Clothing as Conversation (Twitter Tees on Threadless)

Threadless just announced their Twitter Tees on Threadless program. What a great idea. Submit or nominate tweets, community votes, best make it onto shirts.

From the two shirts they sent me in advance, I can see only one trick they are missing: the author of the tweet is on the label rather than on the shirt. As I found myself saying to the Washington Post, “every new medium has the potential to be an art form.” And as the Post added, “If Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde were still alive, they would probably all be on Twitter.”

twitter shirt from threadless
Part of the gift of aphorisms is remembering who said them. It matters that it was @biz who said “It’s the messaging system that we didn’t know we needed until we had it.”

There’s also a nice serial purchase opportunity. If this threadless/twitter program takes off, I see potential for a whole line of clothing by people whose tweets I admire. I’d totally subscribe to the @sacca collection.

This whole idea of fashion and social media seems to be coming up these days. Just yesterday, I had a great conversation with Chris Lindland, founder of Cordarounds, the short-run clothing design firm that started with horizontal corduroy (cordarounds), has moved into cool concepts like “bike to work pants“, and crowdsources its marketing photography by inviting customers to send in pictures of themselves in the clothing they buy. Here’s Chris:

Every clothing idea I release is designed to stoke some amount of Internet chatter. Where haute couture is inspired by art and hip couture is inspired by street culture, my products are inspired by Web communication. This conversational approach has been a necessity since the get-go, as I’ve never had the mighty monetary sledgehammer clothiers use to create product awareness.

While I’m sure that reads like Web 2.0 common sense to O’Reilly readers, it’s a new approach for folks in clothing design.

Of course, anyone who connects the dots between my Watching the Alpha Geeks thesis and Make: magazine should be able to extrapolate that crowdsourced design of physical objects is the next stage in the Maker movement. Industries start with one-off hacks by enthusiasts. Then one or more of those enthusiasts gets the entrepreneurial urge, launches a company, and figures out how to bring the new trend to a larger audience. (You have only to look at Steve Wozniak’s first Apple I models, made in a woodshop, to see this principle in action.)

Crowdsourced fashion design is the narrow end of the wedge. T-shirts are easy. But expect this trend to transform manufacturing as a whole over the next few years.

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