Over the last five years, Haunt Shirts has grown from a haunter-driven shirt company to a Halloween apparel company, one that might just be releasing beachwear next month at Transworld. Almost four years have passed since the Haunted Attraction Network interviewed James and Melissa, and a lot has changed.
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Check out the exhibitor list for Transworld. Haunt Shirts will be in booth 1102 for 2022 Transworld.
What Is Haunt Shirts and Why Did They Start?
James: James and Melissa Winton, we are the owners of Haunt Shirts. We are a Halloween-inspired apparel company. We focus on Halloween wear for everyday Halloween people.
Melissa: One of the brands we have under Haunt Shirts is called 1031 Halloween Streetwear. We are inspired by the hip-hop community, the surfing and skater community, and everything street. We bring that element into our designs so that it is not so cliche, whimsical, gory, or anything like that so that people of everyday life can wear it.
James: I think that very first trip to Transworld was, really that, “oh my goodness, there’s something here, and people don’t even realize there’s something here. We can bring something they don’t even know they want.” That was the starting point of what, after five years, steamrolled into what it is today.
Melissa: When we first started Haunt Shirts, it was haunter-driven. Our shirts had the word haunter in them. It was more haunter than it was Halloween. We discovered there is a small market of haunters, while there is a much larger market for Halloween, and that larger market for Halloween is also the haunters. We started to pull out of just being haunter and doing more Halloween and between the two. So, it’s not just in the haunt industry. It can be applied to the mainstream.
James: That allows us to serve both audiences.
Philip: Yeah. The direction has shifted, as you said, to focus on streetwear and to be designing products that are worn year-round with that streetwear focus, which is not just like a sea of black shirts. Is that correct?
James: What I would say is, we’re becoming more of an apparel company than we weren’t a t-shirt company in the past. So, we’ve evolved over the years, and now whenever somebody asks now, I tell everybody, “We’re an apparel company.” We’ve got onesies, and t-shirts, and hats, and who knows what happens in the future.
What Does the Future Hold for Haunt Shirts?
Melissa: Well, we don’t want to give away too much. We have new designs; we have new types of apparel that we will be debuting these designs on. I’ll give you this hint, okay? You’ll be able to wear your stuff to the beach. Not everybody lives in cold parts of America. People live in warm areas that want to hang out at the beach or poolside.
James: To branch out from that, one key learning we’ve had over the last few years is not everybody wants to wear a black shirt.
Melissa: That was one of the cool things to hear was like, “Man, we just love your company because You have some red shirts and you have yellow shirts, and you have purple and blue, and it doesn’t have to be just black.”
Philip: Would you say that is one of your biggest takeaways over several years?
James: I would love to say we thought of that, but that came from the conversations with the customers that, “this is what we want.” And we sat back and said, “well, let’s give them what they want. I mean, they’re asking for it.” I don’t want to force-feed anybody and say, ” this is what Haunt Shirts is,” because it’s an evolution and will continue to evolve as we continue to grow.
What Does Haunt Shirts Have Planned for Transworld? Spoiler: Get There Early!
James: We will be in booth 1102. So, when you walk in the door, you will see us. We are two booths over from the front door.
Melissa: I want to make it look more like a streetwear retail store. So that people, especially since we’re at the front and we’re one of the first things you’re going to see, we want people to be like, “Ooh, I feel like I’m going to my favorite department store.”
James: And we say this to people every year.
Melissa: Oh goodness, yes.
James: Get there early, because you know, those folks that like the little bit larger sizes, those tend to go quick. If you wait until Saturday, you’re probably going to be out of luck in many cases.
Melissa: That’s true. We did find a supplier; we are bringing larger sizes in the 4X and the 5X. So, we will have some of those on hand.
James: On the onesies.
Melissa: And the t-shirts. So, we will have those on hand. But yeah, as James said, I can’t tell you how many times people come up to the booth on Thursday or Friday, and they’re looking around, they’re like “yeah, I’ll be back.” And then they come back Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, and they’re like, “whoa, what’s going on?” And I’m like, “sorry, we sold out. Like we sold out the day you left.” People tell us that we should bring more inventory, and I’m telling you right now, there is no possible way anybody can have as much inventory as we are to this show. So, you need to come early and heed our warning.
Why Is Halloween Important?
Melissa: Oh, goodness. Halloween has been crucial in my life, almost all my life. There’s something about Halloween that was always my safe space growing up. I was the weird kid that found safety, calm, and beauty in the cemetery while everybody else was scared of it. That would be my place to go to kind of hideaway from what I thought was dangerous. A juxtaposition thereof, going to a place that is viewed as being scary and dangerous is where I found my safety.
Halloween was part of my life growing up. My mom made costumes, my stepfather and our neighbors built a little Tiki hut, and we would scare kids. So, growing up, my parents were essentially haunters, and I found that Halloween was the place where I felt most me. I wore a mask all year long, and then Halloween is where I got to show off my true colors. So, that’s just how I’ve always felt about Halloween.
James: I think it’s important that it’s the one time of year everybody can be themselves, and nobody judges them for it.
Melissa: In my opinion, it truly is the happiest time, or the most wonderful time, of the year, because I can’t tell you how many times, how many people complain about Christmas and the stress of it, and the anger, and the panic buying. You don’t hear about that at Halloween. Everybody is like having a grand old time drinking, partying, and wearing costumes. You’re getting out of your home, so to speak, you are getting out of your comfort zone, and you’re meeting new people.
James: We met all our neighbors through our home haunt because that’s where they would show up, and we wouldn’t see them again for a year.
Melissa: It’s so funny how what is supposed to be the loving and giving holiday is the one that people are, I think, most stressed and frustrated about. It’s a beautiful holiday, but the holiday that everybody is scared of is the one where everybody comes together the most. It’s so funny how they are, and I think that Halloween is that for so many people like James and me, on that personal level, and on that social kind of aspect of it.