My friends went to a Web 2.0 conference and all I got was a Threadless T-Shirt

threadless

What has been the best use of the Web 2.0 collaborative features? Wikipedia? Facebook? Nope.. it is the T-Shirt site - Threadless.

Threadless is a t-shirt site that solicits designs that are rated by its members, sort of like Digg meets T-Shirt design. The winner gets a cash prize and bragging rights when it sees print. The projected sales for 2007 are expected to be around $30M. Last month Threadless opened its flagship retail store in Chicago.

Most of the t-shirts are sort of whimsical, like this one:

haiku

Two things surprised me about this story; their sales figures (I expected it to be closer to 5-10M, it is 30M) and that they want to have a brick and mortar presence.

Brady Forrest at O’reliey advances the following explanation for a physical presence by Threadless:

It makes more sense when you remember that Threadless is built on community. Having a physical space lets them give back to the community in ways a website never will. It helps them expand the brand beyond their current internet-found customer base, while maintaining the personal and respectful relationship with their t-shirt artists — something that they couldn’t do with many partners.

To me, the explanation is as whimsical and as haiku like as the t-shirts that Threadless sells.

They are already growing by a factor of 3 every year; if they want to expand, they should try affinity groups - schools, teams and like. Having a store in a cold, parking starved Chicago is somewhat puzzling to me.

As one of the slogan on Threadless t-shirt says, “I don’t want EVERYTHING, if I got it all, where would I put it?” There is a lesson in that quote somewhere!

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