Inside Out Clothing and Losing The Race To The Bottom

Rana Plaza Garment Factory Collapse in Bangladesh.

Rana Plaza Garment Factory Collapse in Bangladesh.


On April 24th, 2013, an eight-story building called Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh. 1,129 human beings lost their lives and 2,515 were injured.


Rana Plaza was a garment factory.  Workers were being paid $38 per month to create clothing for several well-known clothing brands.  This was a tragedy of epic proportions that made headlines across the globe.  But on a smaller scale, tragedies in the garment industry go unnoticed every day.


As consumers, we typically reward the clothing labels that will sell us our fashion for the lowest possible price, so naturally the major labels compete for market share by slashing prices.  The only way for them to do this (without cutting into their profits) is by putting more and more pressure on their factories to lower their manufacturing costs.  But after a certain point, a factory simply cannot drop their prices any further.  Rather than lose out on huge manufacturing contracts, factory owners seek to lower costs in other ways.  They turn to methods like paying their workers a slave’s wage, providing unsafe working conditions, using cheap raw materials and environmentally harmful manufacturing practices, and the list goes on.  The major labels reward these tactics with manufacturing contracts and we reward the major labels by purchasing our clothing from them.


This trend is called the “race to the bottom”. The brand with the cheapest and lowest quality product wins.  From the farmer that plants the cotton seeds all the way down the supply chain to the consumer, all eyes are fixed on the bottom line… damn the consequences.  The effects are widespread and the death toll is much higher than we first realize.


Local shop owners can’t set prices low enough to compete with major chains,  so the small business dies.

Domestic factories can’t drop prices as low as overseas factories,  so American industry dies.

Farmers can’t grow cheap enough cotton without huge amounts of water infused with poison and chemicals, so the planet dies.

Overseas factories can’t drop manufacturing prices any further without slave wages, unsafe working conditions, and cheap raw materials,  so human beings die.


And on it goes until one day we realize that cheap fashion actually carries an incredibly high price tag.


But, there is good news: as consumers, we are 100% in the driver’s seat.  When we spend our money we send a message, and the message we send will create change, for better or worse.  To ensure we are making a change for the better, a movement called Fashion Revolution ( is asking us to put the breaks on the race to the bottom by asking one simple question, “WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHES?”


On April 24th, 2014, tag a picture of yourself wearing your clothes inside out with #insideout

On April 24th, 2014, tag a picture of yourself wearing your clothes inside out with #insideout


The first annual Fashion Revolution Day will take place on April 24th, one year to the day of the tragedy in Rana Plaza.  To remember and celebrate lives lost and highlight the need for change, Fashion Revolution Day is asking us to wear our clothes inside out for the entire day.  This will force us, and those around us, to look at the labels in our garments and think about how they were made; from what material and by whose hand.  It will force us to think about how much we paid for our clothes, the number of people that played a part in creating each piece, how far our apparel had to travel to make it to our closets, and where it will end up when we’re done with it. It will force us to be AWARE. Because the further we remove ourselves from the process, the less responsibility we will feel for it, when in fact, we are entirely responsible.


The fact of the matter is, not all “Major Labels”, as I referred to them earlier are guilty of these harmful manufacturing practices.  It’s important to investigate how the brands you know and love are making your clothes.  The brands that are doing things right need to be rewarded with our business and those that aren’t need to be encouraged to change.  That encouragement needs to come from us!


The promotional products industry provides perhaps the world’s best example of companies racing each other to the bottom.  Racing to see who can sell the cheapest product and watching as businesses large and small line up to stamp their logo on it.  Only a couple of years ago, Brandsmith strode proudly at the front of this pack without realizing we were doing any harm.  One day a client asked us to create some “cheap junk” for a giveaway and it dawned on us that we had absolutely zero interest in selling “junk” of any  sort.   We were ashamed to be a “junk” dealers.  But it wasn’t until we started researching the alternatives that our eyes were opened to how harmful all that “junk” really was.  Since then Brandsmith has striven to work with companies that take pride in where they put their logo.  Furthermore, each of the brands and product lines we are developing internally are 100% focussed on high quality materials and manufacturing practices.  We are eager to share more about The Sustainable Shirt that we will be launching this year, and we are incredibly proud of how wonderfully well made our American Berries line of baby clothing is (you will see a lot more from American Berries very soon, as well!).


