Designs on success: the art of business

Moodie Tuesday creative director Jon Thom with some of his designer T-shirts. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Moodie Tuesday creative director Jon Thom with some of his designer T-shirts. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Jon Thom has gone from selling T-shirts from the bedroom of his Dunedin flat to seeing his designs worn by the likes of model and television host Colin Mathura-Jeffree.

What was once a small side project for a university student has become a much more serious business called Moodie Tuesday.

Mr Thom (22) started exhibiting his art while at Dunstan High School in Alexandra. He was an Otago Daily Times Class Act recipient in 2008.

It then got to a point where his friends could not afford his art, yet he still wanted them to be part of it.

He had always been interested in fashion, although he candidly admitted he knew nothing about it, nor did he know how to sew, but he started doing some research.

In his second year studying at the University of Otago, he started printing T-shirts featuring his art, selling them from his flat.

The business kept building and at the beginning of last year he decided to take it seriously. To do that, he needed a business partner. Chris Brun, with whom he grew up and went through school, became involved.

Mr Brun was now business director, while Mr Thom was creative director. Josh Jeffrey had also recently been brought on board to do some strategy work and build a new website.

Last year, it had been ''full noise'' for Moodie Tuesday.

''I just put pretty much everything on the line. I decided this is what I wanted to do.''

Not that it had been very easy, but he was grateful for the support of his family.

Moodie Tuesday signed to a public relations company in Auckland, which was helping generate exposure for the label.

Model and television host Colin Mathura-Jeffree wore a Moodie Tuesday T-shirt to the opening of New Zealand Fashion Week, while Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce had been spotted on the TV3 show Jono and Ben At Ten wearing them.

Mr Thom still got ''goose bumps'' being able to ''create something from nothing'' and then see people choosing to wear what his company designed.

The company was focusing on online sales, building a brand and building the customer experience.

Each T-shirt was dispatched, wrapped in tissue paper, in a small pizza box and sprayed with cologne, complete with message and a signed print.

''We're trying to emphasise that craft aspect and trying to change experiences people have of buying online, make it ... more personal. I don't like being sent stuff in a plastic bag, like a machine's done it,'' Mr Thom said.

He was inspired by listening to a lot of music - ''if I wasn't an artist, I'd probably like to be a musician'' - and he also spent a lot of time on the internet looking at blogs and also just sitting ''watching people go by''.

''I think I have quite a good eye for detail,'' he said.

The T-shirts were limited edition, with only 20 of each design, so they were ''pretty sought after''.

''You are essentially a walking billboard wearing a T-shirt. They communicate a lot about yourself to others,'' he said.

The T-shirts also made art accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, he said.

Mr Thom, who had always wanted to have his own business, said the aim was to keep growing Moodie Tuesday.

They hoped to get a strong basics range together and might look at bringing in a sub-brand. They could eventually do pop-up stores within bigger shops, both throughout New Zealand and the world.

Ideally, in 10 years' time, Moodie Tuesday would be a label that was known globally.

''That'd be quite cool, I think.''

This year, he was looking forward to Moodie Tuesday being shown at iD Dunedin Fashion Week and also to several exhibitions of his art, including one in Melbourne.

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

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