It’s no secret that we think print on demand (PoD) is the best thing to happen to merch since Ace Frehley drew the first KISS logo over a rival band’s fly poster. It lets designs live in the cloud until they’re needed – costing a creator absolutely nothing. And with zero minimum orders and countless types of blank garments to explore, you could argue that every piece of PoD merch is one-of-a-kind.
At the recent opening of the new Monki Flagship Store in Stockholm, a queue of feverish merch fans were waiting to grab a set of AR goggles and enter a new merch dimension. By turbocharging the power of PoD using Augmented Reality (AR), Monki’s community was brought within touching distance of creator Vanja Ivarsson’s recent work for the brand’s From King to Queen campaign.
“The AR project was the first project for our new community area in the Drottninggatan store and our first collaboration with Creator Studio. It's an activity and experience that really tied into our world. The Augmented Reality integrated perfectly with our From King to Queen concept that we’re working with and also Vanja’s own creative world. The tech ties the physical campaign to a digital sphere – one in which Ivarsson’s digital and 3D focussed artwork is the perfect creative vehicle,” explains Monki’s B&M director Simone van Starkenburg.
At the opening, each visitor was hooked up and immersed in a specially-coded platform where they could manipulate the graphical elements of the From King to Queen pieces and create their own unique T’s and sweatshirts. From beginning to end, the process took a handful of days to bring Monki’s community their new garments, printed on demand on our own True Blanks merch apparel.
“These kinds of initiatives are super interesting – both in terms of the sustainability of printing on demand, and giving people the chance to make something unique and personal,” notes van Starkenburg.
Is it the future of merch? Augmented Reality is certainly a concept creeping into our society more and more as retail evolves into experience-driven spaces that nurture community interaction, and our lives become more integrated with the metaverse. Future digital native generations are already customising avatar skins as easily as Generation X would scribble a post-it. For the Gen Zs and Alphas, individual expression is almost a prerequisite of all facets of life. So, perhaps it’s more a question of when the merch future will be our merch present.
As with all tech, today’s early stages of AR merch do come at a cost that not all brands can justify yet, and the ambition at the Creator Studio experience is to continue to explore its potential while also making it more accessible.
“Right now, Create:AR supports one of the most powerful AR head-mounted displays on the market: Magic Leap 2. The software is built by us from scratch, and we’ve options to roll it out in other ways too. For example, if AR setup is not possible, a brand can have a touchscreen kiosk (Create:Kiosk) or make it available on mobile phones (Create:Web), which would require less maintenance and man-power,” explains Emma Raventos, part of the team behind Creator Studio’s new experiences group.
If you want to connect your brand with the future of merch and engage your fans in a new way, get in touch.