Click onto Fun.com and suddenly, you’re lost in a world of fandom-inspired merch (almost too much to choose from … almost). The retail site has something for everyone, from the Wampa rug you never knew you needed to stylish Avatar: The Last Airbender sneakers. And there’s only one way to curate such an incredible collection of fandom-fused products: be a fan yourself.
Growing the Brand
For Tom Fallenstein, the founder and CEO of Fun.com, the website was a natural next step to his already successful HalloweenCostumes.com. The business started as a family endeavor: His sister sold and rented Halloween costumes that his mom made from his family’s garage. In 2001, Fallenstein started his first costume website, FlapperCostumes.com, which featured the same flapper costume in five different colors.
In 2005, he moved into his first warehouse and launched several websites dedicated to different types of costumes. Every three years, the company expanded so greatly that it grew out of its space until finally settling on the 200,000-square-foot facility in Minnesota it now inhabits. This giant infrastructure gave Fallenstein the capacity to expand his company into a year-round business, but Halloween costumes are usually bought solely in the spooky season. It was time for something new.
“Ultimately it was just: What’s the best website and what would we want to sell?” says Fallenstein. The team was already familiar with working with licensed brands through the Halloween business, and each member had a list of favorite fandoms a mile long, so moving into the fandom space was a natural next step for the company. “The idea of Fun.com is the coolest website I could ever own,” Fallenstein says.
HalloweenCostumes.com and Fun.com now have a total of 220 full-time employees and thousands of seasonal workers across both teams. The Fun.com side of the business expanded rapidly, and was one of the main reasons the entire staff was able to stay on last year when suddenly, Halloween was essentially canceled due to the pandemic. HalloweenCostumes.com sales were at 10% of what they normally would be, but Fun.com sales jumped about 200-300%.
The reason for this seems pretty simple: People needed some lighthearted fun during such a stressful time. And with the absence of in-person conventions, people turned to online retailers to fulfill their fandom merch needs.
“Fun.com really encourages working professional-age and young adults to still remember to have a little fun because our jobs can get a little stressful,” says Kristi Kelly, the company’s senior costume designer. It’s not uncommon for Fun.com team members to buy the apparel available on the site for themselves. During Halloween season, the office is a sea of people wearing the brand’s knit Halloween sweaters — sometimes the favorites will even show up on the same day (the witch sweater, if you’re curious).
These Halloween-themed sweaters — think Ugly Christmas Sweaters, but fandom-inspired and spooky — are a perfect example of how the team uses its expertise to create something fans will love. Lead Designer Kurt Anderson designed men’s luxury knitwear at his previous job and wanted to incorporate his past experience into his new work. Beyond Christmas knitwear, Halloween was a natural choice because it’s their best-selling season.
And when it comes to nonseasonal apparel, there’s no shortage of variety. Fun.com produces fandom-fused merchandise featuring more than 50 different licenses, including Care Bears, Friends, and Hocus Pocus.
“We tend to have a lot of nostalgic licenses that I think people our age specifically really love,” says Kelly. “It’s almost a really nice conversation starter to have a blazer with just that small fandom on the inside, that cool print. Something you can wear to the office and embrace your fun side, but be professional as well.”
Fun.com sells items from well-known manufacturers, including Cakeworthy, Irregular Choice, and Funko, but it’s the brands’ exclusive products that make it stand out. Fun Wear is a line of apparel that has options for those who want their clothing to scream their favorite fandom, as well as those who want just a touch of nerdiness in their daily wear.
“We have a market for both, so when it comes to the sweaters and blazers, those typically can be worked around in a way that is office-appropriate with nicer, more subtle details. Whereas some of our shoes and backpacks are like in-your-face fandom,” says Anderson.
As an example of this juxtaposition, two Beetlejuice shoes come to mind. Kelly explains that they made a shoe for both types of customers — one was more obvious with the recognizable bold stripes and colors, while the other was the opposite.
“The Recently Deceased Handbook Shoe was a little more subtle. It had a pop of stripes in it and it had character elements, but it was still for someone who wants to wear those with a normal, everyday outfit,” she says.
Currently, the Fun.com team is developing a lot of new products, including everything from Care Bears home decor to horror-inspired shoes. Fallenstein says the company plans to launch new products constantly throughout the next year.
“What makes our product special is that we do take the time to research what’s [trending] in not only geek culture branding, but also actual fashion trends so that we can combine them into one really cool product,” says Anderson, illustrating what inspires his designs.
Kelly says the main thing she thinks about when designing a product is who it’s for. Recently, she worked on a Scooby-Doo blazer and asked herself whether the person wearing the blazer would wear it to the office or to Coachella. “In this case, probably and hopefully both,” she says.
As fans themselves, the team often has to remember that they’re making products for other people to take home. They also have to abide by licensor restrictions, which can vary from providing the exact color scheme they’re allowed to use to letting them run free with whatever their nerdy hearts may desire.
“[We want our products to] bring that joy and happiness and maybe start a conversation with people who might have similar interests,” Fallenstein says. “We don’t want people to shy away from who they are at our company, so we think that way with customers, too. If we can help people embrace themselves, that’s what Fun.com is all about.”
This article was originally published in Issue No. 10 of the Pop Insider. Click here to read the full issue!