Dig Doug: Inside the Pacific Textile Archive

Doug Bunting is grinning at me like a man who knows the secret of Ali Baba’s cave of wondrous treasure. He is beaming as he carefully lifts and gently places each of these meticulously cared for and curated vintage textile prints he is allowing me a private audience with. He flips over another—a blast of shimmering blues, golds and reds, as wildly psychedelic as the day the were made—some 60 years ago—leap off the thick card they were hand painted on to as if it were yesterday. He flips another and he shoots me that look again, it’s the understated look of knowing cool—you gettin’ this buddy? How’s the transmission? Five-by-five? Are you feeling the enormity of what I’ve got going on here? Can you dig it? Well, damn you Doug. I can dig it. Truly, truly, I can dig it.

[caption id="attachment_17823" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Pacific Textile Archive All these images copyright Pacific Textile Archive 2018[/caption]

Doug Bunting is lanky, salt-and-pepper crowned, mild of both tan and manner and an otherwise spotless specimen of Californian salt-water persuasions. He pads softly around his impeccable, modernist Laguna hideaway in a relaxed disposition best summed up in the phrase ‘barefoot bungalow.’ His svelte, capable surfboard lingers just outside the front door invitingly. It’s unclear if he’s just returned from a regular, scheduled surf session or if I am delaying him in getting to one, but one thing is obvious from the outset; Doug Bunting eats, sleeps, drinks, and weeps surfing and all that surf-culture has to give. There is a part of me which is immensely pleased that it is Doug who stumbled onto the treasure trove of heritage Pacific textile design and art which he is currently allowing me a private audience with. There is another part of me, which we shall not speak of here, which is boiling in its own envy-juices because this is more than just “a find” for a design collector, this is a coup d'état; a lottery win, a very favorable turn of life’s fickle roulette wheel. And here is patient and easy, surf-washed Doug flicking through the stacks of this impressive collection in the same way that I imagine the Pope might casually flick through one of the original hand-printed gospels from the Vatican vaults to pass the time on a slow weekend.

The contents of Doug Bunting’s Pacific Textile Archive are a lot like that—heavy with time, hand-inked, patinated pages from history—if your history happens to be Aloha prints, Batik designs, woodblocks, psychedelic textile patterns and Asian hand painted prints that is, the very building blocks of fashion, the way it got done in the Pacific rim for the last 60 years. Think of them as the original stone tablets the surf-gods handed down to mankind, sending man forth to make plentiful the Aloha shirt and a few other salt-water inspired beauties. Bunting’s Pacific Textile Archive is a lost city if you will, of textile design history from the last century, an Indiana Jones-grade treasure trove of gorgeous hand-painted, drawn and colored design which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or can even remember. At best these heritage designs are only imitated now, a vague copy-of-a-copy-of-a-half-remembered-copy with so much post-modern inflation applied that contemporary iterations of these classics simply have no chops, no teeth, no real gravity or juice of their own. And, in many ways, Doug chancing upon this archive was as casual and pleasantly unsurprising as the very spirit of the islands themselves. Whilst reconnecting with an old friend and veteran of the island textile trade Dwight Hamai, Doug recalls the talk turning to classic Aloha shirts, vintage textile design and the dearth of this incredible art in modern fashion. It was then that Dwight, something of an expert in this field in his own right, casually suggested that Doug take a look at a few pieces he’d been slowly collecting and storing over the years. “A few pieces” turned out to be a more than impressive collection of not just Aloha designs but epic border prints, Batik patterns, floral surface art, hell you name it, it’s in there, and Doug, as casual as you like, stepped up and and found himself curating this huge collection so that it could be brought back into the world, impressively intact. This story then, both begins and ends in the same place, in a kind of karmic loop for Doug, in the birthplace of surfing and surf culture: Hawaii.

[caption id="attachment_17819" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Pacific Textile Archive All these images copyright Pacific Textile Archive 2018[/caption]

Hawaii’s great gift to the world is unquestionably the art of surfing and with it the promise of the eternally Halcyonic island, best symbolized not by the surfboard, but by the Aloha shirt. Sadly, and for the most part, the Aloha shirt has become the clichéd, pre-chewed, guaranteed bullseye re-gift you can bring back from a vacation on the islands to prove you were there man, like bringing rocks back from the moon, or a hangover from Vegas. But before the Aloha shirt became so ubiquitous and obvious that it incarnated as the very symbol of island life and laissez-faire beachiness, it was first, and foremost, a genuine original fashion item in its own right, virtually exclusive to this volcanic corner of Pacific and damned well made, from the tailoring to the coconut husk buttons, to the truly, truly exquisite art and printing. So much so that the Aloha shirt has adorned the backs of movie and TV stars, presidents, rock gods, surf bums and preppy Ivy leaguers alike. As fashion classics go, the original Aloha shirt is the little black dress of the beach-bound community, a solid, always wearable classic.

One thing the kings of Hawaiian surfing could never have predicted is how catchy the surf-bug could be as it spread steadily around the world. Bunting caught a dose of it as a young kid and it took an anaconda-like death grip on him from the outset and has never let him go. He surfed his way through young adulthood bussing tables and fell in with local outfit Surfing magazine—helping to ship back issues and surf posters to equally enthusiastic fin-heads across the globe. The fuse which lit the ‘earth shattering Kaboom’ of surf culture around the world had only just been ignited by that fresh breed of radical surfers from Australia and South Africa who were busy carving a name for themselves out of the North Shore of Hawaii, names like Rabbit Bartholomew, Mark Richards and South African cousins Shaun and Mike Tomson. Having a good relationship with the handful of South African surfers based in Southern California, Doug could easily ‘translate’ the textured twang of the South African accent and, once his unique skill had been identified, he was quickly drafted into service at Surfing to help the editorial team transcribe and make heads and tails of the audio taped stories Mike Tomson was sending into Surfing magazine from the far flung corners of a pro tour still in its infancy. By then, surfing was already in his breakfast cereal and his blood, and young Doug Bunting began a career dedicated to keeping himself in and around the water and at the forefront of the ever cresting wave of the surf-culture explosion.

[caption id="attachment_17820" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Pacific Textile Archive All these images copyright Pacific Textile Archive 2018[/caption]

His ambitions led him to the heights of the rigging of surf retail in the edgiest of street-wear stores in Laguna in the mid eighties just as the crest of the surf-culture wave advanced across the world; he blended hip-hop, gritty street-, and skate-wear and surf culture in a, now legendary store named Équipe—part cultural yardstick part retail storehe partnered in this venture with no one less than the inimitable Shawn Stüssy and Équipe, by all accounts, was light years ahead of its time in predicting the ultimate blending of street and surf cultures in the now familiar soft, nougatey mix we've come to expect these days. Stüssy and Bunting thrived in this landmark location and set the pace for much of what was to move through surf culture trends int he years to come. By the time Doug opened his second retail store, Toes on the Nose, yet another Laguna-based institution, Bunting was so steeped in surf lore, culture and artifacts that Toes became an unofficial trading post for surf culture aficionados in search of collectibles and the kind of hallowed objets d’art which are discussed in hushed voices by collectors and devout surf-geeks alike. It wasn’t just collecting though, as Doug has it, “I was religious about it,” he says, transforming his passion and himself into a kind of surfing Indiana Jones—with boardies and a leash instead of a fedora and a whip—digging through garage sales, decoding byzantine swap meets, rummaging through flea markets and antique stores to unearth the golden Buddhas of surf lore and trade them with other beach-nuts who, like himself, could just not get enough of this good and salty thing. After earning his stripes in retail Doug made a name for himself backstage, in the textile industry where he stayed for some time. Then, more than a decade of dedicated digging for surfing’s Holy Grails and even more than that working in front and behind the scenes of the big name surf apparel marquees Doug reconnected with his old buddy Dwight Hamai, who was still working in textile production on the islands and agreed that it might be a good time to have a gander at the collection of art and design that had been building up in Dwight’s storeroom for a little while. And there they were—reams of them—untouched, and sleeping the salty sleep of the islands, safely tucked away in a warehouse, just waiting to be rediscovered by the right kind of eyes.


