VINTAGE BRITISH ROUTE SIGN FABRIC
ELEVATING HUMBLE THINGS: Mass Transit Graphics become Typographic Classics via British Route Sign Fabric
From the turn-of-the-last-century through today, double-decker buses in England sport one iconic element. A single black & white destination in the middle of the front of the bus alerting passengers where the bus is going. Printed on "calico cloth," this original fabric was tightly woven to withstand cranking from the driver to advance destinations from one to the next all day long.
My Kickstarter Campaign seeks to fund the first edition run of 200 yards of Vintage British Transit Route Sign Fabric at a cost of $7,000. This includes initial design, testing prototypes, fabric production, pledge reward expenses & freight.
I have some strikingly beautiful pledge rewards, items you've never seen on Kickstarter - a few items that have never been available anywhere...true exclusives. Check them out & PLEDGE!
I discovered vintage British bus signs in a Ralph Lauren Paint brochure. It took some detective work to determine what they were & to locate a reliable source in England - a second generation double-decker bus driver whose parents both drove the buses their entire lives.
My vintage route sign supplier remains an active enthusiast, restoring vintage buses to keep them running in touristy parts of London & available for private events. As old route signs were replaced through the years, instead of throwing them in the dumpster - his entire family held on to them.
Who knew that 50+ years later their stash of discarded bus signs would become the toast of the design world on both sides of the pond. To alleviate the high cost of framing the large graphics, I developed a system for installation based on vintage school maps with dowels at the top & bottom finished with brass hangers for easy hanging.
Once folks had a way to purchase the route signs & install them immediately with no further out-of-pocket expense, I couldn't keep them dowelled fast enough to sell them to collectors.
I began travelling further & further from home to sell route signs - heading south from Oregon to California. Selling at Alameda Point Antique Faire in the SF Bay Area. Then I headed to Pasadena, Long Beach, San Luis Obispo & Santa Monica, California Flea Markets & Shows.
As a wholesaler, I exhibited at nearly all the major gift shows on both coasts - New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco & Portland. Later I overloaded my Ford cargo van & left Oregon for an itinerary that included 14 shows in 14 weeks landing in New York for the first snow of the season & high-tailing it back to the West Coast for Thanksgiving weekend.
Coast-to-coast red eye flights & endless miles of driving & yards of route sign rolls paid off. I sold like hotcakes at Junk Bonanza in Minneapolis, MN, & Country Living Shows in Columbus, OH, Stone Mountain, GA & Austin, TX. I made it through two-week stints at Round Top Texas in 3 different locations (Bar W, Marburger Farm & Zapp Hall) for 4 different seasons & survived Brimfield, MA in July. I had mixed results with multiple showings at Scott's Antique Market in Atlanta, GA & twice-yearly exhibits at the Stella Pier Shows in New York City.
After a New York Pier Show, I received an order from J Crew for 100 route signs - each 10 feet long. They were launching Madewell Stores & wanted them for window displays in every store. In New York, San Francisco and Round Top, Texas - A-list celebrities added route sign pieces to their interiors. In Atlanta, route signs were bought for MTV's Teen Wolf set & a stairwell in the latest remake of Amityville Horror.
The apex of my route sign experience was being published in the New York Times in March of 2010 - this led to inclusion in other major publications including: New York Magazine (twice), Elle Decor & Elle Decor Italia, Country Living Magazine, Flea Market Style Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Southern Exposure & Oregon Home Magazines.
I'll never forget sitting at my computer at 9:01 PM West Coast time when the online edition of the New York Times hit my computer. Inquiries started clicking in within the hour and I hardly slept for two weeks as they inundated my e-mail. While a limited percentage of inquiries led to actual sales, it was an exciting & exhausting experience.
As route signs sales plateaued, I began adding to the product line. Route Sign Pillows originated from my realization that when routes changed, the eliminated or added destinations were cut & stitched back into their original route sign. These visibly stitched areas of repair opened a world of possibilities that continues evolving today.
After pillows...came upholstery.
...and then window coverings, lamp shades & finally a line of clothing.
