Conversations


We’re going through challenging and strange times. As you’ve probably noticed, the shop is temporarily shut down. With everything going on, I’ve decided to do this because I can’t guarantee impeccable service and delivery. Of course I hope to open it back up as soon as possible, so we can finish our first release properly and hopefully be able to launch our summer release as planned. But how are other one-man operated streetwear brands handling and experiencing this crisis?

 

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I was playing around with the idea of making some content about relatively small and independent streetwear brands for a while. With a bit more time on my hands, I had to get to work. I went all around the world and had conversations about inspiration, motivation, creativity and of course current events. A huge thanks to PHOSIS Clothing, Bittersweet, Awake At Three and DFKT Clothing for sharing their insights and collaborating on this piece.

 

Lookbook picture from PHOSIS Clothing

Juan Carlos González, PHOSIS Clothing (Puebla, Mexico) 

“PHOSIS” means “process”. Can you specify this a bit? Is there a link with the butterfly logo?

The word “PHOSIS” and the word “process” are 100% linked with the butterfly, “PHOSIS” comes from truncation of the word “metamorphosis”, of which the official definition is “indicating a process or state”. When I ask people the first thing that comes to mind when I say “metamorphosis” most of them simply say “a butterfly”. The small “P” on the logo is the initial of the brand name.

Has your brand been successful mostly on a local/domestic basis? Or are international sales a more/evenly important aspect?

I have found that well developed countries are more willing to spend money on startup brands, so our success definitely comes from international sales. Countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia and France are the main drivers. We’ve only had a single domestic sale.

Has social media played an important role in the marketing of your brand?

If you count Reddit as social media, then yes, I’d say 100% percent of our sales have come from social media, directly or indirectly. Social media has obviously shaped the way startup brands can progress nowadays, and it gives people a good opportunity to succeed. The combination of Reddit + Instagram is unmatched.

Have current events (corona crisis) taught you some lessons or insights, and will they reflect on your brand or the way you do business in a way?

This pandemic is a big threat to brands like mine. People who are locked inside their homes don’t usually buy clothes. Some folks have lost their jobs and others will be in a small debt. I believe a moderate worldwide economic recession is coming. Services like the Postal Service also become sluggish which slows down the process of delivery.

This crisis has thought me that you always need to be ready for the worst. Luckily for me I can just “wait it out” until things start going back to normal.

Any advice for young creatives that want to pursue their dreams?

When starting any kind of project always think long-term and avoid cutting corners. Do you want a quick buck or do you want to build a strong identity for yourself?

Also, if you truly believe in whatever you’re doing, avoid asking for feedback to family/friends as much as you can.

Lockdown music?

Boldy James - “Scrape The Bowl”

Any new stuff on the way?

Since the quarantine (which started on the 15th of March for me), I have made a lot of progress on STRIKE2, the second collection for my brand. It should be out by the end of April and I’m very excited for it.

www.phosisclothing.com

@phosisclothing

 

Lookbook picture from Bittersweet

Declan Short, Bittersweet (Auckland, New Zealand)

What was your biggest motivation or inspiration to start your own clothing brand?

I’ve always been inspired by those who are better than myself in terms of creativity and drive. Hats off to Gary Vee and Valentin Ozich from I Love Ugly, two of my biggest inspirations when I started Bittersweet in 2017.

What has been the hardest part or the biggest setback? And what motivated you to push through?

I still to this day struggle with the business aspect of things; profit margins and the like. I’ve made over 12 G’s in the past 3 years with Bittersweet, but I’ve probably spent triple that of my own money on the brand supported by my full-time job. The aim is to just keep doing what I love by pumping out clothes that speak to me, and learn the rest along the way!

Do you have a ‘main goal’ that you want to reach with Bittersweet in the future? 

I think most brand owners would agree with me when saying that there is no ‘end-goal’, there are limitless opportunities for growth. Although it’s nice to take a pit-stop at milestones and enjoy the view, I don’t think I will ever be truly satisfied no matter how much success is garnered.

Do you think this current crisis will have any long-term effects on your brand, or on consumer behavior, especially in the clothing industry?

Probably, but like I said business has never been my forte. Ignorance is bliss in my case, I’m just focused on putting out cool shit.

Any advice for young creatives that want to pursue their dreams?

Just fucking do it, no amount of dreams, goals, visions or excuses will ever get you the same results as a little bit of action. Don’t be afraid of failure.

Lockdown music?

Ohhh I love this one. I’m going to have to say ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’ by IDLES. Been on my punk shit lately.

Any new stuff on the way?

Zesty Lemon Hoodies dropping in May 2020! (Granted COVID-19 packs its bags and has hit the road by then, seriously fuck off mate.)

www.bittersweet.nz

@bittersweetgram

 

Lookbook picture from Awake At Three

Craig Renwick, Awake At Three (Bristol, United Kingdom)

What’s the best part about owning your own brand? What gives you the most fulfilling feeling?

From the very start, my goal has really just been to be able to make and design anything that other people get to take even a little bit of meaning or pleasure from. A streetwear brand seemed the most natural fit for me, knowing that I’ve always had an affinity for fashion and graphic design. But it’s always that simple rule that gives me the biggest bubbles of happiness in my chest.

