2012/05/24 00:08:52 UTC by Jonathan James

Exclusive Interview: Fright Rags Founder Ben Scrivens

Fright Rags is one of the more popular companies that sells original horror shirts and we’ve covered a number of their recent releases. As someone who has purchased shirts from Fright Rags before even launching Daily Dead, I thought it would be interesting to talk with founder Ben Scrivens about all things Fright Rags.

During our interview, I learned about the best selling designs of 2011, their stance on retiring designs, plans for future film screenings, and an upcoming special edition design:

The last couple of years have been really good for Fright Rags.

Ben Scrivens: We’ve been growing quite a bit and it’s been great, especially when branching out into things like posters. We had done a few before 2010, but the last couple of years have really escalated where we’re going, so it’s been good.

What was your most popular design in 2011 in terms of sales?

Ben Scrivens: If you leave out limited editions, Critters was one of the top sellers last year. It wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but I couldn’t believe how well it did against everything else.

Another one that was a surprise was “You’re all my kittens now”, which we released on April Fool’s Day. Kristy, who handles our customer service, came up with the idea. We all laughed about it at first, but I thought we should just do it for the hell of it. We posted the image on Facebook first and had so many people hating it, but we put it out on April 1st and everyone loved it. We sold out in a day.

With the limited edition GI Jason design, I pitched that idea to Tim and Kristy and was worried that they wouldn’t receive it well. They said we should try it, I knew exactly what I wanted, and it became one of our biggest limited edition releases so far. I think it hit on one of those emotional nostalgic hot buttons and luckily other people out there get it.

I feel the reason that you’ve been so successful is that you’re willing to try new things and take risks.

Ben Scrivens: This company was started on the What Would Jason Do shirt. It was a parody shirt I came up with and did the original design for. Obviously, I had no idea that it would be my career and I’d have employees and a warehouse. It was an idea that I thought no one was doing and people got what I was trying to do. We’ve evolved over the years, but it keeps us interested by trying to push things. The last thing I want to do is put out designs that aren’t inspired.

The main criticism I’ve read about Fright Rags is that designs are retired. You recently released The Graveyard feature and are now resurrecting designs every month. I’m assuming that sales and feedback were good enough to introduce it as a monthly feature?

Ben Scrivens: We love putting out new stuff and we have a long list of ideas we want to get to, but we have so much that we’re going to have to let things go at some point. It’s tough to make that call, because we reprint shirts and they don’t always sell well, so it’s hard to gauge. These shirts were never really intended to be mass produced.

I always wanted to make them in limited batches, but it means letting things go more frequently and that is how the Graveyard idea came up. If you want them reprinted, you get to vote and have your say. That is really going to help people get their designs back more often if we get through 4-6 every month.

I think it’s a great feature because I didn’t start following Fright Rags as soon as you opened, so I missed out on a handful of designs I’d love to pick up.

Ben Scrivens: The vast majority of sales is made up of repeat customers, but even then, but we get new customers all the time and we have people who started buying a year or two ago. For instance, there is a Phenomena design we made a few years back and I don’t think we’ll ever do something new for that movie. I really liked the design, so if that can have a second life because people voted on it, now it’s a chance for people to get it back.

That helps us too, because we want to make sure that if we print it, people really want it. If we end up sitting on a bunch of shirts, that hurts us from bringing out new products.

Talking about having extra shirts, I wanted to ask about the Tee of Mystery sale. For readers who are unaware, you’ll sell a random shirt for $7 dollars. Customers have no idea what design they are getting, but it could end up being a rare or limited edition shirt. Is this something you’re planning to do regularly?

Ben Scrivens: Once in a while we’ll get a design that doesn’t move and we’re left with multiple sizes. Those shirts are part of Tee of Mystery. There are also limited editions, where we have a few extras and put them in the Tee of Mystery instead of only putting a small quantity for sale on the website.

It’s a way of getting rid of shirts we need to get rid of, but it’s a cheap shirt for the customer. I don’t know where you can get a shirt of that quality for $7. We weren’t concerned as much about the profit end, because we wanted to make it something that was fun and that people would enjoy. I imagine we’ll try to do it once every quarter or at least a couple of times each year.

While most horror shirts are black, I noticed that you released a handful of colored shirts recently, such as the yellow Creepy shirt. Is that something we’ll see more of?

Ben Scrivens: It was a risk putting that Creepy shirt on yellow, but we had to do it because that’s what the cover was. I didn’t want to rearrange the design and put it on a gray or black shirt. People really responded, even though you wouldn’t expect horror fans to go for bright yellow. The people that get it are the ones that bought it and that’s who we want to cater to.

A lot of people have been asking for other colors and it’s something that I want to experiment with, whether it’s a variant or we offer other colors. I have a ton of black shirts in my closet, and honestly,  I’d like to wear other color shirts.

Have you thought about releasing older shirt designs as posters as well or is that more of a licensing problem at this point?

Ben Scrivens: Sometimes it is a licensing thing, but if we are able to do it, we’d like to. We’re still looking at doing new posters, but in terms of taking our old designs, I probably want to see how they would do at another company in conjunction with us. We’ve been thinking of teaming up with another company for art prints, who can handle fulfillment and production.  This way people who want prints can get amazing quality prints and we don’t have to worry about that end.

I know you’ve had a number of film screenings in the past. Is there anything else in the works?

Ben Scrivens: We have The Little, which is an art house theater and The Dryden. We’ve done screenings at both theaters and helped sponsor a couple. We have a couple of ideas, but the Dryden will be closed for renovations this summer. I want to do something again like we did with Tom Atkins and Fred Dekker, because it’s a screening and the actor or director is there to talk about it. It was almost like a mini-convention, but so intimate. Fred Dekker and Tom Atkins were just hanging out in the lobby talking to people and those are experiences you can’t necessarily have at big conventions.

What can you tell me about upcoming designs? I saw a teaser for a Mars Attacks shirt based on the trading card series.

Ben Scrivens: We’re in the final stages of signing  a contract with Topps for a limited edition shirt later this year. I can’t give too many details, but it will probably be released in late summer and that is something we’ll be moving on pretty quickly.

It’s one of those things that I’m a big fan of and it would be a great way to pay homage to the trading card set which has been around for 50 years. Based on Facebook response from the teaser, people were pretty excited. What we have planned is pretty cool.

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I’d like to thank Ben for taking the time to talk with me. If you’re interested in checking out their latest designs or learning more about Fright Rags, visit: http://www.fright-rags.com/

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