But this blog post is not intended to be an advertisement, but rather, a call to action.  We encourage you to join us next Thursday (April 24th) and spread the wonderful message of Fashion Revolution Day.  Let’s honor the lives we lost last year in Bangladesh by asking ourselves “Who Made Our Clothes?” and let’s be aware of the message we are sending with our money.


I want to finish with a quick thank you to Matt Reynolds from Indigenous Clothing, who first turned us on to Fashion Revolution Day when we saw him speak at Magic earlier this year.  Indigenous is making clothing that can be worn #insideout with great pride.  Keep up the good work and thank you Matt!



Strands Apparel: A Promotional Marketing Lesson Learned From a Streetwear Line

When BriSco Branding Solutions was getting off the ground in 2007, my profits were being reinvested into an apparel company I was developing.  Free time was at a premium so when the line became bogged down with trademark and investor issues it quickly fell apart before it ever really got started.  But my desire to create my own line never went away.  I continued to stockpile resources.  I continued to search for the highest quality manufacturers – the best blanks, best trim, best decorators.  All the tricks of the trade that I knew I would one day put to good use.


Shortly after Brandsmith launched in 2011, a good friend contacted me.  He and another friend had been creating t-shirts out of his garage and he wanted to see if I had any thoughts on the best blank shirts to use.  I asked them to stop by my office to see some samples.  From the moment we sat down I was immediately impressed.  They had the vision, the funding, the style, and most importantly they shared my passion to create amazing clothes.   With their aesthetic and my tool kit it was a natural partnership.  So, in the fall of 2011, Brandsmith began working with our first apparel line.


Little did we know, what would grow from that partnership would become one of the most widely respected, game changing new streetwear lines in the Bay Area:  Strands Apparel.


This year Brandsmith will transition into an advisory role with Strands Apparel, so I want to take this opportunity to look back at the garments we’ve created over the last 3 years.  Brandsmith is working on several new projects that will be primarily focused on sustainable, domestically manufactured products.   We can’t wait to share more about our future plans in later posts, but for now, we’d just like to thank the Strands team for the opportunity to work with them.  I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve produced together and I look forward to assisting as they continue to grow.


If there is one lesson from Strands Apparel that I  wish to impart to my promotional marketing clients it is this: Too often promotional apparel is thought of as trash.  Something you wear once at an event or a trade show and then throw away.   This does not have to be the case.  There is no line in the sand that separates promotional apparel from fashion.  We are eager to work with clients that recognize they have the ability to brand their companies in truly amazing ways.


What follows is a small taste of the Strands Apparel garments Brandsmith has helped design and produce.

Everyone's favorite t-shirt.

Everyone’s favorite t-shirt.

Made in America - Zip Up Grey Patchwork Hoody

Made in America – Zip Up Grey Patchwork Hoody

3M ANSI reflective ink in the shield print.

3M ANSI Certified reflective ink in the shield print.

A celebration shirt / tank combo for the 4th of July 2013.  Features "Fade Proof"

A celebration shirt / tank combo for the 4th of July 2013. Features the patent pending “Fade Proof” treatment.

Features a 9 on the sleeve made out of felt and our patent pending fade proof print.

Features a 9 on the sleeve cut from felt and sewn to the sleeve (as well as “Fade Proof”)


Ben Smith is a talented street artist out of Southern California. This is his interpretation of the Strands Shield.




Holiday Gift Guide: Adventure Awaits

We’ve been working on some cool Holiday gift packages for our clients lately, and will share some of those here as the Holidays approach. We’ve been seeing environmentally sustainable trends as well as health & wellness trends for the new year, but we also love the idea of gifting fun tools to help clients get out and see the world.


Our Adventure Awaits package includes hip items your clients will need to hit the road in style, all with the ability to be tastefully imprinted with your company logo.


