Deciding on the motif, colour, weight and wash of your t-shirt is often a lengthy and complex process, a process which often depends on a number of factors. Current fashions and trends, complexity of the aforementioned design/motif and of course the brand’s particular seasonal theme or look all play a part. Back in 2000, Threadless co-founders Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart decided to turn that whole design decision making process on its head, taking the all important decision out of the brand’s hands and giving total trust to the consumer. Theadless designs are both created and chosen by the members of its online community. Some 1.8 million world-wide make up the community who religiously look through and judge up to a 1000 weekly artistic submissions, the submission with the most votes from the community gets reviewed by the Threadless staff and is then printed on clothing and other promotional material and is then available for all to purchase via the Threadless website. The winning designer receives $2,000 cash and a $500 Threadless voucher (which can be exchanged for $200 cash).
The Threadless concept has given the discerning consumer the power to decide on what gets produced, it’s a bold move that many established high-street stores would shy away from. Ultimately giving global exposure to up and coming designers and artists while retaining a sense of artistic community and progression. Threadless retains the rights to all designs on clothing while designers keep the rights to all other media. Designers also receive $500 cash each time a design is reprinted. Clearly Threadless is the place to be for ‘starving artists’.
A little bird told me that some members of the Threadless team were traveling through Europe and making a short stop in Prague. After a few emails I managed to set up a meeting with the guys. They had a small window of time in their busy schedule and asked if I could meet them in Strašnická, OP Tiger’s showroom and production site to be exact. Strašnická?! What were the Chicago-based creative brand doing in Strašnická?! A little more research on my part revealed an extremely interesting answer.
Strašnická is the home of OP Tiger. OPT have been printing and producing t-shirts for the Czech Republic and Europe since 1992. The company started out as a group of people who simply loved producing beautiful t-shirts. Much like Threadless’ beginnings, the company started out small and grew into something truly amazing. Today OP Tiger has around 100 employees operating the company’s sophisticated machinery. OPT prides itself on providing high quality printing and embroidery solutions for their customer’s apparel. They offer their customers the choice from a wide selection of well known blank t-shirts (Hanes, B&C, Stedman, Jerzees and Fruit of The Loom) plus plenty of environmentally friendly promotional apparel. OPT are able to deliver and print large quantities or orders as small as 1 piece! This means that everyone from huge corporations to up and coming bands (working on a tight budget) can benefit from the quality service and products that OP Tiger provide.
Since their beginnings in 2000, Threadless have seen a steady rise in the number of European customers and community members. So, they’re naturally planning to capitalize on that growing success by having EU representatives who will print and distribute Threadless garments directly to their European customers. OPT Tiger came up on Threadless’ radar as one of the most interesting, progressive and creative printing companies in Europe.
OP Tiger have a similar philosophy to that of Threadless. High quality levels matched with passion and desire to provide great products. Anand Shah, Chief Operating Officer at Threadless, was quick to compliment OPT’s technical abilities and business ethos during our conversation at their HQ in Strašnická, saying: ‘There aren’t many companies that have the attitude and vision that I’ve seen here at OP Tiger. There are still some things that need to be ironed out but I can see Threadless & OP Tiger working together in the near future.’ Positive and encouraging words for Ondřej Parpel (Founder of OP Tiger) and his 100-strong team.
Mr Parpel was equally complimentary about Threadless’ culture and creative progression. ‘We really like the Threadless concept and are very excited at the prospect of being involved with their growth’, he said. ‘The Threadless guys were really impressed by our equipment and ability to print complex designs at a relatively quick rate’. This is something that’s quite rare and not provided by your run-of-the-mill printing company, so it’s not all that surprising that Threadless would be attracted to work with Prague-based printers. The companies have many parallels, they have both come from humble beginnings and risen to international recognition. OPT’s Ondrej Parpel talked about the companies steady growth and expansion since the Czech Republic joined the EU. ‘It was a major change for us, suddenly we were able to work on a much larger level than ever before and the possibility of working with Threadless would be a great step in the right direction’.
Although OP Tiger don’t have any plans to cultivate Threadless’ European community if the collaboration goes ahead, Parpel says he’s looking forward to meeting and exceeding Threadless’ unique printing requirements. ‘Our current customers have lots of different requirements and designs, Some traditional/straight forward and others more specialised. It will be great to take on the more complex designs that working with Threadless will bring’. So the next time you pick out a t-shirt with an exciting design, consider the fact that it might just have come from Strašnická, the unlikely home of fresh printing!