Published on March 8th, 2020 | by Clayton Durant0
Threadless and Strange Planet Viral Webcomic Creator, Nathan W. Pyle, Lead a New Wave of Wearable Art
Threadless, a leading eCommerce apparel company and online artist community, in partnership with Nathan W. Pyle, cartoonist and New York Times best-selling author, announced the sale of over 300,000 unique items in Strange Planet merchandise.
Pyle, who launched his Strange Planet webcomic series in early February 2019, experienced rapid and viral success, gaining one million Instagram followers in the first five weeks. Within the comic’s first year, Pyle amassed over 6.5 million followers and quickly turned to Threadless to open his Artist Shop to capitalize on the series’ success.
To discuss this collaboration, I had the chance to interview Dustin Henderlong, VP of Digital at Threadless in which we talked about how the formation of the partnership, why Strange Planet has gained such a large audience, and how other artists can leverage Threadless in their merchandising strategy.
Could you give the readers some insight into the Threadless x Nathan Pyle partnership? How did it come about?
Nathan submitted his first design to Threadless back in 2008. Since then, he’s uploaded an additional 175 designs. He’s been an active member of the Threadless community, even venturing to our Chicago meetups to inspire other artists via the personal stories and clever designs he’s amassed over the years.
When Threadless launched the Artist Shops platform, which allows any artist or human to open a free eCommerce store with zero inventory or risk, Nathan created a shop. We saw the potential behind it and reached out to offer our assistance in merchandising and managing his merch.
His experience as a NYT best-selling author, BuzzFeed writer, and savvy social media user made him the perfect partner. He could reliably create art that resonates, share it, and build buzz, while Threadless and Artist Shops could offer him the tools and platform to monetize that work. We were also uniquely positioned to help him get his designs into brick-and-mortar stores across the country, opening up new ways for customers to find his beings, and for Nathan to continue to grow his business.
Why do you think the Strange Planet webcomic series has connected with such a large audience?
The beings that Nathan created for Strange Planet find themselves in the same situations that we humans do, but by showing these moments in a parallel world, we are able to laugh at common behaviors and elements of our society. When we go to the dentist, we can talk about wearing the trash necklace and getting our mouthstones cleaned.
By removing humans from the equation and instead focusing on our activities and traditions, we are able to notice and admit just how comical and often absurd our habits can be. Perhaps that’s really what it’s all about. Strange Planet allows us to observe, and laugh at our own world, regardless of what we look like or where we call home on this planet. It feels good to laugh at ourselves, and it feels even better to share these musings with friends and family, which is how these beings took over Earth so quickly.
Nathan’s best selling items thus far are the $20 t-shirts. What other items in the mass collection have been popular with customers?
We worked directly with Nathan to launch several new products on the Artist Shops platform in 2019 (with more new releases coming in early 2020). Stickers were announced with Strange Planet as the first shop carrying them and they quickly became his second best-selling product after t-shirts. Their approachable price point and impulse-buy nature make them universally appealing. Magnets were similarly released in Nathan’s shop and have become another bestseller. In fact, magnets and stickers combined sell almost as many units as tees. Wall art, buttons, and mugs are the next most popular products and each provides an ideal canvas for displaying specific elements of the Strange Planet universe.
How do you advise other artists on the Threadless Artists Shop platform to create collections as successful as Nathan’s?
Each artist and shop owner has a unique style and voice. That said, one key learning from Nathan’s success is that consistently adding new designs and promoting them keeps your fans engaged. Through educational channels like our Creative Resources blog, we encourage shop owners to find ways to regularly and reliably interact with their audiences through social posts, newsletters, sharable content, or any unique and genuine method of communication that fits organically with their brand.
Nathan said it well, “I’m not naive enough to think that all my fans only follow me. If I’m not promoting my work, then it’s a safe bet someone else they follow is.” If you have a megaphone, use it. While Nathan was busy building the Strange Planet universe, we combined our marketing efforts to reach as many new fans and customers as possible. Nathan does an incredible job of striking while the iron is hot and then maintaining or building momentum for his projects.
If you can create designs that resonate with your audience, do everything you can to build on that success and don’t be shy about sharing your work with the world.Tweet