[caption id="attachment_17821" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Pacific Textile Archive All these images copyright Pacific Textile Archive 2018[/caption]

You’ll recognize the names of familiar textile heavyweights from the heyday of the Hawaiian fabric industry stamped on the backs of the broad, thick card stock backing these hand-painted designs; hallowed fashion industry stalwarts like Gunter Von Hamm, S. Hata & Co., Trendex, Marlo Designs, Hawaii Print, Hawaiian Textiles, and so the list proceeds backwards into fashion history. These were the original competing forces which brought much of Pacific fashion and design to life through exceptional artwork, astute textile printing, even sharper design choices and a desire to create sumptuous textiles which unique to the Pacific and its very special lifestyle, whilst avoiding the junky, clichéd , mass produced stuff being churned out by the ton from the mills of the imposing textile giants of the mainland.

Looking at this archive of textile art now, on the other side of the chasm of a half-century between when this iconic Hawaiian textile industry started and the current day, it is clear what an unmistakable treasure trove of design this is and how easy it would be to revive these patterns and elegant designs into a modern textile print for say, a contemporary bikini, a swimsuit, board shorts, t-shirts, a modern take on a heritage Aloha shirt, drapery and even some proper funky upholstery. And now I’m starting to get a better sense of why Doug Bunting is beaming with delight. For anyone else these might be some quaint nick-nacks with a mildly fleeting historical interest. For a surf-head like Doug, and anyone else with an interest in fabric design, it is a veritable goldmine of original material sourced from the stone tablets the commandments of Pacific fashions were first carved into. It’s like finding the lost Library of Alexandria stashed behind the local 7-11 on a quick trip to the store to pick up a gallon of milk.

[caption id="attachment_17822" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Pacific Textile Archive All these images copyright Pacific Textile Archive 2018[/caption]

But Doug is cautious. He has the regard of a man who has thought about the difference between ‘selling out’ and ‘buying in’ more than once in his life. His attitude has the air of a careful, practiced and considered approach. With a desire to assist his clients match these unique, heritage designs with their specific needs and their industry objectives. For Doug, as he curates, sorts and catalogs each of these pieces of iconic design history, his approach to industry hounds striving for the next new-new thing is simply to cool their boots. “I’m working with people who want to use unique, heritage designs in a modern way,” he says, “it’s not about just making a billion trendy swimsuits this summer and then disappearing.” It’s an approach you don’t see everyday, which speaks of Doug’s own maturity within the industry and his deep connection with, and understanding of, the history of surf culture and how easily this incredible pastime can easily be polluted by the greed of an eternally hungry fashion industry. For Doug Bunting and the Pacific Textile Archive, this project is about simultaneously sharing and preserving this library of beauty, and matching this unique art and design to special clients who are looking for the select, the exceptional, and art which transcends the ubiquity and interchangeable brand-ability of much of the merchandise emanating from a modern fashion industry; to create something truly distinctive and fresh indeed. A small selection of Doug’s unique Pacific Textile archive can be viewed online here.

[caption id="attachment_17824" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Pacific Textile Archive Examples of SpectraUSA's full garment rotary printing.[/caption]

SpectraUSA is now creating their own rotary printed textiles for full-print garments. That’s a print extending across the entire garment, of whatever artwork you can imagine; from the heritage art of historical surf-wear classics like the gems in Doug Bunting’s Pacific Textile Archive, to prints to match the designs of the modern internet age. Get in touch with SpectraUSA to review of this new direction for SpectraUSA and the virtually limitless possibilities it opens up for apparel creation and garment production.

Fashion Profile: Fishworks

I’ll stop short of calling him Ishmael. Lawrance “Squig” Quigley is not a character from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. But he could be. Easily. Standing tall with that beard of his, those razor sharp hazel eyes and a ferocious, ever-present intensity which hums about him constantly, I wonder if he is a benign Ahab, or a punk-rock Ishmael. With an eye patch Squig would be a dead ringer for the late Jack O’Neill. He is bearded like a muscle, tanned like familiar, comfortable old leather, he is taught, ready and aware, a big old Barracuda of a man. The picture is so complete that I catch myself trying to look up the back of his neck, behind the ear, to see if he has barnacles there. Squig is a long-standing member of the informal Admiralty around Dana Point and of the more than just “Highly Regarded” apparel brand, Fishworks. He has been a waterman since before most of us were chewing crayons and his salty predisposition is unquestionably the driving force in his life. You need to understand that the brand name “Fishworks” is not just another apparel label from the West coast, it is unequivocally the best possible characterization of a man who is most likely 3 parts fish himself, and who is probably keeping a secret set of gills stashed away beneath that luxurious beard of his. Lawrance Quigley is a force of nature, like a high tide, or the migration of whales, and the gear he’s building at Fishworks is just like him: Tough, proud, almost eternal, functional and just deadly cool enough. Welcome to Fishworks ye landlubbers!

If you are ever looking for Lawrance Quigley in a crowd don’t look for a man. Don’t even look for a big man, for that is what he is, rangy and sinewy. I’d hate to have to fight him. Cancer once went a few rounds with Squig for kicks and quickly threw in the towel after a proper beating and a bloodied nose. Don’t even look for a tanned, barnacled, sea-shanty of a man. No, if you are ever looking for Lawrance Quigley in a crowded room , look first for The Beard. That’s correct, The Beard, in capitals. Other beards defer to it. Grizzly bears are envious of the sheer luxury of the veritable pelt the man has extending from his jawbone. The Quigley Beard is one’s first introduction to Lawrance and it offers some suggestion of the wisdom gained from half a century on the ocean and nearly thirty years in and around the apparel game; it tells tales of time well-spent drifting around the world driven by powerful planetary forces for little more than the thrill of the ride. The proudly hirsute chin of Lawrance Quigley is holding court at the Fishworks HQ. Fishworks has a long evolution over two decades and it doesn’t start with t-shirts and a logo, it starts with shorts. Deck-shorts for fishermen to be precise.

Fishworks t-shirts

“We called ‘em ‘Deckies’ to have a bit of a dig at Dickies,” Squig tells me. They were his solution to the tragic selection of deck shorts which were passing themselves off as ‘quality apparel’ for fishermen at the time. Quigley sourced fabrics, re-jigged widths, lengths, tensions and stitching; figured out the right combinations to make them worthy, practical and functional and then took them into production himself. He pauses a beat and smiles. It strikes me that this might be the look a pirate has when he’s dreaming of his buried treasure. Squig starts telling me about a customer who phoned him up to complain about a zipper which had blown out on of a pair.