Leather Weekender Bag, National Geographic Society’s hardcover travel planner, “Drives of A Lifetime: Where to Go, Why to Go, When to Go”, Moleskine Leather Hardcover Notebook, Recycled Newspaper Pencil Crayons, Vacuum Insulated Travel French Press, Enamelware Coffee Mug.


Adventure Awaits for your Clients with these Fun Road Trip Promotional Items

Adventure Awaits for your Clients with these Fun Road Trip Promotional Items

How Important Is Branding?

In business, there is a fine line between success and failure.  At the end of the day, good branding is what will dictate which side of the line your business falls on.


Case-in-point, this October acclaimed graffiti artist, Banksy, has had an ongoing “residency” on the streets of New York City called “Better Out Than In” (   As part of this project, on Saturday he set up  an innocuous sidewalk kiosk in Central Park selling his original work for $60 per piece.  Without the “Banksy” brand name attached, the day ended with a handful of sales totaling $420 dollars.  Each piece has now been valued at over $31,000.


This photo links to a video that shows how easy it is for great products to be ignored when you take away the “hype”.


A 30K Lesson In Branding



Keep your eye on Banksy’s “Better Out Than In” project (  They’re sure to cap off the month with something monumental.



Top 10 Most Successful Promotional T-Shirts

We’ve compiled our list of the top 10 most successful promotional t-shirts of all time.  Please be aware that we ruled out concert t-shirts (like the Rolling Stones Lips) as well as sports team t-shirts (like the New York Yankees).  Other than that, everything was fair game as long the shirts were promoting a product that was not a fashion brand itself (Nike, for example).


#10. “I Want My MTV”

In 1982, long before MTV was a household name, the channel’s “I want my MTV!” image and branding campaign was launched to encourage viewers to call their cable or satellite providers and request that MTV be added to their local channel lineups.

Clearly, the campaign was a huge success. MTV is now one of the highest ranking cable networks on the airwaves.

Enjoy Coke

#9. “Coca-Cola”
One of the most pervasive logos in American society, the Coca-Cola Corporation has used the promotional t-shirt to a level of success seldom realized by a global brand.  Arguably the first name-brand product to transform the average person into a walking billboard, the Coca-Cola promotional t-shirt is among the most widely dispersed t-shirts on the planet.
#8. “Hooters”
The restaurant chain’s signature line of promotional t-shirts put the brand on the map.  For years, the tongue-in-cheek double meaning made these shirts wildly popular among the “college-humor” crowd and they remain popular to this day.
#7. Budweiser
If Coca-Cola was the first brand to make walking billboards of the masses with their promotional t-shirts, Budweiser was the first brand that made it “cool”.
Bart Simpson T-Shirt
#6. “The Simpsons”

The Simpsons was the Fox network’s first television series to rank among a season’s top 30 highest-rated shows, thanks in no small part to the Bart Simpson promotional t-shirts.   In 1990, Bart quickly became one of the most popular characters on television in what was termed “Bartmania”.  He became the most prevalent Simpsons character on promotional memorabilia, such as t-shirts. In the early 1990s, it was common to see as many as one million  t-shirts featuring Bart  sold in a single day.  The Simpsons merchandise generated $2 billion in revenue during the first 14 months of sales.


#5. D.A.R.E.

Founded in 1983 the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program was responsible for one of the most pervasive promotional t-shirt campaigns in U.S. history.  Today the shirt we grew up with is a common target for spoof designs (Drugs Are Really Expensive).  Whether or not the program has successfully steered America’s children away from drug abuse is the subject of debate, but there is no debating the $700,000,000 dollars the program spends each year, much of which goes to their promotional swag.  No wonder these promotional t-shirts are so familiar!

Hard Rock Cafe

#4. Hard Rock Cafe

The Hard Rock Cafe has over  175  locations in 55 Countries and their promotional t-shirts are one of the most common souvenirs on the planet. For many travelers, the Hard Rock Cafe promotional shirt is the only thing they take home as evidence of their adventures. The logo was created in 1971 by celebrity artist Alan Aldridge (best known for his work with the Beatles) and it was based on the simple design of  a Chevy hood ornament. Originally, they were going to make the colors red, white and blue, but decided that would be too much “Americana”.

