$10 Tees: I Wish I Could Make Some

by Unfltrd Passion

$10 Tees

Quality

The Problem:

This is not to say that brands selling for $10 or less are using cheap low quality cotton shirts. I do believe there some brands who sell tees for $10 that are using the Bella 3001 which is pretty good quality blank and pretty much the go to shirt for most brands especially those just starting out. But to increase profits and still sell at $10 I wouldn’t be surprised if a brand used a Gildan or shirts they order from Alibaba for about $1 per shirt.

We also have to keep in mind that not only is necessary to have a design out on the shirt. So that is an additional cost.

There’s no one set rule for printing methods used to produce a $10 shirt. It could be HTV, DTG or screen printed if the brand is big enough to order huge volume of shirts.

HTV is heat transfer vinyl that comes in rolls and cut with a vinyl cut. Then the unnecessary vinyl is weeded out from the clear backing and the design is heat pressed onto the garment. This looks good initially but in my experience it won’t hold up over time.

DTG is direct to garment printing. So think about the ink jet printer you have but big enough for a shirt to slide inside for the nozzles to print directly on the garment like it would a sheet of paper. DTG printers use the basic CMYK color system you find in a traditional ink jet printer but it also has white ink. The good thing is its pretty much print and go. There’s some pre treatment that needs to be done but for the most part it produces a pretty good image on the shirt. The issue hear I found is most I have experienced used some type of water based ink that started to fade after every wash. So the vibrancy in the design was lost. And the other issue is you can not do pantone color matching.

Screen printing is the oldest printing method around where ink is pushed through a silk screen creating the desired design. If done correctly the design can outlast the garment. You can get perfectly matched colors. You can also get garments with effects like glow in the dark, glitter, puffed prints etc. The downside is the setup is very time consuming and can be expensive because most shops charge for their time. Where HTV and DTG can be done one garment at a time, screen printing is about volume because of the setup and breakdown process.

To get to the $10 price range for myself would mean I would have to go the DTG route. I have tried that when I first started out and I hated it. I used a drop shipping company that handled the printing and shipping which allowed me to focus on everything else but I hated not being hands on to see the item before it went out. I did my best to order samples of my designs before offering them for sale but that made me hate it even more.

The vibrancy and intensity were not always there. The smell was weird. The whole thing just a had a generic feel to it. I felt like just another brand they were printing but I didn’t have my hands on each design and had the limitations they set around placement, size, shirt restrictions etc.
Here we go again more rules.

There’s nothing wrong with DTG, it has its place in the market but for my vision screen printing works best for my designs. I can place them where I want how I want. I can pantone match the colors. Use special effect inks that can’t be used in DTG.

My Take:

I can not make $10 tee because the setup, clean up and custom inks involved in screen printing is way to time consuming to be achievable for one off and custom printing like I do. There’s no way I can guarantee color matching with any other print method.

Volume

Now I’m probably the odd man out because I screen print small volume, one off orders which probably explains my cost and pricing a little better. But, I’m sure there are brands that are able to produce good quality shirts and make a profit selling at $10 because of the volume they’re doing.

In screen printing the more you order the lower you an get your shirt so below $10 is possible with higher volume and a good blank.

The Problem:

For me the issue is 2 fold. To achieve great prices and get your order printed for say $3 a shirt you have to order a lot of shirts. And I immediately think about the environmental impact.

1. The environment.

17 million tons of clothes end up in landfills and it will take over 200 years for them to decompose. At $10 per shirt the garment is seen as expendable. Something that can easily be discarded but what is not seen is that the resources such as water, cotton, energy, fuel etc. are not easily replaced.

While I will not paint myself as some hero because at the end of the day I do make clothes and technically there’s more than enough clothes that can be upcycled that no brand needs to make anymore. But I am proud of the fact that I am slow fashion. I produce one item at a time. Environmentally, I am not making anything extra or using extra resources outside of the one item

2. Custom Service.

My business is first and foremost a custom service business. I got into this bc I did not want to bump into someone with the same outfit. I wanted to have choices in the print colors, design placement and fabric quality and that has not changed. I feel that choice is missing in the market. In a social/digital world the fashion industry is still 200 years behind.

My Take:

So for me $10 is not achievable because I am not only producing slow fashion but one off custom order slow fashion. I am hands on mixing ink, printing designs, in some cases sewing a shirt from scratch, making sure it matches the images and mockups. Making sure the quality is there.

Value

The Problem:

Everyone is looking for a deal, steal and a bargain. I am guilty of it myself. Standing in grocery store A, checking the circular at store B to see how much they’re charging for the item I’m looking at it. But what I discovered is that competing for the lowest price is a losing game. Especially in the world we live in where prices for shipping, electricity etc. are getting more expensive year over year. When we start competing for who can charge the least we are also lowering our profit and the resources we have to invest in new fabrics, ads etc. There’s less money to pay staff. And the truth is there’s always someone willing to go lower. Walmart is notoriously known for coming into a community and putting local mom and pop shops out of business because they are able to offer low prices and undercut their competition.

My Take:

For Unfltrd Passion unfortunately this is just not an option. Each item is made by hand. Meaning whether I sew it from scratch or purchase a blank I am still mixing the ink, checking the garment for imperfections, ensuring that it matches the pictures on the website. I literally make each item as if it’s something I would wear myself out. Each item is a representation of my business so if there’s something I do not like I will literally make another until I’m happy with it. Even if I could get a blank for 50 cents and could print the item for a dollar, there’s still the handmade aspect. The one of one production where no 2 items are the same. I’m not just throwing ink on some shirts but I’m making shirts that you are wearing to make memories. The item you wore on that anniversary trip out the country, when you first introduced yourself to that crush. The item you copped after you got your first paycheck to match the first pair of J’s you bought for yourself. The shirt you had on when that cutie saw you at the party. It is a labor of love that can not be easily priced but I definitely know it’s worth more than $10.

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