Like sneakers, custom-designed and printed T-shirts are a huge category in mass-customized products. Spreadshirt is one of the most mature companies in this space. It was founded in Leipzig in 2002 by Lukasz Gadowski and Matthias Spiess, and quickly became a European market leader in personalized clothing. The original idea wasn't a direct-to-consumer play, but an online shop partner that would empower small retailers to create and sell their own branded goods. With the combination of a well-designed Web infrastructure and custom manufacturing expertise, the firm grew from a prototype to a multimillion Euro global company.
Make a Statement
CNN partnered with Spreadshirt to enable customers to make T-Shirts out of CNN headlines.
Refocus on Shirts and My Brand
Jana Eggers is now the CEO of this company, which has offices in Leipzig and Boston. "We're a creative, personalized apparel company. We have millions of direct customers and over 300,000 shop partners."
Jana told the story of the refocusing of Spreadshirt. "About a year ago, we refocused. We were producing a lot of custom merchandise: puzzles, clocks, lanyards, mugs, and, of course shirts. We went through a transition from "you think it, we'll print it" to a laser focus on making it about them—the customers and the products that carry the most emotional impact for them."
They did a lot of soul searching and research. "We asked our employees first; then we went to our customers." They asked customers: "What made it "your own label?" Jana explained. What they discovered is that wearable apparel packed a lot more impact than any other customizable object. And that telling a story or making a statement about yourself is the key emotional driver. Jana said that the phrase that really summed up the customer research for her was: "I wear my shirt every time it's clean." This was the big epiphany. "Shirts are very personal to them. People comment on them. They wear them proudly. We also learned that the process of creation is a really important part of the perceived value of the experience. Many customers commented that they wanted to spend more time in creating their customized shirts; not less."