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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Behind the scenes: How everything is printed

I am definitely the biggest shopper I know out there (seriously, you can't stop me from taking advantage of a good seasonal sale). The stores I frequent vary and the items I buy range, but I've never actually known how each of my shirts are made... until a few days ago!

As a retail store, The Harvard Shop is probably the fifth cog in the retail merchandise chain, which starts off with the manufacturers, which then blends in to the wholesale providers that sell us bulk orders of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and the like. 

What I didn't realize as both a customer and as a manager at a retail store is that every little step counts, and every step is made by a team of individuals. 

Last week, I was able to see first hand just how all of our apparel is received, unpacked, hand-screen printed, and hand-packed with care. These are the clothes that make their way to the shelves on our stores (we recently started a partnership with Amazon, so you can get your fill of Harvard goodies via AmazonPrime!). 

Joe, owner and chief of By Design Screen Printing, the local screen printer stationed just a 15 minute drive from our offices in Cambridge, MA, showed us around his whole factory and gave us a walk through of the entire screen-printing process. 

Joe started off the tour with some real talk: from one small business to another small business, we both know how hard it is to run a small-scale operation with a big vision, but Joe and his team at By Design has worked closely with us, The Harvard Shop, for more than 5 years, the Boston Fire Department, various Boston tour groups, city government groups, running clubs, and other retailers to bring them what they need at a low price, always (and with a smile). 

After By Design receives the design from its client, it goes ahead and presses the design in to the kinds of screens that Joe is holding up here. These screens are clear and, when pressed with the heat pressure cooker, retain the design.

How fun are these paints? I had no idea that real paint was used for screen printing (yup, all of these designs that don our t-shirts are printed with a combination of these paints. Crazy!

So this is how a t-shirt is screen printed: each color is a layer, and so shirts with multiple colors incorporated in to a design have to go through multiple rounds of being pressed with the paint. Each shirt has to go under the heat, and only layer of color can be printed at a time (so you can only imagine how much time goes into printing 1 t-shirt!). That gold you see above is just the finishing touch to the classic Harvard crest you're seeing on the Harvard Navy Bestseller Crest T-Shirt.

Seeing the Harvard Women's Crop Top getting made before my own eyes gave me a huge sense of appreciation for everything that I wear (no joke). One of Joe's employees spent an entire afternoon hand-printing over 200 of these tops! 

Each of these shirts take a spin through the dryer and are hand-folded and placed in to batches for distribution to our stores. 

Seeing how each of these shirts are made from start to finish hugely shifted my perspective and given me an insane appreciation for retail--seriously, isn't it so crazy that all of this apparel is made by hand? 

For locally sourced & printed Harvard apparel, check us out at!

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