It’s a great pleasure to expand your knowledge by looking upto your peers and elders in any design industry. I for one always love to read the interviews in magazines to see what kinds of routes designers and creatives have taken to the role in which they reside today. I was always struck by my design teacher in high schools admission that at the age of 18 he found himself waking up on a park bench, and spent much of his early working years being a roadie for big bands such as Iron Maiden.
So why am I saying all this? Well I can’t express my grattitude and thanks that some big names in the online world have been kind enough to donate their time for interviews and features on Design Juices. Here Adam Hendle of IAMTHETREND is no different, those of you who are involved in the online t-shirt world, big or small will know Adam in some way. I can remember IATT being one of the first sites which really attracted me to the online t-shirt world and it continues to this day to be such an inspiring and informative site to have in my RSS reader and part of my twitter stream.
Today It’s a great pleasure to introduce to you all Adam Hendle, of IAMTHETREND. For those who may not have come across IATT how would you describe the site? And how would you briefly explain what your role is in bringing the site together.
Well the tag line of the site is “Your Guide For All Things Independent”, I write about anything ranging from the latest t-shirt releases, upcoming bands, emerging artists and new cool products out there. That all being said I would say the site mainly focuses on the indie clothing and t-shirt world which I think is really what the site is known best for.
As far as my role with the site goes, I am pretty much a one man show keeping the site updated, writing articles and finding new interesting topics to write about. I have had a bunch of really quality guest writers contribute to the site from clothing company owners such as Kyle from Sugar Steak Apparel to other blog owners like Paul from theUtee.com. The site really has started to evolve into a nice community where the door is really open for anyone to write guest articles, share insight and opinions.
IATT isn’t just your average t-shirt blog, it’s probably known for being one of the leading t-shirt sites on the web. But you also spent a lot of time putting together IATT TV episodes, what was the motivation in bring videos out & is this something you prefer doing?
The current IATT TV episodes which you can see on the site and on our youtube channel (youtube.com/iamthetrendtv) really just evolved out of a live show I was doing with my buddy Beau back about a year ago. The live shows were an absolute blast to do allowing us to interact with our viewers live while we did shirt reviews, talked about the latest goings on in the industry and whatever other random thoughts and contests we had up our sleeves. Unfortunately towards the end myself and Beau couldn’t really get on the same schedule and devote the time needed to the live show. So instead of pulling the plug on the videos all together I decided to start to do more “informational/review” style videos of shirts sent in to me from upcoming and established clothing lines.
I started to get a bunch of really good feedback on the “review” style episodes and started to just grow it from there. I think the videos have also really helped put a face to IAMTHETREND and the website itself. I always like to know if possible who the people behind the curtain are, it just makes me feel more connected to a brand/website/company, which I think is a really powerful thing.
Which is easier for you; live IATT.tv or the preparation and execution of the youtube videos? I would imagine both are completely different types of shows to prepare for?
Definitely two different beasts all together, but I would definitely say that preparation for the YouTube videos is much easier. When trying to pull off a live show there are just so many factors that come to play and a lot more advance preparation in order to make it work. When I was doing IATT.TV live with Beau, we were prepping each weeks show, basically a week in advance and tweaking and changing details all the way up to the last second before we went live.
With that you have the pressure of time, and people waiting for you. I was literally getting off work and then trying to get my ass downtown Chicago (50 miles away) in rush hour traffic. With travel times, technical difficulties or sometimes just not having the time to prep the live show became EXTREMELY stressful. The recorded stuff on the other hand I can do whenever I have time and if I make a mistake I can go back and fix/edit it.
Is there any specific equipment you have in your arsenal for the pre-recorded and previously in your live shows you tend to prefer to use? Have you any ambitions to take your video knowledge and reviews into any other areas of the consumer industry?
Honestly I’m not that technical or advanced when it comes to shooting, recording and streaming live video. For the live version of IATT.TV, I had a buddy Steve Lobo that was really the man behind the curtain that got a lot of the technical side of things going. For our setup we had a couple of studio lights, a HD camera, Samsung condenser mic, iMac running Soundflower and Boinx Tv.
For the recorded show I basically use the iCam on my iMac along with a Samsung condenser mic. I also just got a Nikon D3100 for my wife, so expect to see some more pictures integrated with the video.
As far as taking my knowledge of a live show into other areas of the consumer, I really think that a lot more companies should be taking advantage of live video. Companies big and small I think would really see a lot of benefit in creating a live show in which their customers, readers and followers can ask questions and interact with a company. The more a company drops the curtain to reveal themselves as real people I think the more people feel comfortable and trusting of that company.
Outside of the IATT website, what other ways are you involved in the t-shirt and creative industries?
Outside of IATT I am also a sales rep for Threadbird screen printing which has been fantastic! Now I only don’t get to see brands after they are sent to me or released I actually get to be apart of building a clients brand and see there clothing lines come to life. I really love being involved with the growth of brands and it’s extremely rewarding for me to be able to write about these brands and sometimes even help them get their prints done.
Aside from Threadbird I also launched a company with a friend called Pong Deck. Basically Pong Deck is a deck of cards that enhances the game of beer pong (yes it’s possible!). We teamed up with artist Mike Gaboury and he did some fantastic illustrations for the cards, so we ended up deciding to make some of his illustrations into a small beer pong inspired t-shirt line called I WILL PONG YOU. If you ever wondered what Ken from Street Fighter would look like as a Solo cup, wonder no more as we have made that happen! http://pongdeck.bigcartel.
