We interview Sahadeva Hammari, co-owner of Rumplo.com.
TM: When did you decide that t-shirts was your thing?
SH: That’s a good question. The most basic appeal of T-shirts has always been their ability to act as canvases for great art, and there really is a lot of tremendous work being printed on T-shirts. But Rumplo was more the result of my extreme pickiness when it comes to those T-shirts. I’d always thought that there must be more shops out there selling T-shirts that I’d really like but I just couldn’t find them. Rumplo solves the problem I had of not being able to easily find great tees, a problem that I imagined a lot of other people have, too.
TM: Do your run Rumplo alone?
SH: No way. I co-founded Rumplo with my pal Ian Van Ness. He’s the genius programmer, I do all the design work. Ian’s awesome, and Rumplo was definitely a collaborative effort. Luckily he’s really into T-shirts and screen printing and that sort of thing, so it’s worked out well for us in that we both care about making Rumplo extremely useful for anyone looking to find a few cool T-shirts.
TM: What have you learned about the t-shirt industry from running Rumplo?
SH: Firstly that there are more T-shirt shops out there than most people would guess. It’s great that manufacturing T-shirts has become a fairly simple and predictable process, though there are still some quirks. All it takes is a bit of courage and any artist can start a shop and make great t-shirts.
It’s also somewhat surprising to Ian and I when a shop is hesitant to have their T-shirts posted to Rumplo. Some shops haven’t picked up on the idea of designing their stores to spread, yet. There are still shops being built 100% in flash, or that don’t provide permalinks to individual T-shirts in their shops, or otherwise make it difficult for people to share the T-shirts they find in these shops, whether that’s posting a shirt to Rumplo or just emailing it to a friend. In other words we’re surprised that there are still shops that resist the internet’s ability to promote their shirts in novel ways. Rumplo sends a lot of traffic to T-shirt shops all over the world, for example, and the easier shops make it to share their T-shirts the more popular they’re going to be. So I think there’s a learning curve that online shops are going through, and T-shirt shops are a good example of this curve in action because there are still many instances of shops small and large that struggle with these ideas.
TM: What’s your favorite t-shirt label?
SH: Narrowing it down to one label would be really, really hard, but here’s a few of my favorite small shops:
TM: Is there any shirt that was submitted recently that really stood out to you or that you’d consider a favorite?
SH: Yeah, I’m stunned by how awesome some of the shirts submitted to Rumplo are. Here are two of my most recent faves:
TM: With so many t-shirt rating websites how do you make sure Rumplo stands out?
SH: Rumplo isn’t focused on rating T-shirts really, we built Rumplo to make it easy for people find amazing shirts from shops all over the world. I think we’re the only place on the web that does that well. We’ve got some useful tools that allow people to favorite shirts, comment on them, etc., and those tools help people share what they think the best tees are, but primarily we’re a discovery tool, and the most important part of Rumplo is the shirts that the Rumplo community posts. If you’re looking for great T-shirts I think Rumplo is by far the best place to look, and the best way for us to stand out is by being useful in that way, by making it easy to find truly awesome shirts. Because of that mentality Rumplo has been able to build a community of people around the idea of really great T-shirts and in turn that community does a great job of sharing great T-shirts with the world.
TM: What’s in the works for the future of Rumplo?
SH: We’re working on some tools for shops to help them more easily post shirts to Rumplo, so Rumplo will be updated more often by more shops. And we’ve got some new ways to browse and sort t-shrits in the works. We’ve also got some fun ideas for our newsletter, which has become pretty popular.
TM: What tips could you give to people trying to get into the t-shirt biz?
SH: Second to making brilliant shirts that people will talk about I’d recommend the following:
1. Don’t spend time trying to make your online shop clever and too cool until you’ve sold a bunch of shirts. Make your shop as simple and friendly and as easy as possible to use. More and more T-shirt sales are going to be driven by blogs and places like Rumplo, and people don’t want to hassle with flash websites, or too-clever designs. That is, build your online presence so it’s easy to use and to share, to blog about, to post to Rumplo and Facebook, etc.
2. Write a blog that people can follow and link to it prominently from your online store. Post to it regularly. Blogs are the easiest social network you can build. Use it to preview art and get feedback on your designs, post pictures of your shop and workspace and just give people an idea of what you stand for. People often care just as much about how the T-shirt was made as they do about the design. Well, almost as much.;)
FOR MORE ON RUMPLO, CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE: Rumplo.com
UPDATE: Rumplo.com has been down for a while and will be down until further notice!