Manny MUA’s shoulders are tragically underutilized

Here’s a still of grav3yard girl in one of her recent videos.

graveyard girl video.JPG

We can see she’s wearing some kind of graphic t-shirt, but not what the graphic is. That’s because for the most part we still print graphic t-shirts the way we did forty-five years ago, with the print centred over the chest, like this.

T-shirt design by johnnygreek989 on deviant art

Which is fine if you’re seeing someone is person, but ignores the amazing possibilities for illustrators and designers to get their work seen online on Instagram and YouTube in the most common format: a close up showing someone’s head and shoulders.

Manny MUA wore a t-shirt this week that was a little better.

Manny MUA shirt details.JPG

The problem is you couldn’t see the whole design when he was sitting normally doing his makeup.

manny MUA still

And that’s really disappointing. It’s a whole untapped market. There are t-shirts which feature the print on the shoulders.

Eleven Paris Black Flenu shoulder print T-shirt.JPG
Eleven Paris Black Flenu Shoulder Print t-shirt
River Island sholder print tshirt.jpg
River Island t-shirt
ASOS military print t shirt.JPG
ASOS Military Stamp Print t-shirt
ASOS Replay T shirt with should tattoo print.JPG
ASOS Reply t-shirt

And there are women’s tops which use shoulder details as a feature (I’m not saying I like it, just that at least it’s given the shoulders some thought.).

Fashion store 217538 on Ali Express shoulder detail.JPG
Top by ‘Fashion store 217538’ on Ali Express

It’s just that they are by far the minority. Why aren’t there more? Why isn’t the fashion industry responding to new media more proactively?

We’re not stuck using old style screen print carousels any more.

screen printing t-shirts.jpg

We can print t-shirts digitally now: a length of fabric with an all over print, or a placement print on an already existing t-shirt, or have the shape of the garment piece itself printed directly onto a length of fabric, ready to be cut out and stitched. You can put the print literally anywhere on the garment. There’s no need for images to be centred on the chest other than habit.

Mimaki TX400-1800B fabric ink jet printer
image by xuanyifengfushi dot 1688 dot com.png
image and design by
engineered garment print.png
An engineered garment print, design and image by Elaine Polvinen

And you don’t even have to afford a huge print run. Full service digital printing costs USD$65 to $125 a yard for limited-run bespoke prints, but that’s nothing like as expensive as having multiple screens made for a four-colour screen print. With services like Spoonflower anyone who can upload an image can get digitally-printed fabric made. And digital printing at home is within reach of anyone who can afford an ink jet printer. And yet personal digital fabric printers are still designed to print the image in the centre of the chest, like a screen print. We’re making new technology that duplicates the old technology, along with the limitations of the old tech.

brother digital printer.jpg

It’s like when cars were first designed, and looked like horse carriages.

early car.jpg

Sure, okay, you can’t actually print t-shirts like Manny MUA’s one digitally. Yet. Opaque white on black still needs to be done the old fashioned way, with Plastisol ink, but there’s so much that mainstream chains could be doing differently.

led zeppelin 1975 t-shirt.jpg

There’s an exciting opportunity here for illustrators to make wearable work that reaches millions of eyes and creates a 21st century design aesthetic, instead of constantly repeating a 20th century one.


2 thoughts on “Manny MUA’s shoulders are tragically underutilized

  1. Huh. Something I’d never ever thought to wonder about!

    That said, I have a screen and squeegee and ink to do my own screen printing. 😀 But if I print shirts or fabrics, I’ll most likely NOT be trying for the center of the chest, because it’s really hard to center things perfectly.

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