“We want to show that South Africa’s textile is definitely capable to stand on its own and that we don’t need to import cloth … We make people aware that South Africa has talent,” says Eran Eyal, one of the designers behind Springleap, an innovative South African online retail outlet launched this month.
Together with fellow designer Eric Edelstein, Eyal wanted to create what he describes as “a gallery without walls”.
The concept of Springleap is simple. Visitors can design their own digital T-shirt on the website and vote for what they see as the best designs. Every month, the 20 designs that received the most votes are manufactured and distributed nationally, and perhaps even overseas. Winners also receive a cash prize and royalties for sold T-shirts.
The concept of designing one’s own T-shirt on the web is not new. Various websites such as Spamshirt.com, Spreadshirt.net, Zazzle.com and Tshirtme.com give visitors the opportunity to create personalised T-shirts. However, Springleap’s concept of voting, manufacturing and distributing the shirts nationally is a new idea.
“I used to be an artist myself,” Eyal says of the origin of the Springleap concept. “I went through a phase where I tried to start my own art work. I was looking for exhibition room, but I only faced closed doors … When I started dealing with young designers, I heard the same stories. Every artist is looking for ways to expose his work.”
Three weeks after the website was launched, about 1 000 users have visited the website and there are now about 40 T-shirt designs listed, varying from the somewhat vaguely titled “Amazing marketing machine” design to a shirt simply reading “Yes” and “No” — and even a love shirt with the slogan “I mean it when I say it, do you?”.
Another strange design is called “The spaghetti and the fork”. The explanation given by its designer? “The fork was wandering around like a lost fork. She was gone. She was the knife. Only to find a pile of spaghetti. Absorbed in pain.”
What does Eyal think about the quality of the designs so far? “Some are bombs, some are lemons. But we let the public speak. However, it’s awesome for the artist, because he [gets] to know his public.”
Although everyone can design a T-shirt, not every design is published on the site. Says Eyal: “Being controversial is right, but porno, swearing and insulting is not allowed.”
The Springleap concept can be seen as an antithesis to the large amount of textiles that South Africa imports, for example from China. Eyal says: “The quality of the [T-shirt] models from overseas is not perfect. South Africa is definitely capable of designing its own textile. We therefore only use South African combed cotton and South African ink.”
According to Eyal, the Springleap concept will be a great success. “People love to wear some awesome design, for example that reflects their humor. They want to wear something different.”
On May 1, the first 20 design winners will be announced on the website.