“Oh boy, that sucks,” says Squig, “How long you had ‘em?”

“Ten years,” says the guy, “Actually… Maybe a bit longer…”

Squig smiles again, no mistaking the pride behind the smile. Treasure indeed.

We can make all the jokes we like about Squig being the gnarly pirate captain of Fishworks but here is a man who learned his craft in a time when the apparel surf apparel industry was largely domestically based, where Squig first cut his teeth through tough stints at surf-brand legends, during the giddy rise of the surf apparel industry, is where he first learned the trade from the ground up. Companies like Hawaiian Island Creations, Rip Curl, Lost, Oakley; legends of the industry who literally built an apparel industry out of nothing; from the salt water, dreams and “being a surfer” was not something parents hoped to hear in the list of things their children aspired to be. And Squig was there to build it with them.


Fishworks Caps

Starting as a deck-swabber at HIC (Hawaiian Island Creations) and digging-in to learn the ropes, Squig eventually headed out on his own in ’91 with his deck shorts (which he still makes) and by 1996 establishing the wholly family-owned phenomenon of Fishworks. Fishworks is Squigs, and he is Fishworks. Between himself and Mrs Quigley—word has it, she is the silent yet extremely powerful stealth-engine behind much of Fishworks’ success and dogged staying power—they produce the entire Fishworks catalog, from head-wear to outerwear, tees, shorts, boardies and beanies. Beyond this, Squig continues to consult on design and production for a slew of apparel giants and further afield, still drawing on his impressive—let’s call it his “Salty League” education—in the engine rooms of marquee surf brands. Much like that scene in Jaws where they realize they’re going to need a bigger boat, you’ll need a bigger-than-standard chart if you want to track the Quigley’s work ethic. Who knows where he finds the time to fish and to surf but these activities remain the cornerstones of his lifestyle, grounding him in the great outdoors.

“What kind of board are you riding these days?” I foolishly, foolishly, ask a man who lives in and off the ocean. Who named his firstborn Fisher, and works, day in, and day-out in an office covered in pictures of he and his family landing massive fish and other assorted sea-beasties.

“A fish.”

His reply is so deadpan Squig’s quick humor whizzes by me for an instant. A fish. What else would our Ishmael ride?



Fishworks Fashion Combos

“I was fishing before it was cool,” Squig quips, a cheeky smile parting his beard. He is nothing if not the complete waterman, in every sense of the definition. Sure,this isn’t a tropical island paradise and it’s harder to live completely off the waves here but the three parts fish in Squig’s DNA require regular visits to the briny deep and in the two hours I’ve spent at Fishworks he must have checked the surf cameras at Salt Creek and Lowers at a dozen times or more. Through Fishworks Squig has found a way to create great craftsmanship and channel the dream of an endless summer of surf, sand and salt and turns it into sweat-of-the-brow pride in apparel with a heritage. So, when your zipper blows out on your Deckies after ten tears of hammering away at it, the only appropriate thing to say to Squig seems to be, “Thank you Captain!” All of Fishworks' gear is made with such care and pride, it’s remarkable to see this kind of work ethic is still available. Which is where SpectraUSA comes into it for Squig, who specifies both SpectraUSA’s Bi-blend™ 3050 as well as the 3100 Cotton Perfection for his signature printed tees. “They’re great quality tees,” he agrees with a friendly smile, “they print well and last long, not much more to say… That’s where I need Fishworks’ quality to be.”

But “Fishworks is not for everyone,” he adds, “not everyone is going to get what we do here,” and he’s right. The character behind Fishworks’ designs is unmistakable, it carries that feeling of do-it-yourself-or-don’t-do-it-at-all in it’s attitude and it’s leaning. You are either already a member of the club or you’re simply not. If Squig has to explain it to you, you are just not going to get it; it really is as simple as that. “I want people stoked on my product,” adds Squig, “We’re not some soulless, faceless brand with a bunch of logos. We’ve got a history, an evolution here, and we make great products because of it… It’s really about that stoke for us, you know?” And I do know. Lawrance is so damn proud of each and every single stitch which comes out of Fishworks, that it strikes me that he’s trying to funnel his own pure, raw stoke into the folks who wear Fishworks gear. It is as if he wants to make them feel the way he does, about fishing, about surfing, the ocean, just being alive and rocking out, deeply bearded, righteous and awesome and just, as the captain says, leaning back and nodding knowingly once more, “Staying true.”

Fashion Profile: MNKR BRAND & Matt Fellows

There’s an old Nick Cave song which starts, “Take a little walk to the edge of town and go across the tracks, Where the viaduct looms like a bird of doom, As it shifts and cracks.” A great eerie tune and almost the exact directions you need to follow if you want to visit Matt Fellows, originator and creative powerhouse behind MNKR BRAND. Nestled secretly between Los Angeles’ Chinatown and Mission Junction, within an artist’s community in a reclaimed and re-purposed Pabst brewery lies the snug hidey hole of magical things where Matt Fellows’ cauldrons of creative genius never comes off the boil. MNKR (pronounced “Mon-i-ker”) BRAND is the brainchild and first love of Matt Fellows, a truly humble, sharp-witted, determined and devastatingly creative artist living in LA. You might describe his work as unique, singular, distinctive, sui generis, one-of-a-kind, inimitable, instantly recognizable and clearly honed by the edges of time, practice and practice and practice and practice in perfecting his lines, mistakes and lessons learned, and that pervasive, unmistakable, enormous and obvious love for his craft. In short, Matt Fellows makes one king-hell of a t-shirt.

Like his work Matt himself is instantly recognizable. Fellows has a shy smile, a genuine twinkle of pure creative spark in his eye and a mop of blonde tangles riding above his face each of which, like the many plants in his studio, seems possessed of an intelligence all its own. He greets me warmly in the standard issue L. A. uniform of black jeans, black Van’s sneakers, and black windbreaker with the Black Scraps Tattoo logo of his tattoo studio in high contrast Plastisol across the back. His tone is respectful, measured, clear. The same economy to his beautifully stark, minimalist images is present in his thoughts, his answers to the swarms of questions I pitch at him, and his manner. With Matt Fellows as with MNKR BRAND, economy of line is everything. There simply is no waste in real beauty nor in a craft mastered.

He holds up a smallish long-sleeve tee in athletic heather grey, the raglan style sleeves and stitching suggests it was minted around the late 1980s or early 1990s, the one-color blue print on the front is a re-jigged CND sign with text cunningly squeezed into the gaps between the bars of the symbol. Fellows made this, his first printed t-shirt, for a contest in his sixth grade class. The assignment was to print a t-shirt to learn something of the manufacturing process behind everyday things. Fellows made the assignment into a work of remix art and although it doesn’t hold a candle to his current work it shows the genesis of something raw, true and aching to be. Matt holds the shirt aloft on its hanger the way one imagines Theseus held that golden thread which led him through the Minotaur's lair. This artifact is MNKR’s genesis moment, this is one of the stone tablets of Matt Fellows’ becoming a true Californian artist of respect, repute and full-bore righteousness.