Micky Mouse T-Shirt

#3. Micky Mouse

The Walt Disney Corporation first began using Micky Mouse in it’s promotional merchandising in the 1930s, after the success of the cartoon short “Steamboat Willie”.  The mouse we all know and love quickly spawned into one of the most globally recognized images in all of advertising.  What started as a simple cartoon turned into a fashion brand all its own.  This promotional t-shirt is the anchor of a merchandising powerhouse that averages over 3 billion dollars a year in revenue.

Harley Davidson T-Shirt

#2. Harley Davidson

In 1901 William S. Harley began sketching the first design for a Harley Davidson Motorcycle.  Little did he know, his design was the beginning a one of the most iconic brands in American history.  It can be argued that no other brand has been as successful in marketing their product through promotional apparel.  Harley promotional t-shirts are worn as a badge of honor amongst Harley riders as a symbol of membership in an exclusive club.  Promotional apparel accounts for 50 million dollars in sales per year for the brand; approximately 5% of their gross revenue.


I Love NY

#1. “I Love New York”

Famed designer, Milton Glaser was in the back of a yellow taxi in 1977 in Manhattan when he sketched this logo on an envelope. He had been asked to develop a design that would reinvent NYC’s image, and ended up creating one of the most enduring logos ever (Parade Magazine).  This promotional t-shirt has become a synonym for the city it promotes and the campaign’s success has contributed to New York’s position as the most visited city in the U.S.

Press Release Announces Our Official Launch

The press release announcing our official launch went out on the wire today (text from original article below).  I can’t express how proud I am of our team and all we accomplished in the months leading up to this launch.


With all the buzz surrounding the launch we  find ourselves blissfully busy assisting clients with projects ranging from corporate holiday gifts to custom t-shirts.  Some  spectacular business cards shipped out today and it must be “sign-season” because we have been seeing loads of requests for custom signage  from our point of sale / retail customers.  We’ll get photos up soon.  The coverage has led to some great new partnerships,  and for that, we couldn’t be more thankful.


In addition to our client projects, we have some exciting projects of our own in the works.  We can hardly wait to share them with all of you.   Please stay tuned for what’s to come.






Founder of San Ramon’s Brisco Branding Solutions Launches New Marketing Company, Brandsmith, With a Fresh Approach to Promotional Marketing


Brandsmith’s Free Consulting Approach Offers Twist on Branded Campaigns


Walnut Creek, CA (PRWEB) September 20, 2013 — Brandsmith, a new face in the East Bay business-scape,
officially launched this summer, aiming to become the premier business-to-business resource for promotional
marketing and branding campaigns. Headed by Scott Shaw (founder of San Ramon’s BriSco Branding
Solutions), Brandsmith provides a contemporary perspective in an industry begging for modernization. The
company, which recently unveiled its website & blog at, is built on the philosophy that
not every business can or should require the substantial expense of an in-house staff to develop and execute it’s
brand message.


“Our clients range from one-man startups to Fortune 500’s,” Shaw explains, “And they’re all equal. We want to
be your branding department; regardless of how big your venture is.”


Brandsmith offers a complete solution: custom apparel, printing, promotional products, signage / display, and
graphic design. Added value for many clients will come in the form of free consulting services – if provided
with rough guidelines, Brandsmith will deliver a customized set of ideas, free of charge.


In tune with the company’s contemporary approach to branding, later this year Brandsmith is set to launch its
own venture, The Sustainable Shirt. This exciting project will set a new standard for environmentally friendly
promotional apparel – an industry long known for pollution and waste.


About Brandsmith
Brandsmith is a full-service promotional marketing company headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area. For
more information about Brandsmith, visit


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Our Blog Has Arrived

Brandsmith is excited to announce the launch of our new blog!  Our blog will feature ideas and innovations from the world of marketing and branding.  We will be using this blog as a platform to keep everyone updated on the fun and exciting projects we are working on, as well as a source of inspiration and information for our clients and potential clients seeking a fresh take on how best to present a company identity and brand message to the world.  We’ll be updating our blog regularly so please check back often.


-Scott Shaw and the Brandsmith Team