Stealthy Giant: Shirt Shop Interview

by on September 24, 2012

What’s the name of your shop? Your name? Your role?

Stealthy Giant. Chris Martin. Owner/Designer.

How did you come up with the name Stealthy Giant?

I’ve been called this before by some of my so-called friends on account of my height, (6ft 4in), and that I have a knack of slipping into pubs, parties and general social gatherings without anyone really noticing. There was definitely something about the nickname that seemed to fit with my website. It’s also a bit of an oxymoron and you just can’t beat a good old oxymoron.

Where are you from/live now?

I was born in East Kilbride in Scotland, which is just outside of Glasgow. Now I live in a small town called Dunoon which is located in Argyll. It’s basically a twenty minute ferry journey and 30 minute drive away from the nearest city, which would be Glasgow. I must have some sort of sub-conscious aversion to living in Glasgow.

When did Stealthy Giant launch?

Stealthy Giant launched this year in late July. It was a straight switch over from my previous t-shirt website The DOFC. Everything went extremely smoothly thanks to Paul Blair my website designer and general go to guy for IT problems and solutions.

What was the inspiration for launching a t-shirt business?

The short answer to this question would be full-time employment. Working for somebody else and making them a profit is pretty much all the motivation I needed to go solo and start my own business. I’ve always been a bit of a t-shirt geek, years ago when I was a wee boy in short trousers I used to regularly rip the back page out of Empire Magazine which would feature a famous scripted scene from a cult movie alongside a picture of the main protagonist. I used to visit a t-shirt printers in Glasgow who would transfer the torn-out pages from Empire onto t-shirts for me. I guess that’s where my interest in t-shirt designs originated from.

What differentiates Stealthy Giant from all the others on the Internet?

It’s so difficult to get noticed online these days as pretty much everyone is trying to print and sell t-shirts through the Internet, it’s a veritable sea of t-shirt outlets. A lot of really great companies are reproducing exact logos and brands from movies and although that’s a fantastic idea I like to try and mix things up a bit. Cutty’s Gym for example, a tribute tee from the TV series The Wire, is my own interpretation of how that boxing club would present itself in a logo format, the same with my True Grit and Unforgiven t-shirts they’re designs purely based on nothing more than dialogue and information contained within those films, I’ve just given them a form to exist as a design on a t-shirt.

How’s business?

Business is good. Right now I’m just trying to focus all of my attention on marketing the website and building up a reputation. Re-branding takes a large chunk of your time to smooth out the creases.

Tell me about the shirt design look Stealthy Giant is trying to achieve.

Subtle/obscure pop culture reference designs is what I try to keep to. There’s a lot more thought required but that’s something I really enjoy. Not to blow my own trumpet but when I was selling and designing on my old website The DOFC I came up with a Jaws tribute tee which had ‘Quint’s Great White Fishing Trips’ printed on it along with the white skeletal jaws of a shark between two yellow barrels. At the time there wasn’t a single t-shirt design like it, now however that idea has been re-used and re-interpreted by practically every major t-shirt company out there. That’s the rub that comes with producing your work online, almost anyone can plagiarise it or adapt it, but sticking to the invention of designs that reference movies or pop culture in general is really the look I’m trying to achieve.

Can you explain why mashups are so popular? You seem to do mostly mashups?

I think it’s about the subtlety, again a lot of movie fans get a bigger kick out the more obscure movie reference designs and if you can somehow combine elements of more than one together on the one shirt, then you’ll almost certainly make sales.

Tell me about the re-branding process you just went through. You mentioned you went from DOFC to Stealthy Giant and made changes to how you run the shop. Can you elaborate on that?

Sure. First off it was a very difficult decision for me to take simply because of the logistics involved. But I had been pretty unsatisfied with the way I was actually printing t-shirts, during the years spent operating The DOFC. I was designing, cutting, hand weeding and vinyl heat pressing all of the t-shirts I sold, by hand. Which meant I was painted into a rather solid corner of buying in stock whenever I made sales and all of this was leaving me no time to focus on certain other aspects of the business, such as marketing. So I took the plunge and decided to switch to screen printing, the immediate down side to this was that I could only print a limited batch at a time and the onus was on me to sell those batches, but what would life be like without a challenge?

You said you do the business alone. Can you talk about the pros and cons of that? Would you consider hiring employees or outsourcing work down the road?

