Organic, Sustainable and Local Produce

My day job is graphic artist, creating original t shirt and textile prints to the apparel industry. I work from home and sell my artwork through an agent to the design studios of large apparel corporations- many of them would be familiar names and surprisingly to a wide variety-from higher end designer sportswear lines to high street chains. Prior to this I worked as a designer and more latterly as creative director and consultant at some of these large corporations. Ultimately I kept reworking and rehoning my skills to be able to work as I do now - independently from home basically because the apparel design business- well its just nutty. Its also manic, stressful and surprisingly given that its an aesthetic and trend related business not as creative or able to really follow real trends as one would imagine. Not surprisingly I can vouch that profit and corporate structure really are a hindrance to inventive design.

A few days ago, I opened an online store on Zazzle- a print on demand operation, that does the printing,stocking,shipping and money collecting part- if you do the design part. Great concept but very limited offerings in terms of merchandise - iron on transfers on to white t shirts. Thats how it started but I've been watching and waiting to see how market forces and technology would impact this and its been improving steadily over the last couple of years. Last week I discovered that Zazzle have made a significant breakthrough.

I never thought in all my years of design that I could do what I'm now able to do- put together a small line of products that has a point of view that can be aimed at a customer that ranges from infants, kids through teens adults and grandparents. Their use of 'real' models allows any one to envision the product on urban hipsters to alternative generation X-ers to young at heart Boomers not to mention different ethnicities and body types.

I've been testing these products and have discovered that the method of printing used (digital ink jet)- which is fundamentally different from how most things are printed (silk screen)- can be used to great effect in recreating some of the more desired print effects- vintage, uneven colors, aged effects. So in terms of execution-with the right design material- there is little to differentiate a digitally printed product from a screen printed one.

I've thought about putting a line together using the aesthetic influences and materials that underscore the design of this blog- old gardening almanacs and seed catalogues, old botanical prints, natural and rustic colors and textures but it really didn't make sense unless I could print it on an organic or sustainable or locally sourced product- in keeping with what underscores my reasons for gardening and my interest in the subject. Zazzle now offers all three- they have organic and US made apparel from American Apparel and they have now added a line from Edun Live that is sustainable and ethically manufactured.

Its a little more expensive than what you might find in a chain store but this will change as demand grows and think about whats really happening here- the designer- me- the creative spark in the process is finding inspiration from a place that he really has a connection to, I'm designing something that I really want to design, not something the sales or merchandising team thinks I should be designing. Then these designs are printed (if you choose) onto local, organic, sustainable, ethically manufactured products. Even if you didn't pick one of those options the item will only be printed if you choose it- no waste, no trucking over to an outlet mall to be sold. Garments aren't washed, stoned, bleached- at a cost to the environment. There's also no need for this manic need to keep the shelves full and rotating with new 'fashionable' merchandise. If designs are succesfull,they'll just stay in the store and I'm only designing something new when I am inspired to or found something that triggered that process. The line will grow - organically.

So go take a look at my store- its a small offering but I'm proud to say its designed with real inspiration, manufactured with real conscience and retailed with real vision.

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