The Blank Slate Sale (or, Why You Can’t Buy Cotton Bureau Designs on Blank Yet)

We’re about to do something you probably don’t expect: all current stock of Blank shirts is on clearance for $14 (normally $28) with free US shipping from now through February 28 or until it’s all gone, whichever comes first. If you backed Blank on Kickstarter and love your shirts, now’s the time to stock up, because trust us, they won’t be this cheap ever again. If you wanna know why a company semi-notorious for never having big sales is all of a sudden having a big sale, keep reading.

If you’ve been following along with Blank for any length of time, you’re probably wondering why you can’t yet buy a Cotton Bureau graphic tee on a Blank shirt. After all, it’s been five months since the Kickstarter ended, and the first batch of shirts arrived in December. So what’s the hold up, right? Bear with us, because there’s a long-winded answer.

We’re a weird company. Well, weird for a t-shirt company, that is. For the t-shirt companies that design and manufacture blank tees for retail or wholesale, chances are that’s all they do. For the companies making printed tees, chances are that’s all they do. It’s very rare to find a t-shirt company doing both, but you’re looking at one. And as it turns out, shirts that are meant to be blank and shirts that are meant to be printed on have different attributes. One of those attributes is — and we know this is likely to elicit some Seinfeldian giggles — shrinkage.

You’re probably only familiar with one kind of t-shirt shrinkage, the kind that happens when you wash and dry a new tee (particularly a 100% cotton one). You lose some length at the bottom, and maybe a tiny bit around the middle. Most garment manufacturers — good ones anyway, like us — build that shrinkage into their patterns so that a shirt fits correctly after it’s been washed and dried. But there’s another kind of shrinkage…one that you don’t have to worry about, but as we’ve learned, we do.

When you screen print a graphic onto a shirt, the ink needs to cure to become permanently affixed to the fabric. This is achieved with a curing oven, essentially a conveyor belt that sends a shirt through a temperature controlled environment for a specific period of time. It gets pretty hot in there, and certain fabrics — like polyester and rayon in a tri-blend tee — respond by shrinking. This is a problem for us, because unlike our 100% cotton tees, we didn’t build that extra shrinkage into our tri-blend pattern (oops). That means a printed tri-blend Blank tee is going to fit smaller than a blank tri-blend Blank tee. Couple that with a few too-small areas on our first batch of tri-blend fits, and it turns out a printed Blank is a lot smaller than we want it to be, and “too small” is the very problem Blank is tackling in the first place. Not great. But we fixed it.

We made a few changes to our patterns (thanks to those of you who showed up for a quick Blank fit session in NYC a few weeks ago, and everyone else who emailed us with your feedback), but nothing major: an inch here or half-inch there. But more importantly, we made a big change to the fabric itself by pre-shrinking it, both our cotton and tri-blend. That means that the next iteration of Blank—let’s call it Blank 2.0, already in progress at the factory — won’t shrink much in your dryer or our print shop’s curing ovens (and, bonus: they’ll be even softer and more durable). But it also means that we can’t really use Blank 1.0 for printed tees, so we’re getting rid of them (hence the Blank Slate Sale). Again, they’re pretty damn close to perfect…as long as you don’t need to screen print on them.

Thanks for sticking with us. These are the kinds of things you learn when you’re trying to make a t-shirt brand from scratch. There are going to be bumps and hurdles and false starts and growing pains. When we publicly announced Blank last February, we said “we won’t become American Apparel overnight,” and a year later that’s truer than ever. This is hard. If it wasn’t, someone else would’ve already done it. Hell, we haven’t even mentioned the difficulties involved in learning how to manage a brand new and complicated supply chain, costly inventory, and front-loaded cash flow, or working with a factory for the first time, but that’s another blog post. For now, we can’t thank you enough for your patience, and we know it’ll be worth it. Cotton Bureau designs on Blank will be here sooner than you think (in fact, clear your calendars for next month).