I could talk about the pros and cons all day of being a sole operator. If I had to whittle it down to just two I’d say the biggest con is the fact you are on you’re own, there’s no-one else to collaborate with or bounce ideas off, the work you face every day has to be completed by you and you alone and it can get exceptionally lonely. That’s the one thing I miss about full time employment is the human engagement each day either with fellow workers of your employer. The biggest pro is probably the fact that you can take a lot of pride in going it alone, once you’ve tasted a bit of success it’s been down to you and you alone and there’s no greater feeling of achievement. I do get help from family members who are always on hand to dig me out and my mother is a whizz with book work so I rely on her to make sure my papers are in order which in turn allows me more time to concentrate on the more practical side of the business. It’s a lot like spinning plates.

How important is social media to your business?

For a sole operator like myself with a limited marketing budget it’s hugely important. Facebook and Twitter really have opened up so many new possibilities for self-employed entrepreneurs as it allows an open channel of direct communication to you and your customers. You can also gauge feedback from them which is priceless.

What’s the weirdest picture of someone wearing one of your tees that you have seen? And/or have you run into a stranger out in the wild wearing one of your products? And/or celebrity sightings?

Haven’t received any weird pictures but back when I had The DOFC the comedic genius that is Patton Oswalt ended up wearing my Cutty’s Boxing Gym t-shirt at a stand-up gig somewhere in the States, which just blew my mind. The strangest story I have about one of my t-shirts happened around three years ago, I got a call from a friend who was very insistent that I come meet him in a nearby pub. Reluctantly I caved in and agreed and when I arrived he couldn’t contain his excitement and rushed me over to this poor guy sitting at a table. Turns out this bloke was from Australia and was holidaying in Scotland for a month, I noticed right away he was wearing my Quint’s tee which he had bought from my website two weeks previous to him arriving in Scotland. Kind of coincidental that he ends up face to face with the guy who sold him the t-shirt from half way round the world, in a pub.

What type of person is a prime candidate to be a customer?

That’s a good question. I guess someone who has an all encompassing interest and passion for pop culture, which is probably a long winded way of saying someone who is a geek. Much like myself.

Where do you get your designs?

I’ll single out movies that I have always enjoyed and then try and come up with a design I’m satisfied with and that I would wear myself.

What kind of shirt stock do you use? Why?

Most of the designs are printed on Gildan. I find them to be a far more practical and comfortable t-shirt to wear. I’ve got two future designs that I plan to print on Gildan Soft Style which are just a joy to wear.

Where do you see your business in a year?

Hopefully with a robust returning customer base and a healthy number of followers on Facebook.

What’s your favorite design currently?

There’s a fantastic mash-up t-shirt currently available on Redbubble called Dark Side Story which blends the iconic movie poster of the classic musical West Side Story with Star Wars. It’s nothing short of genius. The type of simple uncomplicated design that you curse for not thinking of yourself, but inwardly you can’t help but love the shit out of it.

What’s your current favorite t-shirt design that you created?

I’d say Munny’s Dry Goods is my current favourite design. I love the movie Unforgiven and to my knowledge this might be the only reference t-shirt out there for that film.

What sells more men or women’s shirts?

In my own personal experience it would have to be men’s shirts. I’ve certainly experienced more of a demand for men’s shirts, but that’s not to say that I’ll exclusively ignore female based designs and ideas for ladies t-shirts. There’s definitely a bigger market out there for pop culture based t-shirts for men rather than women.

Is there a specific subject matter that you sell most of?

Mostly the movie tribute and reference shirts.

What are the top three selling designs at your store?

Cutty’s Boxing Gym (The Wire), Ramones/Rainbow mash-up which I cannot take credit for , this was actually designed by Ali Campbell Creative, a smart and witty man and lastly Obey Consume And Stay Asleep (They Live).

Is the world going to end this year?

I really hope not. There is so much to live for…GTA V, the Avengers sequel and other less important fun things, you know like marriage and raising a family.

Anything else you want to add?

Yeah, I’m currently in the middle of trying to set up a t-shirt outlet which caters only for the bigger gents. Pop culture themed tees at an affordable price from sizes XXL up to 6XL. I should have a store up and running soon but in the meantime here’s the Facebook page for those of your readers who might be interested. I’ll be posting regular updates relating to the progression of this outlet.

Where can people find you? Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Pretty much on Facebook and Twitter also check out a sister website I run called HMS Friday, it’s just a place for me to post up anything I find interesting on the Internet and a small Tumblr blog I also keep called Sequels, Prequels, Reboots & Remakes…Geez, I’ve just realised why I never have enough hours in a day.


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