SpectraUSA Profile MNKR BRAND Matt Fellows

Like any creative endeavor, all dues must be paid, on time and in full—there is no cheating the muse. If Matt Fellows’ grey CND remix t-shirt is the starting point for his immersion in fashion, art, illustration and the creative sub-cultures of California then the next fifteen years—yes buddy, that’s F-I-F-T-E-E-N, are ones of hard slog and tough lessons learned under the perpetual refinement of one’s craft whilst living in places where, in Matt’s own words, “Homeless guys would literally shit on your doorstep… and you really had to watch out for needles and things like that y’ know,” and then Matt smiles the wry smile of someone who knows more than a little of dues paid in service of the muse. Pursuing art is not always a choice, it’s often a calling which cannot be ignored (or ignored at your peril) and for Fellows this seems doubly true. He describes his fledgling steps as a designer, brand originator and t-shirt creator through first selling t-shirts to a few friends, then to one or two stores, living in a fifteen by fifteen foot shed which doubled as his t-shirt factory, his home and his design-school-of-hard-knocks. If slow and steady wins the race then this is the part of the story where everyone but the slow are hitting their straps. Matt describes surviving through years of a meager, zero-profit, hand-to-mouth existence and hanging on to the tail of muse with fingernails, teeth and toes.

“Graphics,” he says, “was the whole thing for me then,” and he put down his love of illustration—those same singular illustrations you know and love him for— in favor of, as he says, “How many ways I could re-work a logo.” But the things we love best and deepest always have a way of coming back to us and by 2003 MNKR BRAND was born and Matt’s great love of illustration had found its steady outlet and, finally, Matt Fellows’ enormous talent was hitting something closer to its contemporary professional stride.

I ask him candidly how SpectraUSA fits into this t-shirt making history. Equally candidly Matt shares a story of his love for printing his art on those early, iconic American Apparel t-shirts. “I loved those tees,” he says, despairing at the demise the legendary L. A. fashion phenomenon. “But somewhere around that second or third bankruptcy the quality just fell out of them and I was just getting so frustrated… Then I found Spectra at one of the trade shows… Vegas I think… and I was just blown away. It was that same American Apparel quality but not super-expensive. I could even put the price up on some items, even though the Spectra shirts I was buying were cheaper—the quality was that good.” It’s the kind of hype you hear from marketers all the time, but Matt isn't spinning, he is nothing but his sincere, measured self. Like so many in the t-shirt printing game, he’s paid his dues on quality too it seems.

“That [Spectra] quality was, literally, a sigh of relief,” he adds, pointing out three critical points he watches for in a t-shirt: Cost; Quality; and the Tear-away tags of SpectraUSA’s flagship shirts like the 3100 Cotton Perfection, and the 8600 Ladies’ Club Crew, which first caught his eye and then began to ring his, and his customers', collective bells. “Before, I was literally cutting out every single stitched-in tag from my shirts,“ he laughs at this now, but it's that hollow gallows laughter of anyone who has felt themselves going blind by the midnight-oil whilst chopping away at stitched-in tags will recognize instantly. Lessons learned. Experience gained. Improvements made. Mastery in process.

Matt’s right hand shines tellingly in the cool grey afternoon light on this utterly miserable Los Angeles day. It is raining tuna and hubcaps outside from an angry black sky but there’s still enough light to clearly see the smooth, shiny footprint of a fresh tattoo just beneath his knuckles. Matt Fellows’ hands are his livelihood but they are also where some of his story is written, in permanent Stick ’n Poke tattoo ink. Like all his designs even these minimal, simple, inked-in moments are brimming with humor and ingenuity. Like their owner they are slightly shy and self-effacing. You have to pay attention to these little details or you will miss them. Like so much of his life, Matt’s story rises up from his hands, from the earliest human drive to not only tell a story, but to illustrate it, and illustrate it well for others. Say what you will about the art of tattooing, take whatever moral position you must, but the evolutionary leap from cave paintings to body art—from writing a story to taking it with us—was, and still is, kind of a big deal for our species. As Matt starts to explain how, ever so excruciatingly slowly that his first love—illustration—began to occupy more and more of a central place in his life and his work I sit upright and start taking copious notes. The obvious talent he put down in favor of the more pressing demands of consumer-level graphics did not subside or wither. It became a seasonal thing for filling up down-time and out-of-production creativity. “Twice a year was around the most I could manage,” says Matt thinking hard about this muse and how he incorporated it more and more into both his life and his brands until it (and he) became MNKR BRAND. Tempered, without noise or hype, and ready for the world.

“And then I started tattooing,” he adds almost casually, as if it was the least important detail I should note down, “and now I have to draw,” he pauses a beat thinking about how much he does and he smiles, ”All the time.”

“I doesn’t sound like a job anymore, it sounds like you’ve become the work, or the work is you” I offer.

Matt Fellows nods knowing, respectful, measured nods. School-fees-all-paid-up nods. Raw talent glimpsing a hint of its reflection out of the corner of its eye.

SpectraUSA Profile MNKR BRAND Matt Fellows

Black Scraps Tattoo is rapidly becoming another outlet for Matt Fellows’ prodigious and much admired ability. “What an honor,” he says, “that someone would want to wear my work on their body.” And there it is again, this quiet sense of deep, abiding humility in him. I’ve seen it before in artists like Matt but seldom in any other than the truly great, folks who can connect others not to their vision but through the singularity of their vision because of its instant appeal.

If beauty, as Oscar Wilde suggested, is its own form of genius, then the unit of beauty has always been the line—be it the line from a Neruda poem which has the impossible power to utterly crush you, the linear dance of the voices across the notes of the Flower Duet or the utter, bone-bare simplicity of Fellows’ illustration. Whether they’re appearing on t-shirts or bare skin the effect is the same—at once striking, touching, and then not easily forgettable. Fellows’ genius lies in his ability to distill, distill and distill again to render a rarefied and pure simplicity. What is simple becomes simpler, cleaner, less… cluttered. “Analog” fails to capture the essence of this process entirely—Manual is a better word. It’s why, when exploring tattoo he chose the ancient Stick 'n Poke (hand tattooing) technique. Folk vs Electric. It’s back to the cave wall. It’s back to an unhurried, simple, honest story-telling in as few lines as possible. An economy of stroke revealing a purity of thought to the point of naiveté which is where the toe hits the tightrope in the delightful balancing act of Matt Fellows’ MNKR BRAND art, his t-shirt designs, pins and ultimately his tattoos. The message is almost always in your face, 21st-century-coming-at-you-fast whilst the image channels a child-like innocence which is not only unmistakable, it is also clear that Matt is offering you a little glimpse of his soul. Although many now are trying to copy his inimitable style they are only wasting their time. You can’t copy soul. Unlike a Louis Vuitton handbag, soul is instantly recognizable, and equally recognizable when its a phony. Matt Fellows is by no means a phony, he is very much the real, pure and living deal. Ditto his slow train coming sleeper hit MNKR BRAND which is slowly but surely taking over retail racks city by astounded city.

Matt Fellows and MNKR BRAND are testament to the idea that doing what you love isn’t work and still remain the best way to ensure that you never have to have "a job.” As a high-school dropout the idea of getting a “solid job” seems to have been anathema to Matt from the start. Schools are not exactly legendary for being kind to artistic talent, nor are they the most nurturing environment for talents like Fellows’ where the simple elegance of his design can so easily be misunderstood or overlooked. Matt’s genius was to make his job is his life. He’s one of the lucky ones—he was born with it. It is in (and on) his hands. And now it is on t-shirts and, slightly more permanently, on bodies too. If Matt Fellows’ recent success with MNKR BRAND is anything to go by, it’ll probably be on you too—and soon, about that there can be no question, and you will find SpectraUSA's pedigree and quality right behind MNKR BRAND every step of the way.

