Sunday, June 7, 2009

Threadless Revisited

Going back to the last blog entry I wrote about Threadless and streetwear, after the class discussed about fashion as an institutionalized system, Threadless came to my mind again. Kawamura said that "different workers in different aspects of fashion all related in producing and perpetuating the fashion culture." This is true to Threadless as the producers and perpetuators of the designs are the consumers. The company's role is only to take in designs (and in a way regulate its content) and make it available to the public for voting. If we would trace its production further, it is possible that Threadless gets their T-shirts printed at a printing company, and in turn the T-shirts are possibly made in some foreign country. The whole system works together as suggested through our earlier discussion of Nike's shoes production article by Skoggard. While the consumers have the freedom to vote on the design they like, which design will be mass produced is still decided by the mass (and possibly the Threadless's owners themselves). In this case, the consumers still do not have the ability to wear whatever they see fits, but instead wear what the community deems as fashionable. This relates again to the idea that while clothing is the material manifestation of fashion, it is only considered a fashion trend when adopted by the mass (Kawamura).

The fact that Threadless launched the Select line to exclusively promote popular/established artists/designers who went through Threadless voting process further proves that it is indeed an institutionalized system. Below is an excerpt from about the history of the Select line:

"Over the years, Threadless occasionally printed designs by established artists and designers, allowing them to circumvent the submit/score process. This allowed emerging artists whose work was printed through the Threadless selection process to be sold alongside that of well-known creatives. These curated shirts became "The Select Series", officially created in 2006 as a distinct line of Threadless."

It further promotes the line by providing consumers with a subscription in which they will be mailed the new T-shirt that is available every Monday. The TypeTees and Kids lines are just more evidence that Threadless, as an institution, dictates the fashion more than its consumers do. Especially for the TypeTees line, they openly ask for submissions of interesting statements. Again, the consumers/users are free to submit whatever they think is worthy but it is Threadless who has the final say. I do not mean to reuse last week topic but the realization of this new knowledge is so overwhelming I could not resist writting about it. It is like an enlightenment.

It is inarguable that after every class, we take with us something new. It is no different for this class. However, it is one of those rare classes where my perspective of society in general is completely changed or elevated to a new level. Particularly for this class, it is the knowledge of the fashion system's "behind-the-scene." This also makes me aware of my cosumption pattern including but not limited to fashion (namely clothes). As I became knowledgeable of these issues, whenever I want to buy something, I would ask questions such as where it comes from, what the sources are, what kind of materials it is made of, whether it is environmentally friendly, whether it is from a big corporate, what fashion ideal/body image it is selling, etc. I myself was amazed how much more fastidious I became. Yet at the same time if I am to act consciously as I think, my clothing style will be limited and often time I would find myself unable to achieve a certain look without "blind consumption." Thus I will end by saying that fashion, as an institutionalized system, has become so perpetuating in our society and culture that it is quite impossible to pull away from it. This is not to say I'll keep my consumption pattern as it was before taking this class. I'm just whining as it is quite hard to change ^^".
p/s: I'm not a threadless advocate as I haven't bought any shirt from them nor have I participated in any voting/submitting of designs (yet...)

Blog #6
by Nghia Trinh

Kawamura, Yuniya. "Fashion as an Instituionalized System," Fashion-ology.
Skoggard, Ian. "Transnational Commodity Flows and the Global Phenomenon of the Brand."
1st image from

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