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Plastered T-shirts Building a Brand in China


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A story about how an Englishman built Beijing first T-shirt brand. From holding street catwalk shows to working with the local government to crazy drunk TV appearances this story is sure to inpsire you.

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Plastered T-shirts Building a Brand in China

  1. This is the story of a British Entrepreneur living in China since 1993
  2. I left England aged 18 and backpacked around the world, this is me in Africa 1990
  3. Bolivia 1992
  4. India 1993
  5. I arrived in China in 1993, a very different place than it is now
  6. My first job in 1994 as a translator in Inner Mongolia, I rode a horse to work everyday
  7. Here is how I built my first street brand in China, Plastered T-shirts
  8. The idea came from walking home from my crap office job one day and I saw this sign, random things plastered on green hill to advertise a restaurant, I love these signs in China
  9. So I took the most famous t-shirt in Beijing and changed it to fit that style. This was my first design, no one bought it.
  10. This was the inspiration for my logo. The Beijing building plate that gives you the address and number of the building. A Beijing icon I used for my logo.
  11. “ Courage is never letting your actions be influenced by your fears ” 勇气是永远不让你的畏惧影响你的行动 Here is my first successful design, the old subway ticket, I’ve sold thousands of these, and below a quote I really like as everyone told me I would never be successful with this idea. I wanted to create Beijing’s first T-shirt brand using iconic images.
  12. Here is another successful design taken from an old propaganda poster. It reads “ Women can be heroes too ”
  13. Here is an example of how I create iconic designs. This is a metal bowl for washing that are in most Chinese homes, I used to wash my face in this bowl years ago.
  14. Now it’s a hugely popular design on a T-shirt. Cause these images are familiar to Chinese they love to buy them. 80% of my customers are Chinese.
  15. The image on the left is one way people advertise their services in Beijing. Usually its for plumbing or cleaning. In this case I took a old classic and turned into modern humor. Mao with his famous quote “ serve the people ” is displayed at a graffiti like seen in Beijing advertising a service. I added my phone number at the bottom.
  16. Here is another example of creative our creative process. Plastered works with local designers. Here is a couple who do tattoos on our hu tong (alleyway).
  17. I came up with the idea to turn Chinese Revolutionary Opera (pics) into a tattoo. Here is what they drew. Complete with a slogan from Mao himself, this is now one of our best selling designs.
  18. Here is my first shop, the first brand shop on a very quiet street or alleyway in Beijing. I needed to promote the street as much as I needed to promote my brand.
  19. Location, Location, Location, it was going to be a tough job, but after working with the local government on festivals its now one of the busiest streets in Beijing - Nan Luo Gou Xiang. I started the business with 6 thousand dollars, everything I had. This is a picture of our Flagship store now. Same street! new location!
  20. I had only 50$ to spend on my first marketing campaign, so I made stickers in the form of our logo but replaced our name with swear words like bollocks, tits, and wanker and wrote “this word was brought to you by Plastered T-shirts”. I called it my shock and awe campaign. It worked, I stuck them in taxis and toilets and restaurants all around town.
  21. This was my first customer, a local insane man who wore this shirt for 3 months without changing it. He was a walking advert for the brand.
  22. Here is the local residence committee on my alley way, I also lived on the alley way so I knew everyone quite well, I wanted the brand to be part of the community. In this case I asked the local fan dancing team from the committee to dance on the alleyway to promote my brand. It was a big hit.
  23. Here is Cui Ayi, a local matriarch. She watches the flagship store for me, she is also a member of the committee and was retired, I felt that these ladies would be more special and welcoming than pretty young things who are hard to trust. I made a special red sash for her that would normally read “ residence committee ” but in this case reads “ Plastered ”.
  24. I am now a member of the residence committee where I live, here is me with some of them.
  25. I am also a member of my local Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. Something I'm very proud of.