#Feminism and The Protest T-shirt

There can be no question that 2018 is the year of the protest t-shirt. There is much in the world that is making us grumpy and yes, that means we're printing it on a tee and out into the world. Protest t-shirts are not new, SpectraUSA has charted this colored history extensively, but if you are looking for a banner year for the protest tee, this one has got to be it for protest movements, social unrest, disgruntled folks around the world and a plethora of protest t-shirts to write it all down on. And, if you've been paying any attention to social media, you'll know that the protest t-shirt slogan of our time is the one-word misogyny killer: #feminist.

We’ve seen the big labels and heavy-hitters of fashion design get in on the action too: Dior’s “We should all be feminists” t-shirt opened up high fashion brands to the phenomenon and woke something of an insatiable fashion beast to the urgency of the protest tshirt in 2018. Riffing off Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Aichie’s eponymous literary work—and equally powerful TED talk—Dior scored a fashion bullseye, even if the shirt did retail for around $700. Not to be outdone, everywhere brand Topshop chimed in with Tea & Cake’s “Feminist” T-shirt which, in the age of Donald trump, certainly made a bold statement with the black and white contrasting print.

[caption id="attachment_17773" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]SpectraUSA Protest t-shirt #feminist The Topshop Feminist Protest t-shirt[/caption]

Although some were quick to criticize the rapid commodification of the feminist movement at the hands of Big Fashion which, with major labels jumping on the protest bandwagon, may seem justified; it seems balanced by the enduring nature of the protest movement and how the ,movement seems to have gone from strength to strength in spite of a fairly rampant merchandising exercise. Many celebrities have also gotten in on the action, donning the protest t-shirt of their favorite cause and, once that happens, well the message of emancipation is writ large over social media but also in fashion’s bottom line, further driving the sales of these tees.

From “Feminist” through “Time’s Up” to “Me Too” the protest tees of the day are feminist, proud and stark emblems, not only of a hoped for social change, but of a social movement in action. Perhaps this is the real difference between the feminist messages of the 1960s and 1970s t-shirts and those of today. The tees of the protests of yesteryear were describing a hoped-for change whereas the protest tshirts of our own time are describing a reinvigorated movement in process and one which, for all intents and purposes, seems to be accelerating.

Just taking a glance at social media feeds these days, the hashtags #feminist or #feminism seem to be everywhere, so why not on the world’s favorite items of clothing, the t-shirt? Hasn't the t-shirt has always been the analogue version of personal social media? This  great space on the front of the chest broadcasting a personal message—but in true analogue form—only one message with limited opportunity for any feedback? In the highly digital age of #MeToo the protest t-shirt has remained a valuable analogue message, reinforcing the presence and visual currency of the movements as they gain momentum (or is that Mom-entum?) and declare women powerful, radical and deeply engaged agents of our social spaces be they digital or analogue.

When it comes to t-shirts change has always been writ large and the person who best taught us to do that was yes, another woman, famed British designer Katharine Hamnett. We profiled Hamnett’s “writ large” creations some time ago, and any modern designer creating for the protest movement needs who hasn’t seen her emblematic and potent work needs to stop what they’re doing immediately and take a look.

Again, it was Hamnett who famously warned us that “T-shirts by themselves are all very nice but they achieve nothing." And she’s right. Good design and clever slogans are meaningless unless the wearer carries the message with them and lives it. Hamnett demonstrated exactly how this works when she met Margaret thatcher. Realizing that there would be a photo opportunity, Hamnett donned a plain white tee with the words “58% don’t want Pershing,” a statistic from a poll regarding English attitudes to the deployment of American Pershing missiles in the UK. As Hamnett shook Thatchers hand she let her coat fall open revealing the famous tee, the photographers did their job and a particularly radical message—not the one Thatcher’s team would have wanted—was sent spiraling through the media.

On many levels it is gratifying to see movements like “Times up” and MeToo” gaining ground and attention in the public consciousness. For some, the shirts are simply a trendy way to dress in these giddy times. For others it will be a powerful message, carried by them through all of the public spaces they inhabit on the medium which seems to have been perfectly designed for just this sort of thing: The protest t-shirt.

SpectraUSA's range of 100% cotton ring-spun t-shirts are the printer's and protester's dream. Light-weight, stylish and tailored, these shirts offer a gorgeous printing surface with fit and comfort to spare. Insist on Spectra's 3100 Cotton Perfection for the ultimate light weight 30 singles protest tee, or the traditional 2100 Retro ring-spun t-shirt for rocking it old school. Once you've put it on Spectra its there to stay, the only question left to answer is: What does your t-shirt say?

Fast As Fitness X 3050 Bi-Blend T-shirts

Emergent North Carolina based fitness disruptor Fast As Fitness is bursting onto the sport apparel market with their unique fitness and gym wear, driven by a totally fresh approach to constructing these specialist garments. The principal design goal behind Fast As is “to create a sporting garment which works harder then you do,” comments Barry Wolins, CEO of this dynamic sports apparel company. The entire line of Fast As products are built to breathe, endure, take the strain and come back swinging. Their recent partnership with SpectraUSA introduced Fast As Fitness fans to Spectra’s proprietary bi-blend technology behind their range of 3050 Bi-blend t-shirts, the perfect compliment to Fast As’ enduring sports gear.

“We’re thinking about athletes at every turn, with every stitch, pocket and seam,” says Wolins. The additional strength and reinforcement they have built into their apparel goes beyond the industry standard to next-level superior quality. From specialized media-stash pockets to hood linings, flex panels, VAPR-DRY technology, reflective detailing for night training, headphone routing and cleverly placed thumb-holes, Fast As is clearly leading the charge to dominate a sportswear apparel market awash with garments which are produced by the big players like Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Under Armor, but which seem to cut a lot of corners on the athlete.


[caption id="attachment_17764" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Fast as fitness x 3050 bi-blend SpectraUSA Fast as fitness x 3050 bi-blend[/caption]

Fast As has created a tiered hierarchy of apparel suited to each level of an athlete’s needs be they the simplest or most advanced tech-specs required. As an athlete and their sport places heavier demands on their gear so Fast As provides level upon level of technical accommodation designed into each piece. Which is where Spectra’s famous bi-blend tees fit in. Built with breathe-ability, additional strength and stretch and a snug, lightweight aesthetic, Spectra’s Bi-blend range complement this highly technical and purpose-built sportswear range perfectly. “Selecting Spectra’s 3050 Bi-blend tee was a no-brainer,” says Wolins, adding that the 3050’s are a dream to print on and last as well as the over-designed and specialized Fast As Fitness athletics gear.

The Spectra 3050 bi-blends compliment this dynamic range with a casual tee, typically with a Fast As or bold “Flying F” print, for post-workout / training. This move in a more fashionable direction is new more for Fast As which, until now, has focused mainly on purely functional gear. Stepping into the casual-wear arena required that Fast As find a modern tee which reflected their established range of world-beating sports and training gear. This was a cinch for Spectra’s 3050 Bi-blend an already established Californian favorite, especially within the action sports fraternities who know how to utilize the Californian sunshine to the max. With the 3050’s Bi-blend technology enabling the garment to wick away perspiration, it is the perfect pre-, and post-training partner for a range built around strength, stretch and moisture management whilst pushing yourself to the maximum and then a little further.