What kinds of clothing brands work with threadbird, do you get to work with the bigger more well know brands? Or do you also get to see a brands growth from starting out to growing over a number of releases?
Threadbird works with a wide variety of brands, bands and companies from small upstarts to more well established brands. Personally I love working with brands that are just starting out. More often in those cases I get a chance to bounce ideas back and forth with the client. I really feel that most of my new clients come to me because I am just not a sales rep that takes an order, processes it and sends you your tees. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what a company wants, I am more than happy to do so, after all most companies have a very specific vision and have hammered out all their details before printing. But there are cases when clothing company owners have questions or are looking for suggestions/ideas and I love helping out with those types of situations.
With Pong Deck, do you have any grand plans for the brand? How has the brand fairer since it’s launch?
Pong Deck is going pretty steady as a brand. We are just entering testing phase with the actual Pong Deck in several Spencer’s Gifts stores across the United States. When we had the idea for the product, getting our product in Spencer’s was our main goal. The only downside of the trial is that you are not allowed to use any POP displays, promotional material or a list of where the products are currently being sold at. The process is pretty much, send your product, wait and hope for the best. As far as the t-shirt line “I Will Pong You”, to be perfectly honest, I just have not put in the time and effort that I would to with it.
That being said when we launched the tees we were viewing them as a way to help promote the Pong Deck image and the game rather than a full on clothing line. I think one of my biggest downsides, is that I take on WAY to many projects and certain things I do I just cant devote the time necessary to see them flourish. So for now fingers are crossed that our trial with Spencer’s goes well! If you have a Spencer’s by you, please go and check it out and see if they have Pong Deck there! If you pick one up, take a picture of the deck and receipt and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and ill send you a FREE SHIRT!
What kind of education route did you take into the creative industries? & how did this lead you to the role you have undertaken with threadbird today?
I went to school at the University of Whitewater Wisconsin and received a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Throughout college I dabbled in graphic design and even built a few websites along the way. After graduating I really didn’t do too much that was related to the creative industry. At that time I was in a metalcore band called A Bitter Farewell and I spent all my free time promoting the band, writing, practicing and trying to get signed. After that came to end I needed to find a new creative outlet for myself and I guess that’s where IAMTHETREND started to form.
As far as Threadbird goes, back when we first started doing all the live IAMTHETREND TV shows, I started to notice that there were a growing amount of companies that had some really stellar prints that stood out among the rest, I later came to find out that those prints were all done by Storenvy (Threadbird). I started talking to Nick (owner of Threadbird) and he informed me that their print shop was only 30 minutes outside of Chicago. It was also around this time that they were moving into a bigger warehouse and were throwing a huge party to celebrate. He asked if we wanted to do a live IATT.TV show from the print shop and of course I agreed. For a few months after that we remained in contact and he actually started sending us tees to give away during the live show. Then one day out of nowhere I got a call from him asking if I wanted to join the Threadbird team. To me it only made sense, I talk to owners of t-shirt brands constantly, and I truly believed in the Threadbird quality. The rest is history!
We see that in so many walks of business and the design industry who you know can be just as big a factor as what you know. What would recommend to someone who wants to build their contacts in their industry.
I think the key is just interaction, and I don’t mean spamming and annoyance. Also provide content and help to people in your community. For example IAMTHETREND is always open to guest articles written from clothing line owners, artists or just fans of the industry looking to offer their spin or thoughts on a topic. Even if you have just launched your clothing line and don’t feel that you are an “expert” in an area, just sharing your experiences of launching your clothing line might help some people out and get you some new followers and eve customers.
Kyle Creek from Sugar Steak Apparel has done a really good job at doing just this. He has written several articles for IATT offering insight and his experience running Sugar Steak, from that Kyle has undoubtedly helped bring more attention to his brand, gained him customers and a following.
Social media and networking is a big part of any clothing brands marketing strategy, but also for t-shirt bloggers and writers also. What do you think are the basic essentials and things to avoid when beginning any kind of social interaction using accounts such as twitter/facebook and more.
I guess the basic essentials would avoid being to spammy, which can be extremely difficult. The way I see it most people on Twitter has an agenda to push, whether that be drive traffic, sales or gain more followers. The easy thing is just to spam content, sales, contests, and hope people take notice without getting annoyed with you. Aside from that just be yourself and interact with everyone. People really like to know/see the person behind a brand, company or website. As much as everything is online driven with everyone sitting behind their computer screens, I still think people truly like to be able to associate a face with name, it just makes things more personal. Those are two pretty simple pieces of advice but they are actually rather difficult to follow because they really take time to do accomplish.
With t-shirt brands promotional material can lead into all sorts of areas from balloon, stickers, posters, badges, hats and more. What sorts of items would you recommend to be the best compliment for a brands promotional material and which would you recommend for the small brands with a smaller budget?
I’d say that stickers probably offer the most bang for your buck when it comes to promotional items. They last a long time and people tend to always find a place for stickers.
Aside from reminiscing from your past rockstar lifestyle, what does Adam do to kick back after a long day working at Threadbird and with the IATT site? Or does the rockstyle lifestyle still kick it today?
When I convince myself to unplug, I usually just like to relax with my wife around the house usually watching movies. Other than that I am always down for heading out to a White Sox game, concert or show. And of course it’s always nice to pick up the guitar and jam some tunes!
Again, we must offer kudos and thanks for Adam in taking his time out for this interview to be made possible, I trust you are all as inspired and informed as I am after reading back some great responses.