Upcycling the route signs for a catwalk ready clothing line definitely pushes the limits of what is possible with a vintage, utilitarian textile. For use in clothing, the route signs enter a "top secret" phase of manipulation & magic...I can't imagine anyone else coming up with the techniques I use or being willing to repeat them more than once even if they did stumble on them.
In the end the clothing collection included a total of 160 pieces. The entire collection sold out in less than three months at Trunk Shows in San Francisco, New York & Grants Pass.
Finally, I began hitting roadblocks in developing new products with Vintage British Transit Route Signs. The fragility of material, increasing cost & difficulty of sourcing route signs led me to seek alternatives to the originals. That's when Kickstarter hit my radar screen.
My Kickstarter Campaign is about replicating the vintage look through printing yardage of reproduction route signs at a 1:1 ratio to originals. The newly printed fabric is more durable & doesn't require the time-consuming processing of the originals. The freshly printed fabric is infinitely more affordable & adaptable to a wider range of projects.
While researching options for printing route signs on medium weight fabric suitable for pillows, upholstery, draperies or clothing, a common width of 56" became the obvious choice. This allows space for two side-by-side route signs running a full 6 feet (2 yards) in length.
To lend an authentic/vintage feel to the fabric, I sought out an abstracted slate background - not a solid jet black. You'll notice stray chalk marks & cloudy erased areas behind the crisp typography - I find this imperfect background adds to the authentic look of the fabric & these imperfections are to be embraced & appreciated.
I printed multiple prototypes on different fabrics, finally landing on a cotton/linen blend - comparable to a 7/8 oz canvas - because of its texture and suppleness for draping clothing & interior projects.
The two routes shown in side by side vertical columns represent tourists vs. locals. The left side includes iconic London destinations frequented by tourists. The one on the right also contains familiar locations, but with a decidedly rural feel to the destinations - each placed within geographical order as they would be on an actual bus route.
Route sign yardage for this Kickstarter Campaign will be printed in the San Francisco Bay Area on fabric milled in the United States for a completely Made in the USA product.
The cost of printing fabric domestically is noticeably more than using printers in nations with questionable labor practices, but there are clear payoffs to not outsourcing this type of work. We trust our clients will be happy to pay a bit more for locally sourced materials & ethical labor.
The fabric is printed in a 2 yard section formatted as two side-by-side 6 foot long route signs. Each 2 yard repeat splits down the middle along the printed white line and can be hemmed at each edge w/dowels added at top and bottom for two complete vertical route sign wall hangings.
One 2 yard section is enough to: 1) Upholster the back & sides of a basic wingback chair. 2) Create 24 single destination pillows in a Euro Square Size. 3) Create 4 full route sign front pillows in the 24" square Euro size with 4 destinations left over for single line pillow fronts. 4) Create 6 lumbar size accent pillows sized at 14 X 25 inches.
You can also sew a classic, sleeveless a-line dress with a single 2 yard section - or a mini skirt w/leftover fabric to embellish cuffs and collars of a classic white men's style oxford shirt.
A one yard equivalent section costs $65 and will be trimmed at the halfway point of each route sign. Buyers will specify ONE section of the two yard repeat they want (top or bottom, left or right) when purchasing one yard equivalent sections.
The cost of each 2 yard section/full double panel is $140. Shipping within the lower 48 states is $10. International shipping and Alaska, Hawaii addresses will be a flat rate of $25. Fabric will arrive folded in a padded envelope.
After more than ten years of disappointing clients by not supplying running yardage of my vintage product - I've come up with an exciting solution. An authentic reproduction of my vintage route signs as running yardage for less than 1/2 the price of previously vintage yardage with double the width and a full 2 yard length.
Granted $65 per yard is not cheap fabric, but cheap fabric was never my goal...rather a good value for quality fabric means a job well done. I think our fabric is a fantastic price for the striking graphic aesthetic of the print, its flexibility for use in clothing, pillows, uphholstery and more...and its expected longevity. If you have any questions feel free to reach out through my interior design website @ www.dewaynelumpkin.com and I'll do my best to answer as quickly as possible.
Thanks so much for your time and consideration of my first Kickstarter Campaign project.
