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Fab.com Finds Headache-Free Source For Unique, New Designs

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Lee Gibson   WINNING DESIGNER



THE CHALLENGE


In early 2014, the design-centric e-commerce site Fab.com was evolving. Moving away from flash sales of hard-to-find designer home goods, the online retailer launched an initiative to design its own private collections, including a print-on-demand design business that put the work of 3rd-party artists on printed and decorated apparel.

That April, Julian Wan, the merchant who oversaw Fab’s menswear, was tasked with finding new artists for their printed t-shirts. His KPIs were ambitious, and he needed a large volume of great designs in order to meet them.

Previously, he had tried finding designs by soliciting Fab’s community of friends and fans. The contests required Wan to create multiple email addresses to manage the huge influx of submissions that flowed in during every contest. Timing promotions and managing emails was time consuming, and the results were lackluster; only a handful of submissions were promising. The contests were a headache to manage, and he worried that calling on Fab’s fans but not using their work would disappoint them.

I felt like I had the opportunity to communicate directly with an artist, but I felt like if I needed help or assistance, I had a team of people ready to help.

I had a breadth of options and choices, and it made reviews really simple. We had to say no to a few designs we liked because we filled our slots. If it was a buffet, we left full.

- Julian Wan, Merchandiser at Fab.com

THE SOLUTION

Fab had learned of Red Clay during one of its previous contests and decided to try launching a t-shirt line with the platform in time for summer. Wan wanted to showcase the work of unknown and up-and-coming designers whose work hadn’t been printed on t-shirts before, guaranteeing that the designs could only be found on Fab.com.

Within a week of posting his brief, a whopping 29 designers indicated they were interested in participating on the project. Wan ultimately chose 10 designers to participate and received 44 unique submissions in the initial round of designs. He loved having the breadth of quality design options. “We wanted to work with people who aligned with our brand vision and decorative whimsy,” he said. Fab fans tended to like sharp typography, humor, location-oriented graphics, and animals. In the first round alone, he had more concepts that would resonate with Fab’s audience than he could actually produce.

While Wan was thrilled with the quality of designs he received, it was the cohesiveness of the platform that made the biggest difference for him and his team. Having all of the designs in one place made it easy for the Fab team review the designs. The platform’s internal messaging system made it easy to work through revisions with the designers.

Wan also enjoyed the support he received from the Red Clay team. “I felt like I had the opportunity to communicate directly with an artist, but I felt like if I needed help or assistance, I had a team of people ready to help,” he said. Having a cohesive platform to find designers, work out iterations, and get deliverables made juggling multiple concepts with several designers easy and fast. It was just what he and his busy team needed to meet their sales goals.

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THE RESULTS

By the end of the 6 weeks, Wan selected 7 designs to debut as part of Fab’s inaugural T-shirt collection. The vast majority of the designs sold out quickly and were reprinted, including Red Clay designer Lee Gibson’s coolly geometric “Hazard,” which sold out in three weeks.

“Red Clay was a tremendous resource for us,” Wan said. “I had a breadth of options and choices, and it made reviews really simple. We had to say no to a few designs we liked because we filled our slots. If it was a buffet, we left full.”

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The Startup

UnaliWear had an unusual request for a tech company: design a smart watch that your grandma would understand how to use, and actually wear.

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The Beloved Brand

Dillard's department store saw a huge opportunity for growth in homewares for Millennial shoppers, but needed fresh, new designs to win them over.

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The Online Innovator

Moving away from flash sales of hard-to-find designer home goods, the online retailer launched an initiative to design its own private collections.

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