Check out Fast As Fitness for world-beating quality gear built for athletes, pros and folks looking for a lot of “extras” in their sportswear.

The Super Tee vs Connoisseur Class T-shirts: What’s the difference?

We live in a time when the hype around something is often more important than the thing itself. From presidents on twitter to protest t-shirts on movie stars the media noise is relentless. Its hard to make sense of what has substance and what is just well… more of the same old noise. Another premium brand (guess which) is launching, yet another, overpriced t-shirt—a $65 t-shirt no less—and they seem to be accruing quite a waiting list in the process, according to some reports. No, there’s no clever print, no celebrity signature, not golden thread on these tees, just a plain cotton t-shirt. That’s right. It is starting to look like the steadily-growing waiting list is one hurdle fashion acolytes will have to deal with in their pursuit of the latest "Super Tee."

Many trending brands are falling into line to create their own version of the “Super Tee” a plain, blank t-shirt which sells for astronomical sums, although it's still not clear what exactly distinguishes them from $5 t-shirts on sale at the local supermarket other than their elite designer labels, and enormous price tag. We recently reported on Beyonce’s $500 Balenciaga t-shirt which was the star attraction in her hipper-than-hip travel outfit which, although it looked drop-dead on Queen B, it also pushed the limits of credulity and economic sense for the world’s favorite item of clothing.

The best thing about t-shirts is that they are the most democratic of any closet item. Everyone has one and everyone has one they love. When labels start to push the envelope of t-shirt prices we start to see inflated prices for ordinary garments being an indication of their “quality.” This kind of economic sleight of hand is misleading, especially for a garment like a t-shirt, even if it is knitted by twelve Vestal virgins on a full moon eclipse, in a leap year, from reconstituted Jellyfish tentacles and pixie hair. The idea of a “Luxury T-shirt” is not novel, but the idea of a Super T-shirt which defies the rules ordinary economics is the kind of thing that the fairy tale about the emperors new clothes was made up to explain.

As trending brands clamor to create an inflated perceived value around their apparel SpectraUSA has stepped away from this kind of media noise to build a very different kind of t-shirt range and legacy, one built around real quality and genuine value you instantly can feel on your back, as well as in your wallet.

Super Tees vs The Massimo T-shirt

When tasked with the project of creating a Super Tee, the design team at Spectra plowed through reams of research and design history, leaving no page unturned in an effort to build an exceptional garment from the ground up. No hype, no distractions, no nonsense. Just the best t-shirt money can buy. Our designers worked through a number of iterations until we could settle on a clean, tailored and modernist t-shirt design which would be timeless and elegant in every respect and then we did the most outrageous thing of all. We didn’t fly to Peru or Uzbekistan to find some rare-earth cotton which only grows on upside-down hills; we found American sourced cotton yarns and created a unique 40 singles 100% cotton knit which is pure, classic Americana, imbued with quality you will feel from the minute you slip it on. Again, no fuss, no hype, no bother or getting hot under the collar, just a real, honest classic American T-shirt. It’s safe to say that this tee stands head and shoulders above anything in the market not because we focus on hype, because we focus on quality and getting the basics right.

With the clean, tailored elegance and ultra-soft luxury of this unique American sourced 40 singles textile there was little else to do in creating the softest, most comfortable t-shirt available in the market. So we set about making it even softer. More research, more testing and a careful investigation of the guru of modern garment dyeing, Massimo Osti. Taking a page from his legendary design book we sought to garment dye this unique, classic tee, thereby softening it and tempering it to ensure no shrinkage (most store-bought tees experience up to 5% shrinkage as they run through your washer and dryer).

The Massimo,” GD5001, is a garment dyed masterpiece of a t-shirt. It’s better than a hyped up “super tee” because it was built from the ground up to be a masterpiece of simplicity, quality and design. It was constructed by experts, being smart, being responsible and being patriotic about their design choices. In The Massimo we’ve created something very special, a connoisseur class t-shirt without the ridiculous price tag. This is a shirt which shows a deeper understanding of quality, value and design. Massimo owners are a select group not because they have money to burn but because they have design smarts, and know real elegance, precision and craftsmanship when they see it. It’s the subtle difference between having to be told what to buy to stay trendy, and knowing quality, Americana and style in your bones. Which is why it is also our most expensive t-shirt, because this level of quality does come with a price tag and a next-level feel and confidence which is expected from a premium connoisseur class garment such as the Massimo GD5001 garment dyed t-shirt.

In a world that is flooded with hype, spin and perception inflation, it’s rewarding to know that a few American t-shirt designers are still sticking to old school values to create new-school design, and premium apparel which needs no hype at all.

Responsive Production - The Trend for Retail and Producers

The bane of modern apparel manufacturers is usually the struggle to turn dedicated production systems on a dime and create compelling, fresh lines with real market appeal which are trend responsive for their partners. As brands and their manufacturing partners have chased profitability by outsourcing to China, India and elsewhere in the East, the operational snag they often seem to hit is inflexibility and the slow turnaround times for fashion production lines located outside of the Americas. Although this strategy was geared towards profitability, what has emerged from it is a market which values responsive production partners, giving retailers the ability to “tune into” an emerging trend, allowing for both agile and rapid production.

The ordinary brand retailer or boutique apparel producer, can face anything up to six months of concept, design and production time before a finished product can hit the racks ready for retail. Half of the problem is in the old cliché that good design takes time, the other half is that production lines require fine tuning, especially for private label and responsive creations which aim to connect with market trends but which may not be seen as the most practical or profitable exercise for manufacturing partners. With this said, it is gratifying to learn that certain manufacturers in both North and Central America seem to be trying to emulate the brutally fast turn-around times best exemplified by legendary Iberian fashion and design powerhouse ZARA, which boasts speed to market windows of around two to four weeks in some cases. The trick? Partnering with responsive manufacturers that understand ZARA’s particular design and delivery requirements and which are close to local markets to ensure fulfillment.

Enter the recent emergence of apparel manufacturers in Central and South America who seem to be trying to adopt a similar model of rapid turnaround and delivery. True, there are certain advantages to “Americas-based” apparel manufacture which are immediately obvious and financially attractive to mainland American markets—particularly the shorter lead times on offer as well as their optimal location, making most destinations in North America reachable within a day or so. This bodes extremely well for attacking the latest trends which may burn themselves out before garments can be produced and retailers are able to capitalize on them. Returning to the example set by ZARA, it seems they have a finger on their customers’ pulse and, with reduced lead and turnaround times, are able to move quickly and responsively to anticipate trends, capitalize on these market shifts and then move on to the next big thing without the horror of endless markdown sales due dead stock and missed opportunities.

