Creativ Culture's affordable T-shirts with their eye-catching patterns. Provided to China Daily
Daniel Meller was sitting at a cafe in Beijing's Solana Shopping Mall, when a stranger approached him to ask where she could buy the T-shirt he was wearing. Meller's eye-catching T-shirt, with its colorful pattern of a giant tree, birds, monkeys and other animal, was, in fact, from his own Beijing-based company, Creativ Culture. "Every time I wear these T-shirts and walk on the streets, people approach me to ask where to buy them," Meller says.
The 25-year-old American usually answers by handing out his colorful business card and inviting them to buy from the online store.
Creativ Culture, founded nine months ago, sells T-shirts with striking designs that are very different from those of well-known foreign labels such as Uniqlo and H&M, and have been created by Chinese designers.
Meller, who had a T-shirt business in the United States too, was disappointed by the choices he found when he landed in China and decided to start his own company.
It sources its designs by running online T-shirt design contests built around themes such as the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, or environment protection. Winners are chosen by online votes and stand to win 2,500 yuan ($391). Meller and his colleagues then contact garment factories to make these fancy T-shirts, and sell them online at creativculture.com, for 39 yuan each.
"We try to connect the theme with something in China. Although design is an international language, we are trying to get people to think about China. We want to create original designs," Meller says.
When he first started out, some of his friends told him: "You'll never find a single good design." But he soon proved them wrong.
Although the company has only three full-time employees, it has run about 10 contests, each of which have attracted 300 to 400 participants, on average. Meller was pleasantly surprised to find that about 75 percent of the entries were good enough to be presented online. The website currently has 250 designs, culled from its latest contest.
He expresses most satisfaction with the environment-protection theme contest. "Probably the best contest we have had," he says.
The designs submitted were not only linked to the idea of eco-friendliness but were also connected to China. The winning pattern was reminiscent of ethnic handicraft from southwestern China, with its colorful animals and plants.
Meller, who has been studying ancient Chinese paintings, says amid all the detail is a very clear idea of symmetry.
Many Chinese go to England or France to learn fashion designing and return to start fancy clothing lines, he says.
He recalls walking into a store in Beijing's Wudaoying that sells very high-end costumes.
"They were very expensive, and extremely beautiful. Ordinary people can't afford them.
"When you look at them, there is no way you will know they come from China. They are international fashions done by Chinese people. They do not present Chinese culture," Meller adds.
His company is trying to help the world understand Chinese designs and one way of doing so is to put them on T-shirts, as these are affordable, he says.
This is what sets Creativ Culture apart from from Vancl and Uniqlo, he adds.
"Their purpose may be to sell T-shirts, but ours is also to promote designs from China. T-shirts are only a platform. At the same time, we are not Bathing Ape," he says, referring to the clothing company known for its so-called "original artwork".
The company is looking at sweaters next fall, and might also put its coolest graphics, on cups, notebooks, and decor items.