“Bubble gum? Grown men make bubble gum?”
“Who do you think makes bubble gum?”
“I always thought it was made by elves.”
This exchange from The Odd Couple (and the inspiration for this shirt, Unger Gum) could have been the same when Mondo Monster Wear launched in September, 2014. Who makes T shirts? Mondo Monster Wear does. And there are several reasons why Mondo Monster Wear was created.
Who doesn’t love a great T Shirt? Some foo-foo night clubs require T shirts that have some abstract design on them. Stores in the mall may sell those shirts for $60 or more. Mondo Monster Maniacs are not into those types of shirts! What do we like? Star Wars shirts. Star Trek shirts. Shirts with crazy slogans. ZOMBIES! Shirts that show off what we watch or read or root for.
After designing a shirt for a Bat-Mitzvah, the initial thought was to create only custom shirts for families, events, businesses, teams or companies. Thinking that those shirts would sell, we also wanted to tap into the tribute shirt (we call it “geek”-wear) market.
Mondo Monster Wear was carved from our “parent” company Ag Media Solutions, Inc. Ag Media Solutions works with companies on their marketing and multimedia needs. We will act as the marketing department on a consulting or retainer basis. Public relations, advertising, image enhancement (public speaking, media relations), print media (brochures, stationery, etc.), websites and videos are among the services that are offered. Pretty dull, huh? Not really – if you dig that sort of stuff. Maybe not totally dull, but we can only be as creative as a client wants or will allow.
Enter Mondo Monster Wear. Our creator and his friends love shirts. We have hundreds of shirts that represent all sorts of interest – music, movies, television shows, and pop-culture. Creating the Mondo Monster Wear collection meant that we could be more creative with designs as well as to make the shirts that we would actually wear. We have patronized other shirt sites (Fresh Brewed Tee, Tee Fury, Think Geek) and always admired the creativity that went into their designs. Somehow they always had great artists with a vast imagination for all things apparel. So why not try it ourselves? Really, there was no reason not to. There’s plenty of room in the marketplace for several shirt companies. Heck, all malls have both a Hot Topic and a Spencer’s Gifts. The Internet is a pretty big mall and there’s opportunity for everyone to make shirts and some money in the process.
But, we wanted to stand out. Some of the sites featured art on shirts that should have hung in art galleries: mind blowing depictions of the Joker or the Tardis. Other shirts featured great slogans or takeoffs of the label on a Jack Daniels bottle. We loved those and have several of them, but we wanted to take things down a step and make shirts that featured clever art, but were more about the comedy behind it. We wanted shirts where people would look at it and say, “wow, we never thought about doing that.” Well, we did think about doing that.
We did our research. Oh did we do research. We learned about the different processes. Ultimately determining that DTG (direct to garment) via the Epson shirt printing system was more cost effective and produced a better mass-produced product than silk screening. We learned that different shirt companies produced different garments and textures. From that we settled on either Gildan or Fruit of the Loom over the softer material from District or the unisex options from All-Star. We learned that shirts needed to be pre-treated (if printing onto a color other than white) and heat sealed (clam shell) at different temperatures depending on the shirt color and texture. Based on those parameters we were able to create art with several great graphic artists.
Where did we get our inspiration? Growing up in the New York City metropolitan area meant you were blessed (cursed?) to have seven standard television channels. Channels 2 (CBS), 4 (NBC) and 7 (ABC) were the network affiliates. Channel 13 was PBS. And then you had ultra-local independent channels 5, 9 and 11.
Ah, channel 11, WPIX, PIX, 11Alive. By whatever name you referred to it, it still was our station. After school were cartoons (Tom and Jerry) or the superhero shows (Batman, Superman and The Lone Ranger). Kids could even play their “interactive” phone game with versions of Pong where you’d fire the ball by saying “PIX. PIX. PIX”. At dinner time were reruns of sitcoms – with the names slightly changed because the shows were still in first run status on the networks (Happy Days became Happy Days Again; Laverne & Shirley became Laverne & Shirley & Friends). Two staple shows of Channel 11 were The Odd Couple and The Honeymooners. Both are classic shows that created the genre for buddy shows (with apologies to I Love Lucy). In the late 1970s and early 1980s The Odd Couple and The Honeymooners would air either during dinner and/or the 11:00 and 11:30 PM time slots: every night, six or seven days per week, month after month. After a while you could recite the lines verbatim. We’ll get back to that in a second.
