Our Busiest Year Yet
2018 was quite the year for the small team at TogTees. It was just our 2nd full year in existence, but we had a lot to show for it. We shipped over 1,000 tees to 29 countries around the world. We launched 20 new products, including our first ever embroidered hoodies. We created and launched unique collaborations with multiple new photographers, from right here in Philadelphia all the way to the other side of the world in Tokyo.
In short, it was a crazy year. And we’re pretty sure 2019 is going to be even more crazy. But for now, let’s take a minute to review everything that happened in 2018.
In early January, we published our 8 Photography Resolutions for 2018, the 2nd year in a row we wrote up this piece. It quickly became one of our most-read posts ever, and over 100 people from around the world read it. Which is saying a lot, cause at over 4,000 words, it was pretty dang long…
At the end of January, we sent out our annual Survey, requesting feedback from all of you, and input on what we should make next. Dozens of you took the time to share your thoughts with us, and that formed the foundation for the new product launches we did for the rest of the year. (Don’t worry, we’ll be running the survey again this year to give you a new chance to tell us what we should make – stay tuned to your email!).
In April, we launched our first new design of the year, the AE-1 Tee. With over 1 million of these cameras produced from 1976 to 1984, it’s no wonder it has become one of the most easily recognizable 35mm SLRs in existence. If you don’t have one yourself, you probably know someone who does. So it seemed fitting to commemorate it with its own tee design.
At the end of April, we launched a design that we had actually created in 2017, but hadn’t yet perfected enough to launch until then. With a few more tweaks, Aperture Adventure was finally ready and released to the world. Within a week, it was our best-selling design of the year.
We’re not sure what it is exactly, but there’s something about the design that made hundreds of people around the world pay good money to get one. We were blown away, extremely inspired, and we quickly added 2 more colors to the available options as a result of all the positive feedback we received.
A week later, we added more colors for one of our all-time best-sellers, the ISO 800 Tee. It now comes in no less than 6 (Six!) different color options, all of which we have in stock.
In early May, we launched 3 new stickers that we had been working on. A great way to decorate your laptop, camera case, or notebook, these bring our lineup of available stickers to 8. Which you must admit, it probably more photography stickers than you’ll ever need.
A couple days later, we launched our new 35mm Enamel Pins, available in both Silver Halide and Gold Hour. Whether or not you collect Enamel Pins, these 35mm pins make a gorgeous addition to your favorite camera bag or strap.
In mid May, we showed that we’re not afraid to try something new, and we launched our Tree of Light and Photowalk tees. Since then, we’ve heard from more than a few of our female friends that you want us to bring back the Tree of Light Women’s cut tee, so we’re working on making that happen for 2019.
Then at the end of May, we launched the first tee in a collab we had been working on for months. The Japan Camera Tee was the first collab in a series we made with the esteemed Bellamy Hunt, based in Tokyo, Japan. For years, Bellamy has been known as a dedicated collector and finder of rare, high-end, specialized, and otherwise noteworthy film cameras of all stripes. We were lucky enough to be able to partner with him, and create a series of original designs based on his work, his brand, and his cameras. You can also read our exclusive interview with Bellamy.
The very first design was a smashing success – our biggest new launch in the (admittedly short) history of TogTees. With orders from Australia to Latvia pouring in, we knew we had struck a chord with the clever design, diligent presentation, and most importantly, our focus on top quality production and customer service, no matter where the tees are shipping around the world.
Japan Camera Hunter wearing the TogTees x JCH Japan Camera Tee. Photo courtesy @japmanjap; Used with Permission.
We quickly followed up with the esoteric and clever StreetPan400 Tee, an homage to the famous video game from the 1980’s – everyone’s favorite decade for top notch SLR cameras.
Finally, at the end of May we launched our biggest collab ever, the Photo Escape Tee. The first in a series of designs we created with Philadelphia’s own Tim Landis (known to his 580k+ followers at @curious2119).
Tim travels the world to shoot paid photo assignments for big global brands, and we wanted to capture some of that adventurous spirit, combined with his love for photography – the medium that has enabled him to explore and discover dozens of beautiful locations around the globe. You can read our interview with Tim to learn more about how he does it, and how he got to where he is.
Photo Courtesy Tim Landis; Used with Permission
In July, we went on vacation, and it was awesome. When your life is photography, getting to travel somewhere and make new photographs of things you don’t normally see is kind of important to your creative and mental well-being. So we’ll always plan one big fun trip somewhere in the world, and bring along a bunch of cameras to create some art on it. We strongly suggest you do the same.
In September, we published our first commissioned piece. Local photographer and writer extraordinaire Max Barna wrote a piece called Why I Shoot Film – And Everything Else. The response was prolific, with hundreds of people reading the article. It even became one of the top blog posts across all Shopify stores for the month. That’s pretty impressive, considering there are hundreds of thousands of blogs on the platform.
Photo Courtesy Max Barna; Used with Permission
This was quickly followed by the second post in the series – Travel Without Photography is a Sin, which explored the rationale behind always taking your camera with you on trips. Given the success of both of these articles, expect to see more commissions and collaborations with photographers near and far in the future. (And if you’re an incredible writer who is also a photographer, reach out to us – we’d love to work together to explore new themes around our common passion – photography!)
