What is the 'Waste-Reducing Merchandise' Concept?
Over the last few years, there has been a rise in awareness of waste and our personal impact on the Earth. Documentaries such as ‘Minimalism’ (available for viewing here) have made many people more aware of how much they are consuming - with a particular focus on the fast-fashion industry. As an avid thrift-shopper and strong supporter of trying to reduce waste, I thought it only fitting to bring these values of mine into my work space and start an 'Waste-Reducing Merchandise' project.
My vision was to source pre-loved clothing and/or materials and use them to create merchandise. Up-cycling, or ‘creative re-use’, is the process of transforming waste materials or unwanted products into into something new to give them a better environmental value. Introducing this into the music industry is something I am extremely passionate about and am working to constantly develop my practises and encourage other artists to explore similar concepts.
My first step was to condense my vision into something achievable and effective in a small window of time. I only had roughly two months to design, create and advertise my merchandise so I chose three types of products:
- Iron-on Patches
- T-shirts and Basic Shorts/Skirts Featuring the Patches
- Hand Screen-Printed T-Shirts
The next step was to have logos created by a local graphic designer, Jada Scott. She drew up multiple logos that I could use for my branding and advertising (Pictured below).
I then decided the envelope style was going to suit the iron-on patch concept the best so I placed an order for 40 patches with The/Studio.com. I planned to use either the house or the envelope design for the printed shirts so I had both printed ready for me to expose onto a screen printing screen. I purchased second-hand shirts of sizes small, medium and large from charity shops, and a screen printing kit from Spotlight. I had originally planned to use the photo-emulsion method to create my screen but unfortunately it proved to be quite difficult. After multiple attempts at exposing the envelope design I decided the image was too detailed for this process, and instead hand-drew the house design onto the screen. I then hand-printed these onto the shirts using eco-friendly fabric ink. To set fabric onto shirts, they have to be ironed for at least three minutes. I also ironed the patches onto a few shirts and skirts. Please see final products below.
For my first attempt at creating merchandise, I was quite happy with the result. I am happy that I was able to find a way to bring my idea for creating merchandise in a more sustainable way to life. I did sell a few of all items at my single launch which was exciting for my first show selling any merchandise. I was quite pressed for time leading up to the event so there were things I didn't have time for that would have helped my sales on the night. I would have preferred to have signs explaining the vision behind the merchandise. In case audience members hadn't seen my social media posts, they would not have known my intentions with the merchandise . I also didn't end up with time to get professional quality photos taken so this would have helped a lot with advertising. Moving forward, I will aim to have my merchandise ready and made/photographed at least three weeks away from the gig. Making them available for purchase via an online shop would also help sales in future.
In future, I would invest in getting my screens pre-made for me using the photo emulsion process. The final product didn't look quite as professional as I would have liked it to. It was extremely time consuming and difficult to achieve a professional standard. Eliminating the screen-making process and only having to print onto fabric would make for a much more efficient process. I have also researched corporations that might support my recycled clothes mission. Unfortunately most screen printing companies don't print onto second-hand clothes. The Print Bar in Brisbane has a 'BYO' shirt option for their screen printing which would be an option to explore. I would prefer to know that the ink is eco-friendly and I do like having a 'DIY' sort of approach to my products but it is an option that would improve efficiency.
I am currently obtaining more clothes and sourcing shirts in more varied sizing. Now that I have tried out a few different fabrics I also know the best materials to source. I have had a new design made by Pier Hidalgo who did an incredible job at creating something that would cover a bit more of the shirt. This new design can be seen below.
As a first attempt at creating merchandise in an innovative and sustainable way, I am more than satisfied with my results. From this experience I now know ways to improve and am confident that this project will succeed and grow. I hope to start a movement where more musicians start creating sustainable merchandise. I will be posting a 'Guide To Creating Sustainable Merch' blog once I have mastered it myself.