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Summer 2010 iStyleoriginals Bites into Apple’s Culture

Canadian apparel company attracts techies and the shoppers who love them with “i”-Culture T-shirts.

Graphic artist and teacher Robert Smith knew he was on to something when he designed a T-shirt that announced “iTeach” and wore it to class. His students loved the shirt.

The idea birthed the Canadian apparel company iStyleoriginals co-owned by Stephen Bleeker, his wife, Janice McDonald and Smith. Bleeker says the apparel appeals to the generations at ease with the “i” culture of the Apple world. Apple loves the T-shirts too and Bleeker says the corporation has purchased a few.

Positive response

Bleeker reports that the iStyleoriginals T-shirts received a strong response at the Consumer and Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Also appealing to techies is the packaging the T-shirts come in. Each shirt is packaged in a box that describes the shirt in software-related terms. For example, “Systems Requirements” are listed as “arms 2.0.”

While the T-shirts for adults are the bestsellers, shirts from the “doggiewear” line have been getting the biggest reactions. “The “iPaw’d” is a classic one. “Our thinking was when we do merchandise, whether it’s for a retail store or on a cart or on kiosk, it really has to have a big impact. It’s an amazing impulse product,” says Bleeker. “It’s a novelty T-shirt, but there is nothing else really like it that is delivered that way.”

Growing network

The apparel is sold in about 300 shopping malls or strip mall locations throughout Canada, and in about 30 to 40 retail outlets in the United States. Bleeker says that one of the biggest challenges since launching the company in August 2009 has been dealing with the overflow of inquiries—he admits it’s a nice problem to have.

As owners of CD Warehouse in Canada, the co-owners of iStyle have been able to take advantage of their connections in the music industry, to promote their products. Last year they were invited to offer T-shirts to Grammy Award nominees. Celebrity Paris Hilton generated buzz as she grabbed an “iCandy” T-shirt and posed with the box backstage. “We work with different charities and have lots of giveaways, and attend trade shows. We’re just going with all the opportunities that are presented to us. We want to establish everything in North America in 2010, and hopefully advance globally in 2011,” says Bleeker.

Merchandise orders can be tailored to the kind of customers who stop by a store. Slogans appeal to a wide segment of the buying public—there are ones for techies, babies and dog owners.

Turnkey details

The turnkey package is still in development. Bleeker says he can work with retailers to tailor a package they want.

“If you are a kiosk or a cart vendor you can order whatever quantity is appropriate. For retailers, who usually don’t sell apparel, we try to keep it simple—black T-shirts in small, medium, large, and extra-large, and everything sells for $19.99,” says Bleeker. Markup is 125 percent.

Based on consumer demand and feedback from retailers, iStyleoriginals plans on creating new slogans every quarter. They are also looking into creating other apparel such as aprons and pajama bottoms.

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Vanessa Geneva Ahern

Vanessa Geneva Ahern is a NY-based freelance writer who covers business, health, travel, and wellness. She has written for various trade and consumer magazines including National Jeweler, SELF, and Fit Pregnancy. For more information, please visit

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