Dirty Laundry

Volume 4 Letter 2

Two Vancouver women who met at a party decided to start a high end company making hand made T-shirts. One was a hat designer who had some great design ideas but hated the business end of business. The other was a former banker who couldn’t stand working in a bank but understood what made businesses tick.

The two met regularly at a coffee shop planning their business strategy. From those meetings “The Dirty Laundry Company” was conceived. Dirty Laundry came out with some radical T-shirt designs using hand stitching and felt figures. The T-shirts are packaged in brown wrapping paper that resembles your dry cleaning – they even come complete with what looks like a dry cleaning tag. There are 23 different handmade styles that can be worn with jeans to a night on the town.

To market their product the two owners wore their creations to upscale Vancouver parties which included the Hollywood crowd who often film in Vancouver. The “Dirty Shirt” duo gained media coverage with some of their designs which even they admitted were a little over the top at times. When building a new brand almost any publicity is good publicity but it didn’t hurt that the T-shirts also attracted Halle Barry’s attention when she was in Vancouver filming Cat Woman. The actress asked the Dirty Laundry creators to design a special Cat Woman T-Shirt that she could give to the 400 cast and crew of the movie.

These T-shirts aren’t exactly what one would stuff into a gym bag. They sell for $150 to $300 per T-shirt (including the brown wrapping and laundry tag). The pricey T-shirts are now selling in celebrity infested boutiques in New York, Los Angeles and Japan.

If two women from Vancouver can develop a company from a coffee shop that raises the standards of the lowly T-shirt from a $10 purchase to a $150 to $300 item what’s stopping any of us? Often one’s own perception about the value of the product or service being delivered is the biggest limit to its expansion. The product itself needs to be good but that’s only the half of it. Often a huge selling feature is “everything else” that goes with the product. Dirty Laundry’s packaging with the dry-cleaning label alone is probably enough to send some of the high priced fashion set running to the store.

Many reading this are probably thinking “What’s a high priced T-shirt got to do with my business?” – Lots! The mechanics of most markets are similar. Perhaps the opinion leader in your industry isn’t Halle Barry (too bad) but for sure there are opinion leaders whose endorsement of products can mean the life and death of a product introduction. Jack Welch when he was running GE was a huge opinion leader and GE itself still is. Steve Jobs from Apple Computer is now an opinion leader in downloadable music, movies and innovative designs. Every industry, every business and every office has their opinion leaders. Find them.

Let’s look at some of the lessons the Dirty Laundry Company might teach us:

1. Find the opinion leaders: Get attention early on and turn some heads with innovative designs or product benefits.

2. Do your strategic planning at a coffee shop: Go offsite, relax and let the creative juices flow. This can only happen when one is away from the day to day activities.

3. Play to your strengths: One of the owners designed hats the other was a banker – combining their strengths they make an awesome team.

4. Packaging: Even industrial products come packaged, maybe not in paper but the colour, paint quality, delivery truck, service personal etc. all speak volumes about what’s inside and what it’s going to do.

5. Pick your target customer segment and price appropriately: High end fashion conscious purchasers want to pay high prices for something unique and different.

Given that Dirty Laundry is cleaning up in the fashion market we may all want to have some fun and get a little dirty when we plan our strategies.

(For the full story see National Post February 28, 2004 PP SP2)
(For an expensive T-shirt go to www.dirtylaundrytees.com )

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