Usually when I think about statement tees, the first thing that comes to mind is a simple T-shirt with some generic, inspirational quote slapped on the front, like “Live, Love, Laugh” or something along those lines.
But with KTees.co, statement tees truly live up to their name.
Just to give an example, there’s a shirt that says, “I hope your day is as nice as your butt”. And that’s one of the milder ones.
However, the brand didn’t actually start with the intention to create these T-shirts that will make you do a double take. In actuality, it started as a final degree project by its founder, Shazna Rusli.
A fashion marketing and management major at Raffles Design Institute, Shazna was tasked to create a brand. She had to come up with a business plan and products then sell them within the college compounds.
At the time, Shazna had gone with vintage tee designs. “Then, I graduated and started working and kind of forgot about it,” she said.
But one day in 2018, while browsing online, she came across some T-shirts that she liked. The catch? They were all from the UK or the US, making them pricey even before the shipping fees.
Unable to find local alternatives, Shazna took matters into her own hands. Still working her day job at the time, she started out with four designs in limited quantities and sizes, selling them to friends and colleagues.
In 2020, however, Shazna left her job and began giving her full attention to Ktees.co.
When inspiration strikes
Looking at KTees.co’s catalogue, many would probably be curious as to where Shazna even gets her ideas from.
My personal favourite reads: “Yeah, I’ve got some NFTs, Nice F*cking Tits”. It’s crass, hilarious, and witty—a common trifecta that can be found across KTees.co’s page.
“I usually get ideas and inspiration from memes, Pinterest, and, sometimes, conversations with my friends,” Shazna revealed. Given her designs, she must have some pretty amusing conversations with her friends.
But inspiration is just one part of the process. The next step proves to be much more difficult and time-consuming—the actual design.
Most of KTees.co’s shirts play around with different fonts and illustrations. It may seem simple, but it still takes a while for Shazna to finalise the design.
“If I am really happy with [the design], as in I have to be really excited about it, I will send the design to my printing guy,” she shared.
By printing guy, Shazna is referring to someone who makes just the print and not the final shirts.
For the first round of self-designed shirts in 2020, she had sent her designs to a supplier that printed the T-shirts. But she has since gotten her own equipment, which includes a Silhouette cutting machine and a heat-press machine.
“I discovered that this way, I can experiment with different T-shirt colours and also sizes,” she explained. “I wanted the brand to be available for everyone so some designs have sizes up to 5XL.”
Even though Shazna still engages with a third-party business to create the prints, she now sources the blank T-shirts from a supplier herself. Most of the time, she goes for 100% cotton, 160gsm T-shirts, though she occasionally uses a cotton-polyester mix as well.
Shazna said that it takes one to two weeks before the prints get delivered to her. She’ll then start the production process, which involves hand-pressing the T-shirts, sewing the labels, and packing the final product.
For the bold ones
There’s no doubt that KTees.co’s T-shirts are eye-catching. Thankfully, Shazna said that they haven’t been getting the wrong kind of attention due to the sometimes vulgar wording.
Even though most find the statement tees funny and relatable, though, there are still those who will feel apprehensive actually wearing them.
“I am still nervous when I make ‘vulgar’ T-shirts, and that is also why KTees.co’s tagline is #freethetees,” she explained.
But she didn’t want to just make common statement T-shirts either. She wanted something that’s different from local and fast-fashion brands.
“T-shirts are basically a wardrobe staple so why not stand out while you are at it?” Shazna pointed out. “The trend now is to be an individual, right?”
Freeing the tees
Although KTees.co has been mostly well-received, Shazna wasn’t always so sure. When she first started, she had been rather worried about the reception of the brand. This was expounded by the low sales in the beginning.
“Now, I know that this is the right path for KTees.co,” she shared. “I won’t change a single thing about the branding. I know it is not for everybody but that’s OK. I am sure one day, KTees.co and I will get there.”
Today, KTees.co has become Shazna’s full-time job. It’s still a one-woman show, though she occasionally gets her husband to help out.
Down the road, she hopes to expand KTees.co to have its own shop and team, as well as a wider range of products such as jackets and hoodies.
In the meantime, Shazna is focused on growing the reach of her brand through her unique designs. After all, as her Instagram bio reads, “Hidup terlalu pendek untuk pakai tee shirt boring”—life’s too short to be wearing boring T-shirts.
Featured Image Credit: KTees.co