How an Entrepreneur Built an Online Wearable Art Business

by Carolyn Edlund

This artist built an e-commerce site that is a feast for the eyes and a temptation for shoppers.

 

clothing and accessories featuring art designs

Bones and Balloons products make a compelling display.

 

Israeli entrepreneur Shahaf Gal runs Bones and Balloons, a fun, contemporary clothing and accessories company that sells wearables featuring colorful collage designs. He has created collections, selected products, and arranged manufacture. He’s also built an extensive website to market and sell his work to a global audience.

 

Art collage by Shahaf Gal

Shahaf Gal’s signature style blends old and new design elements into surreal, fantastical collages.

 

The Inspiration

Gal came by the wearable art business naturally. An admitted clotheshorse, he calls style a “life-long journey” and owns a wardrobe that includes hundreds of shoes, jackets, coats, pants, necklaces, rings and watches. “I started gathering clothes, footwear and accessory items in my teens and have kept on going from there, finding more and more items as time went by,” he says. “I remember my travels by the items I’ve purchased in each place I’ve been to, more often than not.”

He started out printing t-shirts at a local gift shop using equipment that would produce images he created on the computer. That experience evolved into an idea for an e-commerce business offering all types of products.

 

Art collage designs on footwear and accessories.

Shahaf Gal’s product mix includes clothing for men and women, as well as footwear and accessories like backpacks and umbrellas.

 

Starting Small

Gal admits that he didn’t jump into business and go big right away, preferring a more conservative approach. “I just started out small and progressed gradually with baby steps,” he said. “It took a long time to get to where I am now. It was pretty risk-free because I always advanced in small steps.”

A background in electrical engineering and computer science ensured that Gal was completely comfortable with hi-tech. But he grew up in a family filled with artists and makers, and also went to music school, which fueled his creative drive. “All I know about art has been intuitive and I have learned all of it organically,” he explained. “I spent around a year and a half doing over 100 collages I offer on products in my business. I just got started and kept on going, and came to establish the style and concept of the collages I have now.”

 

Sweatshirt with art collage

Bones and Balloons offers many clothing options, including this sweatshirt in a design titled “The King of the Field III”.

 

Sales, Production and Fulfillment

Featuring over 900 products, Bones and Balloons offers a shopping experience you’d expect from big retailers. But it’s actually a lean small business, built on the Shopify platform. Each product is produced on demand when orders are received. They are shipped from a variety of suppliers that Gal has vetted and approved.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to make as soon as I was given the opportunity to work with the companies that supply the printing and general production technologies I now use for my products,” he said. He has cultivated relationships with partner companies around the world, coordinating how designs are used on selected products. When orders are received, he passes them on to these providers who print and ship to the customer.

Gal does not sell exclusively online, however. He will buy a quantity of products from his print-on-demand providers to build his inventory. Those products are sold through local stores such as Ziva Tal Brands in Tel Aviv, or retailed directly to the public at fairs.

 

Israeli clothing and accessories entrepreneur Shahaf Gal

Bones and Balloons founder Shahaf Gal wears a bomber jacket available on his site.

 

Customer Response

Sales and feedback have been excellent in Gal’s new venture. He says “I often hear from people who own my products that they get compliments on them wherever they go.  When selling at fairs, I’ve had people go bananas, getting super excited when they saw what I was offering, and of course purchase something. I’ve had people come back to me telling me they wear my products all the time and to show me how they style my products in an outfit.”

His most memorable reaction was from style maven/celebrity Iris Apfel, who is one of his biggest inspirations. He met her in New York City while wearing an allover print tunic. Apfel saw it, proclaiming “That’s beautiful!”

“I could not have been more pleased,” he says. “She truly is a special person as far as style goes, at least in my book.”

 

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