September 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Crowds of curators

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Whichever tack retailers choose to take, a mix of technology, strategy and communication are required to keep all the content consumers want up-to-date.

Unchecked content

On the Internet anyone can post virtually anything, anytime about a retailer's brand. Some retailers may lose sleep over that, but custom apparel and accessories merchant encourages it. Threadless products are based on designs submitted and voted on by consumers, and that design strategy has led design-savvy consumers to take the Threadless style and run with it.

"There are myriad places that Threadless content appears on the web and even offline," says CEO Thomas Ryan says. He points to two fan-run sites,, which features cakes inspired by Threadless designs, and, which features knit items similarly inspired. Both sites link to and contain its logo and company details.

"We encourage and often amplify what our community creates and says about us," Ryan says. For example, on its ThreadlessTeeV YouTube channel, the retailer posted the compilation, "ThreadGIFS: 100+ Threadless Designs Animated by our Community!," which came from one fan's challenge to other Threadless devotees.

Threadless doesn't try to limit unauthorized consumer-generated brand content. "It's important for retailers to embrace and encourage the content fans and consumers create around their brand," Ryan says.

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