Express yourself upon yourself

What do Donkey Kong, Iggy Pop, Extra Old Stock beer and porn star John Holmes have in common? Besides making for a great Saturday night, you could…

What do Donkey Kong, Iggy Pop, Extra Old Stock beer and porn star John Holmes have in common?

Besides making for a great Saturday night, you could plaster their images on custom made T-shirts at Thredz.

 Opened in early July, the store specializes in custom made T-shirts — choose a colour, a decal, your own design or lettering.

Fashionistas frustrated with lack of sartorial selection in Whitehorse now have a choice ranging from 1,500 pre-made decals to infinity.

“The whole idea is for people to express themselves freely,” said co-owner Crystal Green.

“It’s a much more creative shopping experience than other stores.”

A woman walked in the store at 2110 2nd Avenue the other day with her husband’s request for a custom made T-shirt.

Thredz will take a blank shirt and letter it to your desire.

Within reason.

Slightly uncomfortable, the woman described to Green what the birthday T-shirt was to say: “Will F… For Beer.”

“I’m totally OK with most things,” said Green.

“I’d be the gauge (of acceptability). I would hesitate if I would be ashamed to repeat what I made.”

Try not to piss people off, she said.

“But some guy goes out and gets punched in the face for his T-shirt, that’s his problem.”

Nostalgia drives the business, a good strategy for a generation that cannibalizes its pop culture history faster than ever before.

From Jem and the Holograms to Super Mario, people love to display their pop culture fluency.

“Teenagers seem to have more knowledge of pop culture than in the past,” said Green.

Ten binders holding 1,500 decals — bands, beers, slogans, DJ gear, cereal mascots — line a shelf and display case.

It’s an organized change from the pizza boxes that served as the decal filing system.

Green, 31, hauled the boxes to music festivals in Atlin and Haines Junction this summer to test the business waters before opening the store.

Then, on the first Friday of July, the store opened without fanfare.

 Eager to open, Green unlocked the metal gate in front of the store for a couple hours in the evening.

“We were opening Saturday but we finished everything and couldn’t wait to open,” said Green.

A former territorial social services worker, Green left her job to open the store.

“I needed a job that didn’t emotionally drain me to the max,” she said.

A niche was revealed.

People often complain about the dearth of clothing selection in Whitehorse, said Green.

“There’s not a lot of choice,” she said.

“People save up their money and shop in Vancouver once a year.”

Concept decided upon, Green embarked on establishing the physical part.

 “It’s been a long painful process to open,” said Green.

“This is my first time running a business on my own.”

An affordable space had to be found and the business question settled: to franchise or not to franchise.

Green considered opening a branch of the Vancouver-based Bang-On chain.

“It’s a hip and cool and successful business,” she said.

The chain owns licence rights to a number of designs, ranging from pop icons Transformers and Nintendo, to images of bands like KISS and The Doors.

But the costs of franchising — to finances and to freedom — were too high, said Green.

“There’s a huge franchise fee and they could dictate what we sell,” she said.

Instead, the chain has licensed its designs to Thredz.

“They still make money but we’re responsible for the store,” said Green.

Green co-owns Thredz with her husband, Adam.

Adam owns Terra Firma, a graphics company that does signs, silk screening and T-shirts for large events.

Custom printing isn’t a viable option for the local graphics company, but a store with the right equipment makes the job easy.

“It was a pain in the butt to stop a $30,000 run for a $30 custom T-shirt,” said Green.

A custom T-shirt for men will cost $29.95 after the decal is transferred.

Depending on the style, the cost of a woman’s shirt ranges above and below the standard $29.95.

Green won’t accept out-of-store apparel, in case the transfer process goes awry and clothing is ruined.

“Paying out for a replacement shirt would be a nightmare on my books,” said Green.

Accessories — belts, rings, belt buckles — are limited but will increase as the store measures interest in different items.

A T-jet printer will be available once parts arrive.

It can read any image, like a photograph or a computer designed image or something downloaded from the internet.

“As long as I’m not breaking any copyright laws I will print anything on a T-shirt — just upload on the computer,” said Green.

Right now, the heat press can take any transfer from the binders and produce a shirt in two to three minutes.

Decals can be slapped on the sleeves, sides or dead centre of T-shirts and hoodies.

“Be creative where you put the transfers,” said Green.

“People need to express themselves more.”

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