In late September, we launched our second TogTees x Tim Landis collab tee – the Instant Classic Tee. The idea came from combining Tim’s love of pizza with the classic instant film format we all know and love – and hence this wonderchild was born. It’s pretty neat, even if we do say so ourselves.
October is when things really started heating up. We launched our first ever pennants – the Photography [Since 1827] Pennants, which make an excellent addition to the wall of any photography studio, office, or even your living room. Hand-made in the USA, these 100% wool felt pennants are made to last a lifetime, while declaring your passion for photography. They also serve a secret second purpose – to remind you every day to get out there and make a great photograph for the day.
In October, we also launched the Aperture Tee. This was an unexpected hit out of a last minute addition. A while back, one of our fans had suggested this concept, and we finally got around to knocking it out and making sure it looked good. People loved it, and for good reason. It is after all the universal symbol of photography everywhere.
In fact, the tee was so immediately popular that several of you asked us to make it into a hoodie for the coming winter weather. So that very same week, we did. That’s the benefit of being just a couple guys working together to listen to our fans. Within 2 days, despite zero preparation, we were able to setup and launch the Aperture Hoodie – just 48 hours after releasing the Tee and hearing your feedback on it.
This was quickly followed by the JCH Kanji Tee, a tribute to the country that JCH calls home, and the language that he uses in daily life.
In November, we launched our third major new collab of the year – the TogTees x Phoblographer Collection. We’ve been fans of The Phoblographer for years, and have always appreciated their more thoughtful approach to the art of photography. For the last 9 years, the blog has focused largely on “the psychology of creative photography”, and that approach - looking way beyond gear reviews and the latest gadget to create mindful photographs – has always really appealed to us.
We met Editor in Chief Chris Gampat a couple years ago at PhotoPlus, the biggest photography show in the US, and we struck it off. So we were glad to be able to finally block some time in our schedules and sit down to create these first 2 designs.
The History of Photography Tee takes a quick tour through some of the more notable cameras in the long history of photography. Obviously it’s impossible to include all of the amazing, photography-changing cameras that have been invented and popularized over the years, but this tee is a great starting point to getting the discussion going. We all have our favorite cameras, and while your personal favorite may or may not be on here, a camera that led to its creation is.
The Prime Lens Arsenal Tee is an understated manifesto of sorts. We’ve always preached the gospel of shooting with primes over zooms whenever possible, and this tee was a way of combining that rock solid belief with The Phoblographer’s tilt towards Street Photography. After all, as most street photographers know, a good set of primes is all you really need.
You should also read our exclusive interview with Chris himself – it’s pretty interesting and a good look into one of the leading minds in modern photography news and education.
The end of November brought the launch of the Aperture Adventure Hoodies – a cold-weather alternative to one of our top selling new designs for 2018.
Photo Courtesy TogTees
On the very last day of November, just in time to complete production in time for Christmas delivery, we launched a completely new concept. Our first ever embroidered hoodies, the 35mm Hoodie and the Japan Camera Hunter Hoodie were a much heavier, more durable take on hoodies.
Using the legendary Champion 12oz Reverse Weave Hoodies as a starting point, we custom designed, prototyped, tested, and produced our own original heavy-duty hoodies for film photographers and JCH fans around the world.
Photo Courtesy TogTees - we shot this ourselves.
These were a huge success, with orders coming in from around the world, despite only having a 3-day window to order due to production timelines.
Individually custom embroidered right here in Philadelphia, these hoodies are one of the products that we’re the proudest of, and it’s safe to say we made a couple extra for ourselves to wear around town (if you’re in Philly and see us walking around in one of these, say hi!).
Photo Courtesy TogTees - we shot this ourselves.
And at long last – but definitely not least – in the middle of December we launched the impressive follow up to our hand-made 35mm Wood Camera from last year. After the huge response to the 35mm version (all 10 sold out pretty quick), we knew we had to step things up a notch or two for the next experiment. (Yes, all these original new products we come up with are experiments – no one’s done them before and we usually don’t know if they’ll work or not)
Well, the end result was well worth it. The Twin Lens Reflex Wood Camera is our proudest creation yet. Completely hand-made (hand-sanded, hand-joined, hand-coated, and hand-assembled), each camera takes over 12 hours of precise, expert labor from George to produce.
Photo Courtesy TogTees - we shot this ourselves.
We’ll save you the extended description of the process (read the full story here), but suffice it to say these 10 pieces are a truly world-class, entirely original work of art that will last a lifetime, and beyond. Or as we like to say, they are the ultimate gift for the Twin Lens Reflex Connoisseur in your life. As of publication, there are only a handful left of this limited-edition work, so if you’re reading this post far into the future, we’re sorry you missed out on them.
And with that one big final bang, the year 2018 finally came to a close. It was a ton of blood, sweat and tears to get here, but 2018 was by far our biggest year yet, both creatively and in terms of packages shipped. We have now shipped thousands and thousands of tees to dozens of countries around the world, and we’ve been featured in numerous publications to date.
And still, 2019 promises to be even more exciting than the year that is just drawing to a close. We’ve got a number of new collaborations in the works, as well as a whole slew of new concepts we’ve already started working on.
But one thing we know for sure - 2019 will be filled with tons of amazing photographs - for us and for you - and we can't wait to share our passion for photography with you once again.
Till next year - we'll see you out there, and keep on shootin'.