Luke Nuto, a former Art Director at the globally acclaimed Glue Society, has been designing and selling T-shirts for over 10 years.
In particular his current label, Young Lovers, is growing from strength to strength primarily through the online channel.
As my current travel buddy through South America, I thought it was time to convince Luke to put the Campari and Sprite down and share with us what he has learnt about building a clothing label.
What is the Young Lovers label all about?
We create limited edition T-shirts for lovers, dreamers, heartbreakers, poets, jokers and thieves.
Who is it targeted at?
Most of our customers are between 20 and 30.
People who want to wear something that is limited edition without spending ridiculous amounts of cash.
They stop your nipples from showing.
How do people find out about your brand? What has proved your most successful form of marketing?
We have let the brand grow almost 100% organically. Given that our tees are limited edition, the intention was to never get too big too quickly.
Blogs have really been the main way word of mouth has spread among the online community. We’ve been featured on sites like CoolHunting, and BoingBoing which has does wonders for awareness.
We’re starting to do a bit of online advertising now, to reach new audiences, but it’s really the bloggers out there that have sung about us and got us to where we are.
What hasn’t worked?
We’ve done a small amount of magazine advertising which really hasn’t delivered for us.
I think if you’re trying to get people to visit a website – the best place to do it is online – when they are already sitting at their computers.
Make it easy for them…
Do you use mailing lists? If so, how?
Yes, we’re using Mailchimp to send out news of new tee shirt designs, special offers and other cool stuff.
We have a pretty solid list of fans who have opted in.
What has your experience been with Google Adwords, Facebook ads etc.
One benefit of Facebook ads over Adwords is that they allow images.
I feel this is particularly useful when the visual of the product is so important – such as T-shirts.
Of course Google also now offer image ads but this is something we are only starting to experiment with.
What does social media mean for Young Lovers?
Social media is working for us in that we’re seeing new fans coming to us through personal recommendations.
I think if we were to get too forceful pushing our wares through social media it could backfire.
We’re actually getting a lot of people finding us through StumbleUpon, which is a good sign that people like what they see when they come to the site.
Clothing is quite a physical purchase. How do you overcome the desire to try on clothes before buying online?
After doing this for years, we’ve listened to our customers and arrived at a T-shirt cut that looks great on pretty much everyone.
Some fashion items would be hard to buy online due to the sizing issues but T-shirts are pretty simple.
We have a very detailed and exact sizing chart and have taken the time to explain on each product page what size they should choose depending on how they like their T-shirt to fit.
Young Lovers isn’t your first T-shirt label, what are some of the things you have you learnt about making and marketing T-shirts over the years?
Lots of people will try and tell you to change in certain ways. To follow certain trends etc.
You should know where you want to take your brand and just keep on.
Why operate these under separate brands instead of Young Lovers?
They are very different beasts. The Tee Factory came as a result of people asking for custom made t-shirts.
And MarkerTees was just an idea I had one day that I wanted to put into action to see how it went.
Have you found any offers that have worked to increase sales?
We’ve been offering free shipping on orders of 3 or more T-shirts.
We find our customers really appreciate that – even though our shipping rates are very reasonable anyway.
How does it feel when you see complete strangers wearing your shirts?
It’s always good but I’m sort of used to it now.
When I see artists and bands that I dig wearing my stuff that’s cool.
It’s a mutual appreciation thing.
What do you like about running an online business?
We have operations down pretty tight now to make sure everything gets to our fans quickly. That allows me to spend a lot of time internationally.
I’m not so concerned about making pools of Scrooge McDuck money.
I’m more interested in a good lifestyle that allows me live well and to create.
More new designs and growing the brand in a way that feels natural for us.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to set up their own clothing label?
You had want to be 100% committed to it and have a strong vision.
It seems that every man and his dog wants to start a clothing label these days.
You really need to be prepared to put the hours in. Lots of them.
Focus on good materials & printing and stay true to your vision.
If you’re starting a label that’s following fickle fashion trends (eg. Ed Hardy eating glitter and vomiting on cotton), it is bound to die.
And finally, don’t make anything you wouldn’t wear yourself.