PLEDGE REWARD PHOTOGRAPHS:
BRITISH TRANSIT ROUTE SIGN FABRIC,
PRODUCTS MADE WITH BRITISH TRANSIT ROUTE SIGN FABRIC
& PLEDGE REWARDS INCORPORATING BRITISH TRANSIT ROUTE SIGN FABRIC
ARE ALL COPYRIGHTED BY DEWAYNE LUMPKIN DESIGN STUDIO, 2015
© DEWAYNE LUMPKIN DESIGN STUDIO, 2015
Risks and challenges
The long wait to launch my British Route Sign Fabric on Kickstarter means I've faced the worst of the risks & challenges I can possibly anticipate.
Initially, I thought I had the perfect fabric from a SF Bay Area Source & the perfect printer in San Francisco & the perfect graphic image by Kay Kinder of Logan Design in Grants Pass, Oregon. All fit within my Made in USA of highest quality at best possible value Mantra.
One by one, my perfect solutions failed. The fabrics were coated with a sizing solution prior to weaving (in order to speed their way through commercial looms). I needed fabric without this chemical additive.
Such fabric is said to be widely available in New York and Los Angeles, but not much elsewhere - I never did find a reliable source for this "ghost" fabric (which is how I now refer to it) - even in LA or NY. Cleaners in these garment hubs regularly remove this sizing, but cleaners in Oregon & Northern California do not offer such a service.
Extra fees for special yardage and/or chemical treatment of yardage prior to printing meant the costs were increasing.
I was surprised that my "perfect" printer did not have a source for printable fabric, but...they did not. I saw a beautiful example of a perfect fabric being printed, but the client declined to share their fabric source (why do people have to be that way?).
Eventually, both my perfect fabric source and my perfect printer proved imperfect...the project lingered in the corners of my brain for over a year after this disappointing first attempt.
Then, finally, one night, almost a year ago, I was tossing & turning and obsessing about having the fabric printed. I got up at 3 AM and found a computerized fabric printing source that had its own fabric. The cost was more than I hoped, but dammit, I was going to have some fabric printed.
By 4 AM I had my order placed and was still up early the next morning when my proof arrived in e-mail - I OK'd it and 2 weeks later had my first 2 yard section of route sign fabric (actually 2 - 2 yard sections because of a 3 yard minimum for printing).
The 7 oz. cotton duck fabric felt good, the slate background with stray chalk marks & other imperfections looked right, but there was an obvious problem with pixelization. Turns out, I had forwarded a working proof for editing rather than a final draft with a much higher resolution for printing.
Still - I had my first route sign fabric in hand and that's all it took to get started. Since then I've experimented with different printers, different fabrics & believe I've landed on the perfect combination of sublimation computer printing on a cotton/linen blend fabric, suitable for clothing, upholstery, pillows, drapery, lamp shades and other textile accent pieces.
I negotiated quantity discounts for printing and arranged for pickup of completed fabric to save freight charges. I used every trick up my sleeve to keep the price as low as possible for my clients and potential buyers of the route sign fabric.
Each panel is designed as a 56 inch wide by 72 inch long section. This is a whole two-yard panel which is priced at $140 - a single yard is available at $65 which includes the full 56 inch width, but only half the length.
Kickstarter Pledgers have the ability to choose top and bottom sections of horizontal yardage and specify right and left sides of vertical yardage. Once the fabric is printed, customers will not be able to make those choices - it will be first come, first serve.
Once the Kickstarter orders are compiled I will double print a left and right or top and bottom section if one is clearly more popular than another. Once these pledge rewards are printed and fulfilled - the 200 yards of fabric funded will all be printed in the same uniform format, eliminating these choices for future customers.
We have tested the fabric with multiple washings and provide assurances it will stand up over time if our washing instructions are followed. If you choose to use different washing procedures, we cannot guarantee the longevity of the printed fabric.
We welcome any questions you have about the project - while no expert, I consider myself fairly well informed at this point about all the issues I confronted in bringing the fabric to Kickstarter stage. Questions can be sent through the contact tab of my website @ www.dewaynelumpkin.comLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)