  26. In 2007 I decided that I was going to hold Beijing’s first ever Hu Tong (alleyway) catwalk show. Something that would never been allowed in normal circumstances in Beijing. I asked the committee for help, they did, but they also told the police who took me to the district government for questioning the morning before the show. I had already told everyone and invited tones of media, I was terrified. After hours of questioning and checking my ID, the police, district government all walked out telling me it was illegal but that they didn’t know it was going to happen, thus taking no responsibility for the event. This meant we could do it!!!
  27. I got the models to practice on the alleyway in plain clothes so no one would notice and laid out the area with yellow tape. The police turned up a few times but let us get on with it. During the day of the catwalk show, the models were hiding in my courtyard on the alleyway. I turned up the music, gave everyone torches in the crowd and the show started. We had about 150 people there.
  28. The show was a huge success and a turning point for the brand, lots of media reported on the event and the brand and the street started to go crazy. The next slide will show a video of the catwalk show!
  29. We held another show a year later with the Olympics one year away and worked together with the local government and police to hold a festival on the alleyway. This show we had about 400 people. The next slide will show a video of the catwalk show!
  30. This is our 3 rd and largest show with over 600 people. The next slide will show a video of the catwalk show!
  31. This is The Go Team. They came to Beijing and performed in 2007, I found out where they were eating the night before their show and burst into their private room and showed them my t-shirts. I offered them free shirts for nothing in return, they ordered over 30 and had a good laugh at me. I delivered them to their hotel with hand written notes thanking them for any support that they might be able to give me.
  32. The next evening in front of 6 thousand fans the lead guitarist Sam wore one of my shirts, he was Plastered! This image made it into UK media with an article on me and my brand, thanks to this I got my first licensing deal in the UK.
  33. I did the same with Chinese rock bands - this is Reflector. then I signed up the 10 biggest acts in Chinese indie rock and now you can exclusively buy their shirts from my stores.
  34. We held a concert in Beijing to celebrate this, over 1300 people turned up. This is Carsick Cars playing. My favourite band. It was a big night for me. Then I signed up 2 of the biggest rock acts in China. Here is a link to a short clip about our Rock weekend-
  35. One day this lady turned up at my shop. I had no idea but she is the Oprah Winfrey of China, over 100 million watch her show. She invited me on to her show. I was so nervous when they picked me up in a limo I sat in the front with the driver and drunk 5 beers. I also wore a shirt with an illegal sticker on it offering to buy second hand drugs (it’s a common scam here, they re sell them). The shirt also had my phone number on it. I also sent her a bunch of my T-shirts before the show with a few presents inside. She’s called Lu Yu.
  36. Here is me drunk on her show, she is wearing one of my shirts which was great news. She also pointed out mine with my number on it. When the show aired I received over 500 calls a day. Through this I found my first wholesale customers. After the TV show, we started to be in tons of Chinese media. Here is a link to the show -
  38. In November 2008 I won my first award. I won British Entrepreneur of the year in China. The biggest shock of my life. My mum was there so it felt good to make her proud. Prince Andrew gave me my award, he ignored me when we were introduced before the awards so I mentioned that in my speech which made him over friendly afterwards.
  39. I also thought it fitting to do a f*** off sign during the only official photo taken with all the winners.
  40. I made it into China’s largest newspaper, however they cut off my arm and replaced my head with a previous picture where I was smiling.
  41. That’s my story of building a street brand in China with a very small amount of money. We now sell in over 10 outlets in 3 countries. We currently have two of our own stores in Beijing and one shop in Shanghai. I failed all my exams at school cause of my ADHD or ADD and went traveling to educate myself. I simply applied my negative traits, from ADD such as immaturity, impulsiveness and applied them to my business with success.
  42. Now, we have two shops. One in Shanghai, and the other in Beijing.
  43. I hope this little slide show inspires you in some way. Go on, send me an email, I’d love it! [email_address] We use the number 8 a lot to promote our brand as it’s a lucky number here in China. This image I replace Mao Ze Dong with an 8.