Emmy Handen from Bravo Screen Printing has built a loyal relationship with the same client for over 15 years: a local summer camp who request a new design every summer for their kids to wear. This means Emmy has to manage a relatively large order, for kids of multiple ages, who will be doing multiple physical activities — all while having to think of an original design every year. To say the least, it’s a challenge. But after doing it for many years, Emmy’s become quite the expert on managing large and repeat orders. We talk to her today about how to make intimidating orders a lot more manageable.
Making shirts for an entire summer camp every year seems like a tall order! What are some of the challenges involved?
It can be! So there are a few challenges. With this client, first of all, we always have an annual theme we need the designs to fall in line with. Then there are usually a lot of people with a lot of ideas, and the age range of kids who will be wearing the shirts is quite wide at 6-16 years old, which means we have to come up with something cool that they would all want to wear. And of course, as with any client, you have the subject of money where you want to find the balance between a cost-effective shirt and one that people will actually wear.
How do you choose the right garment for a camp, where the kids will be doing lots of different activities?
That’s a good question, and a good thing to ask yourself whatever client it is: what are these shirts for and how are you going to use them? For example, with this camp, they go for a basic, inexpensive tee as they're just giveaways. But as you go into specific activities — like hiking, biking, that kind of thing — they get slightly nicer, more specialized shirts. We've really learned a few things over the years, for example, the group that does backpacking and hiking prefer shirts with a raglan sleeve because there's no seam on top of the shoulder for your backpack to be rubbing against. So I’d say always consider the function of that shirt.
When there’s a big order, there can be a lot of differing opinions involved. How do you deal with pleasing a large group of people?
It’s definitely a lot of back-and-forth, but I think you have to really listen out for what the customer wants. So, sometimes the client will come in and suggest specific ideas of 'I'd like something like this, and something like this'. If you can get to the root of what they want, such as 'a shirt that's going to look cool', that's easier to help them with. I’ve found they're often not set on one specific design. If you can talk to them a little more about why they want what they want, a reason is a lot easier to incorporate into a design that people can agree on. And of course, there’s usually someone who makes the final call!
What’s your advice on designing a shirt that’s for a broad age range of wearers?
It can be tricky! But keeping it simple is something we've often gone with. Simple shapes in one-color can just kind of work for everybody: it's not too gaudy for the older kids, and the little kids still like it.
So how are you able to make a new design for the same client every year without it becoming too repetitive?
We definitely follow the trends. 15 years ago, most shirts were printed left-chest and full back, and that faded away but is now coming back a little bit. In between that, we would do a full-front print and then a shoulder print. So we do look at the retail world and go from there. It can become a challenge finding a new way to fit their logo [in the design] every year. But again, we'll look towards the retail market to see what's going on: whether that's color designs or specialty prints like a glitter or a glow in the dark. It does depend on the customer but just think how people would recognize them and keep that consistent.