One day way back in March of 2007, the creative director of Imaginary Foundation showed up at Digital Gravel with a copy of T-world #02 in hand. I’d heard about the Australian T-shirt culture journal from friends in the industry and was glad to finally get my hands on a copy. I soon emailed Eddie, the founder and creative director of T-world, about getting some copies to sell here in the US. Not too long after that, he accepted some of my writing, letting me interview Mikhail Bortnik of Mishka fame, as well as Sydneysider graf writer DMOTE. Over the years, I’ve continued to work closely with Eddie and have had the opportunity to hang out with him a few times when his travels have brought him to Los Angeles. Now’s your turn to meet the man behind the definitive T-shirt magazine.
Where are you today? It’s about 8pm in Melbourne and I have just had dinner, after clocking off from my day job.
What are you working on? T-world #07. I am gathering content ideas for our luxury edition.
What is your favorite recent project? Our Sesame Street collaboration for sure. About 18 months ago I launched T-world at Boundless in New York. But I wanted to do something a little different in NY whilst I was there. As I was travelling from Melbourne (Australia) you have to make the most of your time overseas. So, a few months before I left I started hounding a local distributor/friend who had some connections at Sesame Workshop. I badly wanted to visit the set of Sesame Street. Who gets to do that? I was literally told it was impossible to do, but I persisted. I am a great believer that there’s always a way! And eventually there was. I pitched a concept I had for T-world to pay a visit and was put through to the licensing company here in Australia. That in turn, led to a lunch with some awesome decision makers at Sesame Workshop. Before I knew it, I was curating a T-shirt collaboration with Sesame Street for T-world. The concept was this: I wanted to choose 8 artists that were known for their T-shirt graphics and who so happen to be parents themselves to interview one of the 8 muppets we chose. Those muppets were all retro characters (so no Elmo) and the idea was based on a celebration to of Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary. The artists were given permission to ask any question they liked. T-world chose the muppets for the artists based on a existing connection. For example, Threadless founder Jake Nickell was chosen to collaborate with (Global) Grover because of Threadless’ travels around the world, and Melbourne designer, Beci Orpin of Tiny Mammoth teamed up with Sesame Street’s pachyderm, Snuffy…
I have also enjoyed getting Rick Klotz involved in a few of the issues. Getting to know Bobby via our 100 questions on The Hundreds several years ago was pretty cool too.
Where have you been finding inspiration lately? Actually I’m inspired by people. I like meeting people who have different views on the world. They don’t need to be designers at all. Everyone has an opinion. I listen to people and take from that what I believe is right. And I try to apply what I get inspired by to the concepts I create.
What prompted you to launch T-world? Easy. T-world is a combination of two great loves of mine; T-shirts (first and foremost) and magazines.
What is your role at T-world and what do you spend the majority of your time working on? I’m the Founder. My role is all-encompassing, but my real focus is gathering fresh content and art direction. It’s where my true passion lies. But someone has to sell the adverts, handle the distribution, do hundreds of emails and pay the bills. That’s me too.
So you’re an avid T-shirt collector? Since when? Absolutely. I have been an avid (initially unknowing) T-shirt collector since the end of the 1980’s. As much as I cringe about it now, my tee collection was a result from old school rave days. One day I was cleaning up my place when I realised, “Damn! I have a lot of tees.” My T-shirts were also brought up a lot in social conversations. Something just clicked and I was addicted.
Is T-world your first magazine? When my Dad died in 2004 I realised that life was brutally short. So I decided to fast forward what I wanted to do. T-world is the first magazine that I have published. But previous to this, I have art directed hundreds and hundreds of magazines across about thirty titles. T-world was never about making money, it was always about pouring something I was passionate about onto paper so people could understand the obsession. After the journal was launched, people often remarked that they wondered how I was going to keep a magazine about T-shirts going. And to me, that’s simply a no-brainer. Passion takes you a long way!
It seems you’ve traveled the world meeting popular designers and the people who run a wide array of clothing labels. How has that experience been and are there any highlights you care to recall for us? We have tracked down all sorts of people in the pursuit of originality. Meeting the likes of Lionel Vivier, Rick Klotz, Matt Revelli, Bobby Hundreds, Shepard Fairey, Brandy Flower, Luca Ionescu, jeffstaple – the list can go on forever, is in some way part of the mission. T-world has allowed doors to be opened and opportunities to happen. I am not sure the artists we have featured would all be regarded as popular though. A lot of artists are undiscovered or there’s an awareness of who they are, without knowing a whole lot about them. T-world finds out more. I really try to pursue artists who share the common passion of T-shirts and T-shirt graphics.
The magazine is expanding – are you finding that it’s taking up more and more of your time? Or is it getting easier? Magazines are not easy. At all. And if they are easy, then there’s something wrong. There’s a lot of mediocre magazines in the marketplace. Those that work the hardest are usually the ones that are the most niche. Take Sneaker Freaker for example. T-world owes a lot of thanks to a magazine like Sneaker Freaker. They paved the way for niche publications to be truly accepted by advertisers, distributors and in the end, readers!
Starting a business is often a labor of love, at the moment do you think the hard work has been paid off by the positive reception and growth of the magazine? Of course. I still haven’t made my money back from my original investment but I don’t care either. T-world has a long way to go but in just six issues, we’ve created a network and a community of like-minded people who have truly made the journey worthwhile.
For each issue there are also a series of events, can you talk about how those? All our launches are amazing events, but also a real pain in the arse. We work hard to launch T-world into selected cities across the globe. So far we have launched T in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and London. We spoil our readers. If you end up going to a T-launch you usually end up sharing in approximately 1,000 tees give away throughout the night. We like to give tees away to promote the labels that you might not have heard of before, but we also feel it’s our way of giving back to our loyal readers.
Presumably your T-shirt collection has grown exponentially since launching T-world, what are some of your most prized tees? They are the ones that I receive from the artists themselves as limited edition or because they simply thought I’d like them. Paul Frank sent me a bunch of his Park La Fun tees recently and they were cool. I love Sixpack. And I am mad on Johnny Cupcakes especially their appreciation for details. Locally, I am a massive fan of Burn Crew. I have a lot of prized tees though.
Besides T-world, what else are you involved in? I have been a partner in a design agency based in Melbourne, with a second office in Sydney, for the last 13 years.
Anything on the horizon you want to mention? T-shirts. I ride the wave of T-shirts and I’m always looking. Always. Yes, there’s stuff on the horizon and it all entails my favourite canvas in the world. Stay tuned.