There are 3 kinds of people in this world. People who wear t-shirts, people who love t-shirts, and people who see t-shirts as wearable art.
The first t-shirt I remember loving was a white 'Big M' milkshake t-shirt that was given to me by my Dad. The flavour was honeycomb, and it had bees all over it. At the tender age of 9, I loved that t-shirt, even when my Auntie washed it with her red hotpants and dyed it pink.
I think that's where it all began for me...
When I was 12, Mum and Dad took us to Surfers Paradise for a holiday. I had saved up $30 and was determined to spend all of my pennies on a blood-spattered tourist t-shirt with a giant shark bite out of it. I like to think that my tastes have matured now that I am 28, and two people have unknowingly been with me on that journey.
The first person is Victoria Howard, fellow t-shirt connoisseur and best friend. Over the years she has introduced me to the likes of; Threadless, Loyal Army and Kidrobot. She is, without doubt, the coolest person I know.
The second is Eddie Zammit, creator of international T-shirt journal, 'T-world'.
If you consider T-shirts to be a form of religion, T-world is your deluxe bible.
With graphics to die for, and interviews with established and emerging designers, T-world is a luxury Magazine experience that will have you lovingly absorbing every single page. I discovered Issue #1 a few years ago in Melbourne, and I have been collecting it ever since. It's like a year book for me, a beautifully published record of the culture of our time and something to keep forever.
When Issue #6 was released with a 'Sesame Street' cover, it got me thinking...'Who created T-world? And did they realise that they had captured my heart and my loyalty?'
I emailed the man they call Eddie Zammit, and asked 'Please please please may I interview you?'
He said 'Of course!'
BW: Eddie, can you describe for me the exact moment that you dreamt of having a magazine solely dedicated to your passion for T-Shirts?
EZ: My Dad died. As sad as that sounds, when my Dad died at the end of 2004 I realised how short life was. T-world was the kind of idea that I had been tossing around in my head since the end of last century. After all, T-shirts and magazines combine to be my two passions. In some ways, doing what you want in life needs a kick up the arse. Having my Dad die gave me a reality check of my own. I knew the obstacles involved and I figured that if I turned 40 and hadn’t tried it, I would be regretful. So from there I poured most of my energies after hours to a project that I thought had merit. To a project I believed in. Why tees? Billions of people are right now wearing them and for me there is no more accessible canvas to display art than the simple T-shirt.
BW: What is your creative process for planning what content will go into the Magazine?
EZ: Personal experiences reflect what goes into each issue. I get recommendations all the time and that helps but research and development goes a long way to solidifying a final theme. The Kool Kids concept for Issue #06 came about after speaking to loads of designers about their frustration on what they regarded as a pretty tacky area in the T-shirt market. Designers who were born in the 70s and 80s are now starting to be parents and they want their kids to have the same cred they aspire to.
BW: In your experience, what do you foresee as being the biggest challenge bringing a new product or idea to market?
EZ: Cash flow. Without a doubt. Cash flow is something that most businesses struggle with and T- world is no exception. I pay everyone involved for their contribution and that’s been hard to keep up with, especially as T-world is a self-funded project. No matter whether you are friends or not, paying your contributors is necessary for a long term project like T.
BW: Has T-world been a self-funded project? EZ: Yes, I have self-funded T-world myself from day dot. Money I have invested into T-world has been made from Grin Creative (my former design agency) or side projects intended to laterally raise money for T. Advertising supports the actual printing side of the journal and the rest is covered by sales. It’s by no means a money making scheme.
BW: As the Creative Director for 'Grin Creative', what have you learnt over the years that has given you an advantage with starting T-world?
EZ: Funny you ask that. I have ‘just’ resigned from my position at Grin because I wanted a change. My true passion lies with T-shirts and so my new ventures will now be able to focus on this. I was with Grin for 13 years. Grin taught me many things and it helped to instill the importance of brand values. It sounds a tad wanky but brand values really do help in making fundamental decisions. T-world’s brand values are;
• Quality – there’s no way I’d put in so many hours and be so pedantic without producing a quality product.
• Originality – this is hugely important. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel but I do want fresh content and images matched with credible artwork being featured. We like to expose new talent but we also like to mix that with established labels and artists. Overall it’s the story we’re after.
• Longevity – very few labels have existed and maintained momentum pre-90s. That says a lot. I am not in this game because it’s a fad, I’m in it because I truly love T-shirts. I see T-world as an awesome format to document the current climate of T-shirt culture.
BW: How do you structure your world Eddie? Working full-time with Grin Creative and bringing out a new edition of T-world every six months must be very intense! Do you ever come up for air?
EZ: That work/life balance is very, very complex. Mainly because I have made my work my life. My lifestyle revolves around the humble tee. It has affects on people you care about and people you want to spend time with. Part of my decision in wanting a change from Grin, is also, in part, to help focus my energies on T-world by day. I am hopeful that with time, that my work/life balance will improve.
BW: How has creating T-world impacted positively on you as a person?
EZ: T has provided an incredible network of people at my disposal. Some of my experiences with these people have turned into pretty awesome friendships over the years. 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, has impacted on me enormously. As soon as you think you understand the T-shirt caper, someone else adds their own opinion. I never stop learning and I crave for more.
BW: Recently you fulfilled a childhood dream and went to the set of "Sesame Street"! While you were there you worked on T-Shirt collaborations between Artists and Sesame Street characters... what was the most magical thing that happened to you while you were there?
EZ: Two things. The first time I went to Sesame Street, because I have been there twice, I met Super Grover. Super Grover questioned me a lot on why I was on set. I told him it was to collaborate on a series of T-shirts. He looked down to his chest and realised he had no idea what a T-shirt was. So he frantically asked all the production crew what the hell a T-shirt was and why no one had told him about the phenomenon. I was laughing so hard, I was crying. The second was meeting Caroll Spinney. He is the puppeteer of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Such a nice guy and so full of energy given he has been playing those characters for so long now. 40 years in fact. The most magical thing about Sesame Street is that I don’t think in my lifetime that we will again have such universal appeal for characters that Caroll and the rest of the Sesame Street puppeteers have brought to life.
BW: Now you have walked the streets of Sesame Street, is there a new dream that you have set your sights on?
EZ: I am on the mission of finding the most expensive tee in the world. So am reporting on some high-end designers next and I would love to spend time with Vivienne Westwood. I like contrasting the style of each issue and I figure that with all this doom and gloom, we’re all of a sudden appreciating money more than ever. Most people see the tee as a disposable art form but I want to prove that T-shirts have value too – and why so. Read about that in Issue #07.
BW: What is your theory on making dreams come true Eddie? (I'm expecting some pretty good insights here! Rumour has it that getting into Sesame Street is harder than getting into the Pentagon.)
EZ: Dream and do. That’s just for starters. If you believe the majority of people you listen to, everything seems too hard. But persistence combined with working hard is the real key. I don’t know anyone who’s had a real easy ride and is successful. Keep focusing on want you want and if it doesn't get noticed straight away, keep trying. And then try harder. I am a great believer that anything is possible – but like anything there are sacrifices and obstacles that you need to confront. Get past those and the world is your oyster.
I buy my T-world's at my local Borders store...but you can also purchase the current issue and back issues at Mag Nation stores, or online through www.magnation.com! Half the fun though is finding them in unpredictable places ;)