A T-Shirt Shop for the Semi-Ironically ‘Twilight’ Fan
Prior to 2020, Madison Sinclair had not seen any of the “Twilight” films. But after seeing all five during quarantine, she became completely enamored – and inspired to express her new fantasy.
“I wanted to make something like, ‘Is this satire or is this real? Ms Sinclair, 21, said on a video call from her home in Houston. The result was a T-shirt, created using a clothing customization website, that contained the sentence “Bite me, big boy!” and “I love my vampire boyfriend” with a photo of Robert Pattinson, the film’s main male lead. The back read, “Biggest fan of Edward Cullen!” In bright pink letters.
When Ms Sinclair wore the shirt in a TikTok video, questions soon arose in the comments about where to buy it.
“I was like, ‘They have to be kidding. This is the most random, distinctive T-shirt ever. Why are there so many people in this?'” Ms. Sinclair said.
She started selling them on Depop—a site that often listed “pre-loved” items—but realized, after receiving about 80 requests in her first day, she’d need to scale up. So, he bought a web domain, BUGGIRL200.com (after his TikTok username), and created his own online store. She has since sold more than 15,000 shirts, each of them reflecting tongue-in-cheek nostalgia for the cultural touchstones from the past two decades. (Other designs include those by Adam Sandler, Michael Cera, One Direction, and Pitbull.)
He learned the sublimation printing process to make shirts himself; dropped out of the University of Houston where she was a marketing student; and turned the business into his full-time job.
Ms. Sinclair said, “I give my entire present life to that TikTok.”
Her work went unnoticed by the celebrity class: Olivia Rodrigo, for example, tagged her friend Iris Apatow — Judd’s daughter — in a photo on Instagram of a BUGGIRL200 original that read: “I think That Twilight movies are awesome!!!!! If you don’t think it makes me sexy and cool, don’t talk to me!!!!!
The image caught the eye of 21-year-old Dulce Clara, a student in San Marcos, Calif. “‘Twilight’ will always hold a special place in my heart because not only did I grow up watching movies, but it was actually my first teen romance film,” she said. When she saw Ms. Rodrigo’s post, she said, “I fell in love with the shirt immediately and bought it.”
Cece Gude, 25, a Miami musician, has an Adam Sandler and Michael Cera shirt; She wears one almost every week. “He’s my favorite actor,” she said of Mr. Sandler, “and he really is one of the funniest people in Hollywood, in my opinion.”
Maya Avalos, a 22-year-old Chicago student, first heard about the brand through TikTok and bought the Pitbull-themed shirt she wore to a Pitbull concert. “I love pitbulls, so a shirt with a pitbull engulfed in flames was a must,” she said, “she has never seen a shirt with such a cool spirit before.”
Ms. Sinclair’s site is run through Shopify, where approximately 1.7 million merchants sell all kinds of goods. The company saw a surge in usage during the pandemic, when most brick-and-mortar retailers moved sales online. And it has made it much easier for upstarts to start and run small businesses.
Gary Dushnitsky, an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School, said, “In the days of dot-com, one had to buy computer servers, write code, and spend three months to a year before a virtual store went live. ” “Only large companies, or those that had the foresight and the ability to raise large upfront investments, could launch and develop a virtual presence.”
This is not the case today due to low-code platforms like Shopify, Wix and Magento. “A creative person no longer has to spend weeks looking for a technical co-founder. Rather, they can leverage one of these platforms to launch and grow a successful presence,” said Mr. Dushnitsky. This could lead to more innovation and experimentation, as well as diversification in terms of shoppers. There could be growth, he said, “including those who traditionally did not have technical knowledge or initial capital.”
For Ms. Sinclair, the accessibility provided by Shopify was the key to getting the BUGGIRL200 off the ground. Once this was underway, she moved from her parents’ house to her apartment and turned her full attention to the clothing company.
“It’s still pretty scary, because at the end of the day, it’s a ‘Twilight’ T-shirt business,” she said. It’s also a mild nonsense thing.
“I love when people come to my page and I don’t know if I’m a 14-year-old Taylor Swift fan or an adult woman making T-shirts for a living,” said Ms. Sinclair.
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