Why the Medium of T-shirts Matters
When it comes to T-shirts, the medium isn’t always the message, but the founders of sustainable brand Allmade Apparel believe it should be.
“The power of the print is insane,” says Ryan Moor, CEO of screen-printing supply company Ryonet and co-founder of Allmade Apparel. “But it’s not just the print. What the print goes on is huge too.”
What happens when the canvas for a socially or eco-conscious print tells a different story? A slogan promoting workers’ rights printed on a shirt made with sweatshop labor? Or an environmental group’s tee made with unsustainable methods? When choosing apparel, cash-strapped causes often shop with economy top of mind, to the detriment of other considerations.
“We see it all the time,” Moor says. “We see even organizations that have an environmental focus or purpose use the crappiest T-shirts. It’s so contradictory, and it doesn’t make any sense.”
Ryonet and a group of 10 screen printers decided to offer an alternative when they launched Allmade Apparel last year. Its premium tri-blend T-shirts are made of 50% recycled polyester, 25% organic cotton and 25% modal, spun and dyed in the U.S.
They’re cut and sewn at a factory in Haiti that offers a living wage and benefits. Even something as simple as good lighting elevates the atmosphere, says Zach Corn of Barrel Maker Printing, one of Allmade’s founders. “They have dignity,” he says.
Allmade also put a focus on quality, involving printers to help create long-lasting, comfortable apparel that’s ideal for decoration. “I was super-skeptical before I tried on an actual shirt,” Corn says. “I don’t even talk about the feel-good side of Allmade until after I’ve already sold them on the shirt itself.”
Reception to Allmade has been positive, with more than 100 printers contributing to an Indiegogo campaign. Allmade has nabbed around 200 more customers since then, says Rogier Ducloo, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Ryonet and Allmade. Yes, Ducloo admits, the shirts are about 10% higher than other premium tri-blends. However, he adds, “There are a lot of pluses for a marginal increase in cost.”