing, are running a PTOB style business. What's important to note for this particular strategy is that they are not doing anything risky or groundbreaking - They are toggling the option on their website to allow this design to be printed on a higher number of products as opposed to just offering it in a unisex option. There is no risk involved for them to be able to offer womens cuts of t-shirts. It is an option that their hosting website allows, therefore they take advantage of that option. All of the pros/cons of a PTOB business remain in effect; this just happens to be one of the pros they have the advantage of if you can stomach the cons as well.
For us to begin creating womens cuts of t-shirts and other products is an investment and we want to do it right. We could slap our designs on a Print To Order website and call it a day - But we refuse to do that for the cons we listed above. It's not a method that works for us.
Okay, so you make your own stock. That's fine. But why won't you give having a separate line of womens cuts a try?
So here's the thing; We did.
I, as in myself writing this up, used to partner with an old furry company called Kitty Loves Monster who also ran an AHB. In their prime, we decided to give womens cut t-shirts a try because there seemed to be quite a lot of requests for them. So we ordered a large number of womens cut t-shirts and tank tops, printed several designs on them and happily made them available to the public. We're extremely sad to report; they did not sell. We figured it must have been due to the fact that we weren't advertising it correctly. Our first two conventions rolled around and we figured that would be the most opportune time to let people know we were offering womens cuts of clothing. And what happened? 4/5 women that we talked to who wanted to purchase something, when confronted with the two options, still preferred to purchase the unisex option as well because they preferred the fit. Eventually, we decided to clear out the last of the remaining womens cuts of clothing in stock and sold everything for 50% off. It took months; and were maybe selling one a week. We routinely received orders from those with names like Samantha, Jessica and Roxanne who were buying the unisex options even with the womens cuts at 50% off.
So to make a long story short; we actually did take the risk. We didn't just toggle an on/off switch on our website. We printed them, advertised them and made them available. And it breaks my heart to report that it was not a fruitful endeavour. But believe me, we did try. Does that mean we will not try again in the future? Absolutely not. But recapping the risks we face with the business that we do, and remembering that we are one individuals capital with a finite number of resources, it is not a risk that presently we are financially capable of taking. It's not that we won't. It's that currently, we can't.
What about plus size clothing? I never see independent creators like you sell them, and rarely with good designs. Why is that?
This particular subject is the ultimate frustration for most people who create a business like this. I'm going to start off by telling you; Trust me, we are just as frustrated as you are.
The simple rundown reason is this; very seldom do brands offer any of their merchandise in a size past a 3XL. And oftentimes, they don't offer it past a 2XL either. This is not the creators fault in any way, shape or form.
I will tell you our personal experiences of trying to procure these larger sizes. The few times we attempted to source 4XL t-shirts, it was on clothing that, frankly, I'd be embarassed to print something on. I'm talking bottom of the barrel Gildan that felt like sandpaper and the thought of it touching my body made me cringe. Still with requests to have them, we decided to give it a try anyway and ordered some. It took weeks, due to the fact that while they were listed on the website they did not actually have them in stock and had to special order them. We received them about six weeks later, far past the week we initially thought it would take. Then, once we received the t-shirts, we could tell a poor job was done on them last minute. The sizes also varied from one to the next. It was a very frustrating experience.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this, and wow I am going to capitalize this so the back row can hear it: If you are frustrated with the lack of plus size options when it comes to clothing, please, PLEASE send an e-mail, a letter, or make a phone call to your favorite t-shirt or clothing supplier and express your frustration that way. Gildan, AlStyle, Americal Apparel, etc. They are the ones responsible for being unable to provide the blank canvas we need for our designs which is integral to our ability to offer you those sizes. It is NOT an individual creators fault 95% of the time.
I still feel excluded/left out/frustrated. What can I do with those feelings?
Honestly? Talk to us. We're happy to explain as best as we can and hopefully make you feel a little better.
We live in the world of Twitter these days, where anyone can post one opinion about something or someone for the easy likes and retweets without ever giving someone the chance to defend themselves because oftentimes the defense of those easy to make statements takes a little bit more than 280 characters to get through. The story is always a little bit bigger than it seems on first glance.
Does it feel better to receive a proper, thought out explanation this way, or a customer service-y "I'm sorry, we're not capable of that at this time, but we're working on it!". I'm willing to bet it's the second option. We're here every day to answer these questions to the best of our abilities and try and make y'all as happy as we can. Talk is cheap, and we'd rather show you with our actions what we're capable of. We're sorry that it is not at the accelerated rate that we would like, but hot diggity we are doing our best.
We live in a time where it's easy to take for granted just how lucky we are - We can get a dope design put on a dope piece of clothing and have it delivered to our door in just a couple of days. But it's easy to forget just how much time and effort goes into creating that thing you like so much or the difficulties creators face in getting those products to you. Someone created the design, but someone also; made the fabric, wove the fabric, created the inks, chose the inks, sewed the garment together, printed the inks, checked for quality, made it available, hosted the site it's on, and the 10 people in between who shipped each individual component... You get the idea.
To summarize; We may have chosen to do things the hard way, the riskier way, the way that leaves us sleepless a fair number of nights. But we didn't agree with the print to order method of sitting back and essentially letting someone else work for us. It wasn't for us. We're personally involved in every aspect of everything that we do, and anyone who has seen or felt our merchandise in person can attest to the beautiful quality print and the vivid, bright colors we achieve. You can't get that from a print to order DTG solution. It might mean we're not capable of doing everything as quickly as we'd like, but it doesn't mean we aren't working every minute of every day figuring out how we can.
I hope we've been able to address the difficulties and challenges we have as a business, and if you were offended by our choice to have these undies be a stretch goal, we hope this shed some insight into our decision.
All our love.