It’s difficult to find clothes that express interest in cars while remaining inexpensive and more importantly, tasteful. It’s impossible to to don a Ferrari racing shirt without looking pretentious. Fortunetly, the founders of Blipshift, Sebastian Ruta, Joe Oh and Hay-Won Byun realized that gearheads want hip t-shirts too. Blipshift only sells one t-shirt at a time, yesterday, they offered an automotive take on Robert Indiana’s infamous LOVE sculpture. Today, they’re selling a shirt to commemorate those who are active on automotive forums. All shirts are only $15, and after a few days, the design will never be sold on the site agian. Along with Blipshift’s in-house design team, they also encourage artists and car guys to submit design ideas. I thought their site was so cool, I asked for an interview, and they kindly obliged.
Can you provide a brief background of yourself and/or the founders? What do you do for work etc?
S: For work? blipshift! Seriously, this is pretty much our main gig. We’re fully dedicated to keeping drivers around the world clothed. We view blipshift as a platform to provide on-demand apparel with fresh designs that enthusiasts want to wear. Our backgrounds are varied, including big-company time working for the man, a tech entrepreneur and hard nosed merchant in high end retail. More importantly, we’ve always wanted to have some connection to the automotive industry…well most of us did, one was hoodwinked into this crazy idea but she makes sure that our designs pop and keeps our apparel production running smoothly. In the past, we’ve done things like Formula SAE in college, driving/racing schools, track days and we turn a wrench or two on our own vehicles. With our collective experience in different businesses, we’ve also got a pretty good handle on running most aspects of the operation ourselves including marketing, design, tech and apparel production.
Tell me how the shirts are made, how is the design transferred to the shirt?
BS Team: We use industry standard best practices, silkscreen printing spot colors onto high quality fitted tees. The results are long lasting graphics on super comfortable shirts.
Blipshift seems unique in that it has the potential to foster a large community of artists and auto enthusiasts. How did you come up with the idea of allowing people to submit art?
BS Team: It was either blipshift or build a giant boat in preparation for the end of the world this year. blipshift won. Actually, the idea of allowing people to submit art isn’t uniquely ours; there are some existing sites like Threadless and shirt woot that brought this concept to the masses. But what we do is cater to our interests as car guys. If you want a witty Dr. Who t-shirt, there are plenty of places online you can find one. If you want a clever riff on “a bad day at the racetrack” or puns based on specific auto forum vernacular there’s only one, blipshift.
Any notable designers you’re excited to be working with?
BS Team: We’re excited to be working with automotive artists like Xander Walker and Stefan Marjoram whose works lend themselves well to the media of a shirt. Just as importantly, we’re really focused on building a community of automotive artists where blipshift can be a showcase for designs and a way for auto enthusiasts to discover new talent.
What inspires the criteria for the design challenges?
BS Team: Seb’s desk is hooked up to a car battery and he gets shocked every hour unless he thinks of a new idea. While he recovers from his “inspiration therapy”, we really just look at what’s going on in our lives and news in the automotive world. If a design can make us laugh about something car-related or is able to tell a story we can relate to, it will probably make it onto a shirt. The response has been great and we’re thrilled to hear that our designs resonate with fellow auto enthusiasts. We keep a running list of ideas as they come up and we review them once a week to decide on what’s next. If something is topical, we’ll try to align the timing to an auto event, major holiday, etc. We’ve got a big list of concepts lined up right now so there is no shortage of ideas. That said, we know we don’t have a monopoly on great shirt design ideas so we also accept design submissions in our Bolt Box, where anything car goes (NPI…really)!
What’s involved in designing a shirt? What computer program do you use?
BS Team: We source designs a few different ways: develop internally, work directly with automotive artists and crowd source designs via challenge submissions. While creating a shirt isn’t exactly rocket science, there are considerations when transferring artwork to a shirt medium such as ink types, color matching, number of colors and design sizing. All of these factors impact the overall design and cost. As for specific technologies, artists have different methods but we usually end up with something in Adobe Illustrator, as that allows us to easily scale a design up or down as needed and tweak things like colors to match available inks etc. Adobe Photoshop is also used to mock up the design on a template so customers can get an idea of what a shirt will look like when it’s completed. In the end, we’ll work with the artist to get the best representation of their art onto a shirt with whatever tool is needed.
What inspires you?
J: Soft shirts and the ability to postpone doing laundry.
BS Team: There are a lot of talented artists and designers out there, certainly more talented than we are. We want to give this skilled group a tool to share and monetize their work. From the car guys’ perspective, we all wear t-shirts so why not put something on that represents what you have a passion for. We believe that fine designs should be accessible by as many car nuts as possible so we really work hard to keep a reasonable price point. On the flip side, by limiting production, you feel pretty good about your chances of having something unique in your shirt drawer. We’ve also got some other product ideas in the works so stay tuned. Additionally, we’re excited to be able to move quickly on current news. For example, we recently sold a shirt to benefit Connor’s Day, an event organized for an 11 year old boy fighting cancer. We reached out to a family rep and within a day we were up and running. Over a one-week period, we were able to raise over $2,000 for charity!
$15 is pretty inexpensive for a shirt these days, what about your business allows you to sell limited production shirts for such a low price?
BS Team: The blipshift break room is stocked with only ramen noodles and Mac & cheese. Besides that, we offer only limited editions and only print to order once a shirt sale ends. We don’t have to project consumer demand and guess how many 2XL sizes we will need to stock in red vs. Kids XS in blue. Eliminating that cost allows us to offer a more competitive price than other automotive tee shirt retailers. So if you like one of our designs, don’t wait. Get it now!
If you could only own three cars with an unlimited budget what would they be?
S: I’ve always wanted an early 70’s Mach 1 restomod with contemporary GT500 running gear; a Unimog (for trips to Home Depot) and who can deny the allure of an Aventador? Or maybe instead an Ariel Atom? Too many choices… it’s a great time to be a car nut when a new mainstream sedan can outperform the dream cars of our youth.
J: It would be really hard to deal with New York City’s alternate side of the street parking rules with three cars. I think I’d have to go for a track car. Something like a Radical. I’ll swap the two other cars for a couple mechanics that’ll keep it running.
H: A red one, blue one and a white one.
What car/cars do you currently own? Anything of note you’ve owned previously?
S: I started driving in a 1972 Pontiac Catalina, a land yacht with two full size bench seats and 400 cubes strangled by a 2-barrel carb. I’ve now progressed to a minivan <sigh>. Luckily, a few years ago my wife let me get a Cayman S, so now on average my cars seat 5. While my car payments are finished it seems that I’ll owe my better half for a much longer time…
J: I’ll soon be “upgrading” to a W123 series Merc 300D. An old family car that’s in serious need of some love. Diesel baby! For the track, I share a Spec Boxster that has recently become very friendly with a tire wall. I don’t want to talk about it.
H: An unlimited NYC MetroCard.
Is there a specific car community you identify with – for example tuners, classic car owners, etc?
S: I love all things car but I don’t get donks. In general, I prefer functional improvements to aesthetic ones.
J: Mostly track stuff especially any kind of road course or circuit racing but I don’t discriminate! I’m appreciating classic cars more from watching a lot of Velocity channel. Btw, what’s up with all those commercials? Sorry, I don’t have a DVR.
H: Matchbox cars and fire trucks (screaming kids in the background).
Photo credit: Blipshift.com