Fast-forward to September, 2014 and Mondo Monster Wear’s launch. The first two or three designs were offered on the “store” feature of Ag Media Solutions’ website. There wasn’t a credit card option and our customers were expected to send a check. Our shirts were only slogans (“Han Shot First” and some phonetic Hebrew shirts of New York-centric expressions) and after three months had ZERO sales. Zee-Row! Nada. Zip. Zilch. After a brief stockholder meeting we realized we needed to create some designs that would be more marketable. Our first two advanced designs, “Evolution” and “Mos Eisley Quartet” represented our first sales. Then we made an incredible discovery:
Facebook had vibrant fan pages for both The Odd Couple and The Honeymooners. “Hmm,” we thought, “would fans on those page want shirts that pay tribute to those shows?” Answering “yes,” we created two The Odd Couple shirts, Rigoletto and Carmen, and marketed them directly to The Odd Couple page on Facebook. Both sold. Well.
Remember being able to recite lines verbatim? That’s when we created Bones. This shirt MOVED (as of this writing that design represents 12% of total sales). A blow-off line from one episode (Oscar saves Felix’s life and Felix goes overboard thanking him - even creating a boneless chicken dish for Oscar. Oscar scoops up some and says, “No bones? How did it walk?”) was the springboard. Next came Unger Gum (10%) followed by the best-selling single design on the site, Futuristic Clock (14%!). All three of those shirts have sold whether on a black or a white shirt (for simplicity sake we decided early on to limit how many colors we offered). Then we moved onto The Honeymooners. We created two shirts that paid tribute to the fictional neighborhood Chinese restaurant, Hong Kong Gardens. Then taking from the episode where Alice stores dog food in their ice box and Ralph mistakes it for an appetizer (even going so far as to feed it to his boss) we parodied the Andy Warhol Campbell’s soup can. Going back to our “roots” we even created a custom shirt for the The Honeymooners fan group on Facebook. We were on a roll.
We went back and created more designs for Star Wars, Star Trek, Legos and (after seeing the mixed bag fandom) Gravity Falls. By hooking up with the photo archive BrooklynPix.com, we had access to great logos and advertisements from New York City and Brooklyn’s great and colorful past. Then we scoured the internet looking for artists who wanted to create art for shirts. Since we could afford to, we offered higher commissions (as compared to some other sites) for shirt sales.
Next came giving. Ag Media Solutions’ history came from one of social consciousness. Charities, organizations and causes would receive donations from pre-determined sales percentages. To date several groups (American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, AIDS WALK NY, Life’s WORC among them) have benefited from the sales on the site.
In May, 2015 Mondo Monster Wear moved from the Ag Media Solutions website to a dedicated site, www.mondomonsterwear.com, on the Shopify e-commerce platform. Fans enjoy easy checkouts, can create their own account (no need to keep entering shipping or billing information) and discounts that reward loyalty or referrals. The eBay store (with some of The Odd Couple, Star Wars and Historical Brooklyn designs) launched in August, 2015.
So where do we go from here? Only up (we hope). We’d love to have brick and mortar stores (comic and collectible) carry merchandise on a consignment basis. Flea Markets? Why not. The more visibility the better. 2015 sales have already eclipsed those from 2014. We want to see those sales increase each year. We want more artists to use our site as an online gallery for their designs. Customer comments and requests are always welcome.
So get browsing. If you’ve read this entire blog entry then you’ll get a very special thank you. Type in “Blog” at checkout and you’ll get 15% off all orders over $60 (basically two shirts plus shipping). And if there’s a concept you’d like to see us make, let us know. We love all kinds of ideas.