It was only a matter of time until Ello made its next move since declaring themselves a public benefit corporation. Now it seems that move has been made. As of yesterday, Ello will be partnering with e-commerce site Threadless to sell t-shirts featuring reformulations of Ello’s monochromatic smiley face logo, with the first shirt designed by Chuck Anderson of NoPattern notoriety.
“Ello is about freedom. Freedom to be who you want to be, freedom to create, and freedom from advertising. Working with brilliant artists like Chuck is another part of Ello’s mission to support the creative community,” says Paul Budnitz, Ello’s founder.
Jake Nickell, CEO of Threadless, echoes his sentiments: “Threadless has partnered with countless organizations, but what’s truly special about us teaming up with Ello is the incredible commitment to supporting the arts.”
That means the Ello x Threadless e-store will release limited stock, artist-created Ello branded t-shirts twice a month for $35 each. Each design will be on sale for 14 days and 20 per cent of the profits will go to the artists behind each design. It remains to be seen who the other contributing artists will be, but Anderson will be curating the collection after kicking off the line of smiley face threads.
According to Todd Berger, one of Ello’s founders, this project was more the product of a spur of the moment brainstorm session among colleagues and friends than it was the outcome of a concrete corporate strategy.
“We were driving around Vermont one night while we were there working with Paul, and the notion of t-shirts came up. Then we thought of Jake from Threadless who’s a mutual friend of ours. And then we leaped from t-shirts, to artist series t-shirts, to, ‘Holy cow, Chuck would be a great artist to do the t-shirts and curate the artists for this program.’ So it really was all in the matter of two minutes.”
What’s most interesting about this partnership is that nobody is afraid to admit that this project is as much for profit as it is for art. Anderson comments: “Ello’s formulated a different kind of company. I just really respect Ello’s dedication to being profitable with their users rather than as a result of having and using users.”
Which is to say, this partnership project represents a different way of combining social media, art, and business; one that generates profit but is equally focused on developing an online community that features and financially supports artists in a horizontal rather than vertical way.
“It seems simple to us,” says Berger. “It’s the only way we’re going to do anything as a social network. There’s no alternative.”
The ultimate results will be unknown until the project is underway, but the idea behind the effort is worth noting in the meantime.
Can Ello break from the ad ridden, data mining, way of being in the social media business and survive — flourish, even?
Berger and his colleagues are hopeful that it will. “The overwhelming majority of people believed that there was no way we’d even get close to this far with Ello,” says Berger. “And we were pretty confident from the start that with the right stance and the right product we could.”
So let’s see if Ello makes it even further.
Artwork by Chuck Anderson.