[caption id="attachment_17744" align="aligncenter" width="1180"]SpectraUSA Responsive Manufacturing The fashion retail market values responsive manufacturing—the ability of retailers to “tune into” an emerging trend, and this requires both agile and rapid design from responsive production partners based on mainland USA, like the model from SpectraUSA.[/caption]

Although these new manufacturing concerns in South America are beginning to boast success stories of their own, this model was originally pioneered a lot closer to mainland USA, through SpectraUSA’s dynamic design and production team. Anticipating the needs of a fast and fickle fashion market Spectra gave up on the prospect of creating an effective supply and production line located outside of  North America. Proximity to the marketplace was critical, not only for distribution and accessibility by customers, brand heads, trending designers and manufacturing partners, but also for the favorable tax breaks for retailers and suppliers. SpectraUSA created a truly responsive, vertically integrated production line capable of rapid deployment and geared for anything from private label needs without the impractical lead times to reliably hammering out quality inventory for massive marquee brand orders. Taking ZARA’s model one step further, Spectra chose not to off-shore to the Caribbean or Central America, instead they built their base of operations in the Untied States, nestled in the huge distribution hub of Chino, California. From here they drive at accelerating both fulfillment and production times beyond what most people in the industry think is possible from such a large and established apparel manufacturer.

“It’s about breaking the mold and trying to innovate with every little detail, every single day,” commented Brian McLaughlin, one of the senior partners behind SpectraUSA’s meteoric rise. And he’s right, this responsive model with quick turnarounds and reduced lead and delivery times adds real value to retailers. With most of a retailer’s capital tied up in their inventory it is refreshing to know that inventory can be on-trend and on the shelf at the same time, to maximize profitability and reduce cash flow headaches.  Offering their customer the ability to receive merchandise quicker and sell it faster is the goal at Spectra and, it seems, they are already addressing the needs of a fickle market with a voracious appetite for the next new thing. The ZARA model is a triumph of agility and responsive production in a market which gives preference (and profit) to the retailer with the quickest speed to market. SpectraUSA’s model takes this to the next level by offering the same level of agility with an even more dynamic fulfillment and production service geared for a broad spectrum of marquee brands, rather than focusing on one, as in ZARA’s case. Where the fastest Central American turnaround times can range from anywhere from eight to twelve weeks, USA-based SpectraUSA prides itself on an average of one day for inventory and one to six weeks for custom/private label development, with short lead times and low run numbers, resulting in the realization of the ultimate goal of bringing value back to the retailer.

An incredible amount of focus is being brought to bear on the relationship between the retailer and the consumer and with it, a brand new pressure to perform which some retailers are simply not equipped to cope with. Leading examples of this can be found in the footwear sector where giants like Nike, Adidas, Converse and Vans duke it out in online retail experience, working hard to win customers with their ability to create responsive custom items and almost one-of-a-kind, highly personalized apparel with the same reliable pedigree these brands are renowned for. The pressure is squarely on the retailer who has the tough choice of adjusting to the new market trends and partnering with an agile development and responsive manufacturing partner like SpectraUSA—in the same way that ZARA has done with its own partners—or to face the cold, cashless shoulder of a market which lacks the patience to wait for offshore goods to hit the docks. Time and trend it seems, wait for no man, woman or retailer anymore.

The trend for the future seems set on agile, responsive manufacturing and design and supply with pin-sharp focus and delivery. A trusted and able partner in this market trend seems to be the deciding factor behind the success of capable brands like ZARA, and with responsive partners like SpectraUSA with mainland distribution networks, reduced lead times and agile, vertically integrated production, this future, seems possible for everyone.

3 Steps to buying the perfect blank T-shirt

The blank black t-shirt is the de rigeur uniform of California. A trip down the streets and beaches of LA, San Diego or San Francisco will confirm any doubts you may have about this fact. Black is the perfect shade for any gritty, smoggy city but also for the abundant creative classes in the big towns making, breaking and bringing new stuff to life in studios, skate parks, line ups and backstreets across the State. Picking the perfect blank t-shirt is not as easy as you may first think, so we did the grunt work for you to make your search for a blank tshirt that much easier.


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3 steps to pick the perfect t-shirt


3 Steps to buying the perfect blank t-shirt

1. The Perfect Blank T-shirt: Is it a softee or a toughie?

When the t-shirt first broke onto on the scene as the ultimate in military spec underwear there wasn’t much of a choice to the design, the fit or the comfort level of this fashion classic. A lot has happened in the garment industry since then and we live in an age where you could wear a different type of t-shirt every day of the year and still never wear the same shirt twice. But sometimes too much choice isn’t always a helpful thing—the easiest way to pick the perfect t-shirt is to decide, first and foremost—do I prefer a coarse-knit t-shirt or a softer knit tee.

“Tough” tees are created from coarser textiles and, typically, from an open-end spinning process. This is the original t-shirt spec where the comfort of the wearer was a secondary consideration to the durability and wear-ability of the shirt. With this said, there’s a lot of folks who say there is nothing that can come close to the softness and fit of one of these classic t-shirt styles once it is properly worn-in and contoured exactly to the shape of your body like a glove.

At the rough and tough end of the scale is Spectra’s 18 singles open-end yarn spun 2001 “Roughneck,” a tee designed for strength and durability, and a clear favorite with the action sports crowd who place pretty strenuous demands on their favorite tees, and consequently a higher premium on their hard-wearing ability.

For folks in need of a gentler touch they can find the difference they need in modern ring-spun yarns which produce a considerably more forgiving and softer thread than their open-end yarn spun cousins. The net result is a truly soft t-shirt with a very gentle touch like Spectra’s 2100 Retro ring-spun tee.

At the opposite end of the softness scale is the 3100 cotton perfection, a true 30 singles ring-spun t-shirt. The unique feature of this shirt is that it is tempered and preshrunk in the dyeing process which gives the softest shirt available exceptional durability as well.



2. Light weight t-shirts or heavy weight t-shirts?

Perhaps the easiest consideration towards your choice of the perfect blank t-shirt is the first—do you enjoy a lightweight and soft fabric, or a hard-wearing, heavyweight fabric you can break in and soften up yourself? The softness of a t-shirt typically improves with cotton count; similarly, the shirt also gets a little lighter as the number of the count increases. For example, a 20 singles (single knit) T-shirt is a little coarser and a slightly heavier than the more refined, softer 30 singles tshirt which, in turn, is a shade or two off the lightness and softness of a 40 singles tee.

For a tough contender that meets the highest standards of softness, warmth and with a slightly thicker feel, look no further than the SpectraUSA 2100 Retro ring-spun t-shirt. Literally a chip of the old block, this tee is the same American heritage design grandad shipped off to war in, but with a refined, modern, ring-spun aesthetic. It carries the classic military design with no frills, no quarter given and none asked. You will instantly recognize the slightly fuller, thicker ring-spinning fabric behind this garment—something grandad would have envied. This is a great winter extra-layer garment or, for flying solo in summer as an all-you’ll-need perfect blank t-shirt.

Contrasting the 2100 tee with Spectra’s signature 3100 Cotton Perfection t-shirt is a tough choice to have to make with each garment having its own unique set of premium features which set it apart. The 3100 Cotton Perfection is a 30 singles ring-spun garment which means there’s next-level refinement to the spun cotton textile behind this exceptional shirt, rendering it gorgeously soft and smooth under the hand and on the shoulders. The refined 30 singles spinning process also works to lighten the fabric ever so slightly giving the feeling of the 3100 being an all-round “lighter” shirt to wear. The updated cut of the 3100 is also more modern, more “now” and reflective of 100 years of t-shirt innovation and style.



