Crazy Go Lucky on CafePress vs. screenprinting

“Crazy Mike” De Jesus is the owner and designer of Crazy Go Lucky, a shirt shop specializing in nerdy cuteness. While his line is now focused on screenprinted shirts, his first foray into apparel was at Cafepress. Here’s what Mike had to say about the challenges of running an apparel brand.

How did you initially become interested in designing shirts?

Well, I’ve always liked drawing, creating graphics, and being creative overall. So the creativeness in me thought that t-shirts would be a good medium for designs. When the shirt is worn in public, they are usually highly visible and get your art and designs seen by people. Also according to the law in the United States, people apparently need to wear clothes. So it also puts your art and designs on that people would more likely be inclined to purchase. I mean as opposed to say like a poster or other form of print. Other than that, it’s also kind of neat to know there are people out there wearing stuff with your art and designs on it.

What was your experience with Cafepress like?

My experience with Cafepress(2007-2008) was sort of a mixed bag. For me it was very easy and convenient to make designs and upload them and set up a store. That part I liked. However, as I started trying to buy those shirts I started to notice that quality wise they were not all that good. The prints on the shirts had a faded/looks like it washed a couple times quality to them. Which kind of seems weird to me for the print quality to be like that on a brand new shirt. Oh and on one particular shirt they printed for me, the white underbase showed through a lot making the overlaying color have lots of white specks showing through. Oddly enough some of the lighter shirts I had made had parts where a small spot of color flaked or rubbed off. This left the resulting areas not covered by ink. I also noticed overall color accuracy with them was somewhat mediocre. Also, when I used Cafepress they used Gildan shirts and I was not really a fan of them. The fit on them seem a bit oversized and the shirt material feels a tad rough to me. Another gripe I had was that the graphic size limitations were limiting and that I didn’t feel that were was a good enough selection for shirt colors I wanted to use. Also I found it limiting that on lights shirts that the any color white in your design would end up being the shirt color. Those were my gripes in relation to print quality. Another thing that made me want to switch from using DTG was that considering the pricing for the shirts, I wouldn’t be able to get much revenue for my art without setting the shirt prices very high. Which I did not feel seemed right as the quality of shirts do not justify high prices. So I went with screenprinting because I could make decent revenue, still sell it at a fairly reasonable price, and the quality is pretty good.

After your experience with Cafepress, would you ever consider printing shirts through DTG again? What would it take to convince you to try?

If I could find someone who could do great quality prints and do relabeling on the shirts and used better shirt blanks, then maybe. However, I still think it’s cheaper stuff screenprinted. So if I had to be the one to shoulder the costs on production, I’d probably go with screenprinting. Well that and when comparing my screenprinted shirts and Cafepress shirts together, the screenprinted shirts look more like shirts you would see in a real store. Which I like because it reflects that I am serious about presenting customers with a quality product. Which is really not the feeling I got when I tried Cafepress and it’s print on demand shirts.

How difficult was it to switch gears from DTG to screenprinting? Were there any unexpected pitfalls along the way?

As a designer, there wasn’t too much to much to change other than keeping in mind that in screenprinting color costs more money. So the only thing I had to keep in mind was that I had to limit myself from using more colors than necessary. The only real pitfall in terms of printing was just finding a good screenprinter to work with.

Which of your designs has been the most successful? What about it do you think appeals so strongly to people?

So far, my most successful design has been Monkey Mayhem. I’m not exactly sure why though. It could be because it’s a black shirt with a white design and people tend to like shirts like that. That or people just like the design itself more than the others. Again this is all just speculation on my part.

Despite your previous bad experience with Cafepress, you’re giving Zazzle a try with their shoes. How has Zazzle compared to Cafepress? Did you have any moments of doubt about selling both screenprinted and DTG products in the same storefront?

To be honest, I don’t know what to say about Zazzle yet. I personally have yet to purchase a pair to see the quality firsthand, so I can’t comment on them. However before I started designing shoes on Zazzle, I did try to look at and research the net to get an idea. What I found looked promising, so I figured it was worth a shot. I don’t really find it weird that I have screenprinted and DTG products in the same storefront. Shoes in itself are complex to go and have custom made and the money need to fund such a venture is something I don’t have right now. So I felt this Zazzle thing was worth a shot to test waters as the shoes are a style I personally would wear and Keds is a fairly known brand. Also I figured that since Keds are handling the entire production of the shoes, they might have better quality control when it comes to manufacturing their products.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?

I don’t know, eat more cake?

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Learn Something Every Day tackles DTG tees
Learn Something Every Day tackles DTG tees

Learn Something Every Day is a project from Young, a UK design studio. Each day they post a new and