Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a notorious Mexican drug lord, was featured in Rolling Stone Magazine on January 9 getting cozy with Sean Penn—and Guzman happened to be wearing a Barabas Premium Apparel “Crazy Paisley” Fantasy shirt. The high-end tees retail for $128, and El Chapo’s choice of the blue and gray tee wreaked havoc for the retailer’s online site. Within hours, the Crazy Paisley had sold out online, crashing Barabas’ site in the process.
The VP of Barabas’ parent company STJ Enterprise Inc., Tatiana Kivachook, says, “We had to initiate the emergency migration to VPS server because our entire hosting was fully down due to extreme traffic.” While Kivachook didn’t give concrete numbers on the site’s traffic, having a basic shared hosting plan isn’t the best approach for any online retailer (especially one featuring tees selling for over $100). Numerous studies have shown that a down site decreases a customer’s trust in an e-tailer and that it’s likely that potential new customers may never return.
Both El Chapo and Barabas have been making headlines this week thanks to their very different style of “traffic”ing. El Chapo, infamous in Mexico and beyond, hasn’t been a household name in the US until this week (and there’s still no word on how he’s connected to Penn). For Barabas, Kivachook is also keeping mum on just how much their sales have jumped. However, all is quiet on the retailer’s front since they’ve been too busy, and she says there simply hasn’t been time to figure out all the numbers. She does state that the company has averaged one order per minute for six days straight, with buyers ordering from as far away as Bulgaria.
It’s not just individual buyers that forced the retailer to VPS. Existing wholesale customers are also increasing orders. They’re requesting the company’s entire stock, and Barabas is scrambling to appease everyone. The shirt’s attention is being compared to the Roman Original’s gold/white vs. black/blue dress of January 2015. That dress led to a 2,000 percent traffic spike.
According to Kivachook, staffers are working over 12 hours per day seven days per week since the Rolling Stone photo. New staff has been hired as well, but it’s still a struggle. The good news is that their marketing and advertising has stayed the same, with Kivachook pointing out that all the media attention is giving them more than enough exposure. As for El Chapo, he’s been captured (again), but he’s unwittingly still doing his part to promote Barabas apparel. Rather than shy away from a connection with a drug lord, Barabas is using the exposure to the company’s advantage, featuring El Chapo on social media.
However, five percent of Fantasy and Crazy Paisley shirts are being donated to DARE in order to avoid totally delving into the narco culture wear industry. With eBay selling El Chapo’s shirt for as much as $600, it’s clear that this is one time “trafficking” has brought together two very different worlds.