3. Colors

Spectra boasts the brightest white and deepest black of any t-shirt in the market today. If you searching for the perfect blank black t-shirt, or stalking the one and only white tee to complete your look, you can do a lot worse than one of Spectra’s fine North American made garments. The proprietary dyeing processes behind the versatile range of colors in both the 2100 and 3100 styles is one of the reasons the shirts are so soft under hand. The dyes temper and soften the shirts ensuring negligible shrinkage (it’s industry standard to expect t-shirts to shrink by up to 5% of their size after the first few washes and laps around the drier), and the range of colors across the 2100 and 3100 styles is quite staggering—something for everyone is a bit of an understatement: Yellow, Bright Orange, Scarlet, Chocolate Brown, Kelly Green, Turquoise, Royal Blue and Maroon are the tip of this iceberg. But if you are simply looking for connoisseur class, blank black and white t-shirts, this is the best of all possible places to start.

We can easily overlook the quality and performance of the staples in our closet because of their price-tag. The humble t-shirt, in this day and age is our uniform and an item of clothing we seem to spend more time in that any other in our closet. It seems a little strange then that we do not spend as much time choosing the perfect t-shirt as we would say, a great pair of heels, or a really snug pair of jeans that fit just so. Your t-shirt is you, it is your second skin and your uniform. Chose wisely and show the streets your perfect blank t-shirt style is connoisseur class.

Exhibition: T-shirt History

More than 100 years after its emergence as a humble item of underclothing, the t-shirt is getting its own fashion retrospective at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, England. Tshirt history it seems, is rich, layered and very much alive after a century of evolution and concomitant refinement of the world’s favorite garment. Not only is the t-shirt the world’s favorite garment, but t-shirt history also teaches that it is the world’s most democratic item of clothing in that, it can and is, worn by almost everyone, from every sector of society. Democratic t-shirts may be, but they have also attracted the interest and efforts of the icons of fashion design, as well as powerful social voices alike. From legendary British designers Vivian Westwood through Katharine Hamnett’s powerful protest tees of the 1980s, the t-shirt has done its duty as billboard, advertising platform, and fashion statement and the T-shirt: Cult— Culture—Subversion exhibition aims to pay tribute to this incredible printed, patterned and textured tshirt history. We have an extensively detailed four part introductory history of the t-shirt in our resources section for anyone interested in how the t-shirt came to be the most popular item of clothing on earth.

The popularity of the t-shirt is unrivaled by any other item of clothing in our closets mostly because of its massive utility appeal, dead-on minimalist practicality and constant fashion-ability. T-shirts never go out of style and can be worn almost anywhere these days. Although its appeal for social protest and political platforms remains one of the most significant aspects of its appeal, the tshirt is something the proletariat and the most distinguished fashion labels share, as evidenced by Dior’s recent riff off Nigerian feminist and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful eponymous publication and TED talk, and the ever effervescent girl power zeitgeist of our time. This new exhibition promises a detailed retrospective of this much-loved and much-flaunted garment spanning the last century of t-shirt design and manufacture. From its earliest incarnations through its military use, those giddy teenage years as it returned home from the war, followed by a strong heritage as the most democratic item of protest clothing around, the t-shirt is unquestionably the world's favorite garment and the go-to solution for almost everyone from every walk of life or social station.

[caption id="attachment_17426" align="aligncenter" width="1280"]Spectra History of T-Shirts: The Fifties Spectra History of T-Shirts: The Fifties[/caption]

SpectraUSA’s own collection sports several items which draw their roots directly from the rich design history of the American t-shirt. The 2001 Roughneck is not only a tough contender in this category but also the kind of t-shirt which grandad would have been proud to pull over his head before shipping out. With open-end yarn spinning and rich, textured feel, this built-tough design classic has become legendary in the California actions ports community. Not to be outdone are the clean, modernist lines of SpectraUSA’s 2100 Retro ring-spun t-shirt which has been meticulously designed along classic tshirt design lines and updated through the use of modern tailoring and manufacturing techniques to ensure that it is simply the best fitting t-shirt around.

T-shirt: Cult—Culture—Subversion” is currently on exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum from February 9 through May 6 2018 at the museum’s venue in London. Get there however you can but be sure to get there as it promises to be quite a show.

The Classic Cali Retro T-shirt and the Summer Color Explosion

The snowballs have been tossed, the snowmen built and… unbuilt. Logs burned, s’mores s’mored, carols sung, noses nipped by old Jack Frost and at the dirty tail-end of winter there’s not much more to say besides a hearty “C'mon Summer!!” And not just any summer mind, a truly Spectralicious summer filled with short sleeve tees and tanks, glorious sunshine and and easy summer smiles all day long. To get you in the mood for our favorite season we have created three unique new colors for our retro t-shirt range of classic American t-shirts to help you ease out of those soggy, muddy boots and into something with a few more summer colors.

Spectra’s 2100 range of shirts is built around a traditional, historically American retro t-shirt specification. After all, the t-shirt was born and perfected here and our homage to this incredible fashion heritage is clear in ever inch of this North American designed and created masterpiece. From the American-made yarns, to the 20 singles ring-spinning process we use create this uniquely soft and durable garment ensures a great fit and the ultimate softness under the touch. Noticeable thicker than other weaker “industry standard” t-shirts, the 2100 Retro ring-spun tee offers the wearer all the comfort of the t-shirt that was “good enough for grandad” with all of the advances of modern technology which finish this garment in ways which we know grandad would applaud.

SpectraUSA Summer Colors 2100 Retro T-shirt

And, yet another reason we created our own unique range of dye colors to express our very Californian joie de vivre for summer and the classic Cali summer tee. The first of these epic, uniquely SpectraUSA dye-colors, “Spectra Squash” mixes the best of what yellow has to offer with a warm dash of the oranges of a classic LA sunset to create a warmth you can almost taste. This beautiful toasted orange pastel is not just a new color for us but a challenge to every other t-shirt out there to perform better. The dyeing process alone of SpectraUSA 2100s both softens and shrinks the parent fabric in order to minimize any shrinkage in the final product you take home with you. This tempered fabric is incredibly soft and durable across wash after dry after wash, again and again coming up tops. In these gorgeous retro ring-spun tees we’ve created a range of t-shirts which are striking, practical, comfortable and at the cutting edge of what fashion technology has to offer.

Trending hard right now is a fresh palette of both bight and soft pastel colors which threaten to dominate the entire spectrum of summer colors. They are striking and easily add light to any outfit and declare, unabashedly, that summer is here and it’s fun, fun, fun all the way. Not to be outdone by our Spectra Squash, is Spectra’s take on a clean and fresh new Mint green. Unique to Spectra’s 2100 line of retro t-shirts, this remains the freshest and cleanest of colors on any t-shirt this season and, coupled with the ultra-soft touch of this fine ring-spun 20 singles cotton retro t-shirt, the only shirt you’ll need on your back this summer. A personal favorite is the newest debutante to the SpectraUSA remarkable stable of blues, the Pacific Blue, a light, digital electric blue which is more than a little eye-catching with its perfect Pacific blue mood that says “California, we love you!”

The 2100 retro tshirt is one of SpectraUSA’s most loved tees and remains a favorite in any closet, in any color. With the addition of these brilliant new pastels, electrifying, soft and eye-catching, the retro line of SpectraUSA is entering the summer of 2018 with more than a bang—it's a full-on sonic boom. Grab a few of these babies whilst we’ve still got them and target a fashion blast yourself as winter turns to spring and summer becomes the new, new thing.