Not-so-serious designer fashion

John Keddie?s favorite T-shirt reads ?I?m Serious.? He says it speaks to his personality. Why? ?Because I?m not. But I am. But reverse psychology doesn?t work. Wait, yes it does.?

What? If you?re baffled, vintagevantage.com might not be the site for you ? but it was the right career choice for John Keddie.

If, however, you are the kind of person always looking to get a reaction from people, Vintage Vantage might be the place for you to start your online T-shirt shopping. Shirts from Vintage Vantage sport phrases and logos such as the two above, with slogans like ?Advertising helps me decide,? ?Let?s hear it for sign language,? and ?Cops love me,? included in the lineup.

Granted, this humor doesn?t appeal to everyone. You?re sure to get a couple looks if you?re wearing the shirt that reads, ?Women,? followed by, ?You can?t beat ?em!? Or, ?We be illin?,? followed by ?Sacred Heart Children?s Hospital.?

It takes a certain grouping of people to design and sell these shirts: a group of six San Diego natives headed by founder John Keddie, to be exact. Keddie?s story runs like a mini American dream. He grew up wanting to be a pro-basketball player, graduated college, and went on to work in the cubicle-oriented corporate world.

But then, of course, he got layed off.

At that point, Keddie said, ?I decided that I didn?t want to jump right back into another office job and since I had always loved vintage t-shirts, I decided to try my hand selling them on eBay.? That was 2001, when Keddie was just 22 years old. Now, at 25, Keddie has moved off eBay and has established his own flourishing business.

Vintagevantage.com has always been a pretty low-key website. It?s evolved in much the same fashion that Keddie developed the original idea of the website: haphazardly.

With a laid-back take on finding a specific marketing audience (?We definitely make stuff that we personally enjoy, so our target audience would be people like us?), market competition (?I guess you could say anybody who makes T-shirts is our competition, because people usually only wear one T-shirt at once?), or offensive slogans (?There are definitely some shirts we make that are not for everybody ? we have a pretty twisted sense of humor sometimes?), Keddie and his company are trying to find the right audience.

Vintage Vantage relies mainly on the word-of-mouth method of advertising. Since the humor in the T-shirts they create is pretty specific to certain kinds of people, they leave advertising up to their own clients. Keddie said, ?We?re lucky enough to have a lot of customers who dig our stuff enough to tell their friends about it.... With the Internet and e-mail, word can spread pretty quickly.?

Additionally, Vintage Vantage works hard to keep things fresh for their regular costumers by making shopping for vintage tees more than just online shopping. They always update the site with new merchandise, model bios, and contests. The latest contest they hosted dealt with Photoshop; other competitions have included sending in photos of you and your friends wearing Vintage Vantage tees at school. And if you wear these tees around school, you?ll be in good company: Adam Brody of OC fame is just one of a few celebrities who have been spotted wearing these tees.

Due to the success Keddie and his staff have experienced with Vintage Vantage, they started another website that celebrates San Diego?s premiere kickball team, the Kitshickers. They?ve also discussed opening a store, but decided to hold off for a bit. ?At this point we?re happy with our online storefront. We do distribute our clothes to retail stores around the world, and we?re always expanding Vintage Vantage in new ways, so opening a retail store in the future is not out of the question.? Some of those retail shops include the ever-popular Urban Outfitters.

Keddie?s team of designers is lucky to work to please themselves, designing things that they find humorous and enjoyable. Because Vintage Vantage isn?t a large corporate chain, ideas go through relatively unfiltered.

That creativity is what keeps Keddie excited about his job. ?I?ve met so many fun, creative, inspiring people through this company,? he said. And would he recommend being an entrepreneur? ?I guess I would recommend that college-age kids give it a try ? there really isn?t a better time to try something crazy, and it may just work out.?