Be it seeing my teammates in the Futsal team loving and wearing the Futsal fleeces, a sick fit-pic that I see somewhere on Instagram, a tee being used in a music video or even a nice comment on r/streetwearstartup - the fact that some other human has gotten something out of my silly idea really humbles me and makes everything worth it.

I should add that, in recent times, hearing from some people that Awake at Three has inspired them in some way in making/start their own brand has blown my mind. I think it’s because I remember so clearly being in the same position, looking at brands like Resurgence, Steady Hands and Bittersweet in admiration and as embodiments of where I wanted to be in the future. So to even be a small part of someone’s source of inspiration is incredible, and I’m always very grateful for it.

Have you always been into streetwear, or fashion in general? If not, what triggered you to take an interest in it?

I was actually probably a bit late to streetwear. It was only when I was 16 or so  that I even started overspending on crap from ASOS that I didn’t need. But about a year later, I found Depop and the world of second hand “vintage” pieces (I say vintage with some caution as I think it’s been bludgeoned out of all meaning today). I became, and still am, obsessed with preloved clothing, because its cheap, higher quality, good for the environment, and more unique than anything on the high street.

This is definitely when I started falling down the rabbit hole, starting to appreciate the world of streetwear and fashion in general through YouTube, Vogue articles, Reddit and following brands on Instagram.

What’s your creative process to come up with new designs? Where, or how, do you get inspired?

First of all, I have a simple note page on my phone on which I write any phrase, idea, passing comment, slogan or outfit I see just going about my day. Just having the content recorded somewhere gives you a pointer or seed of some concept that could be derived from it, and I think it’s a really helpful exercise when you’re stuck for ideas.

A year ago, my creative process would consist of me using this list and Google, just staying up until the early hours of the morning doodling increasingly weird ideas as I wandered down some obscure Wikipedia article or some old artists life work. This happy level of insanity usually gave me a really off-the-wall, whimsical design; Cletus being the prime example of that.

Nowadays, I think I’ve worked out what makes a better creative process. Inevitably, you will be inspired by something that already exists. That’s just how art works. But the knack is to be able to reference it properly and combine lots of ideas to make something of your own. Just like writing a good academic essay, being inspired by other pieces of work is fine, and in fact necessary, but you just have to make sure to reference it properly. So although I do end up awake at three some days, I usually have a more measured, directed approach to designing.

Finally, last tip while I’m at it - just practice. Design is a skill like any other, just like playing the guitar or doing math. Churn out enough crappy designs like I did and eventually you’ll start making things that are prettier.

First the Brexit, now the COVID-19 crisis. How do you think these things will affect your brand and your business?

I think that amongst most businesses, small online businesses like mine have actually done OK through the virus. Forgiving a larger global recession, the fact that we have small overheads, can still post parcels, and have the amazing community support due to the fact that we’re on a small scale and can actually forge personal connections to people (kinda like the ‘support small businesses’ movement a while ago)  means that things have been manageable. In fact, now people are stuck at home with nothing to do might mean more idle hands might reach to the ‘buy’ button than before!

Brexit is more of an issue. The idea of having to fill out customs forms to send items anywhere on the planet, and maybe have to deal with customs fees is a nightmare. Even though I’m based in the UK, 85% of my store sessions come from Europe, the US, and other places across the globe. I see this as an amazing strength, and am proud that people across the globe come and see what Awake at Three is about. But sadly, the small minded and inward-looking majority of this little island will make this a lot harder. But hey, can’t wait to get my blue passport.

Any advice for young creatives that want to pursue their dreams?

If you’re thinking about making something but are scared about putting it out there for people and friends to see; if you’re currently googling “how to start a streetwear brand” for the sixteenth time; if you always find yourself on that persons Instagram page wishing you could do what they’re doing but think they’ve got some special ‘spark’ that you just don’t have; stop, and just do it.

I spent far too long thinking about starting this brand, fretting about stupid things like trademarks and even my email address. I learned and improved at a far quicker pace when I just bit the bullet, started designing and gave it a go. You can read all the books on a subject as you want, but you won’t actually get anywhere until you get your hands dirty, make all the silly mistakes, move on and learn from them. That’s my biggest piece of advice - forget technique, expertise or even dignity. If you want to do something just go out there and get stuck in!

Lockdown music?

You can find my literal lockdown playlist here. I pop them on my site every month or so. I’m obsessed with this band called Squid at the moment, really original post-punk/garage sound. Match Bet is my favorite song of theirs at the moment.

Any new stuff on the way?

The new ‘Archive’ sweatshirt should be finished and out soon - my biggest and most complex cut and sew project to date. Really proud of it, bright primary colors, big embroidery and a mark of how far this little brand has come.

My Depop @awakeatthree has some vintage bargains on there - and also look out for the ‘Early! Hours?’ tee. People seemed to love the design and should be out mid-May!

www.awakeatthree.net

@weareawakeatthree

 

Lookbook picture from DFKT Clothing

Jack Svanholm, DFKT Clothing (Lund, Sweden)

When and why did the idea start to sprout to launch your own streetwear brand?

The idea started to sprout sometime between Spring and Summer in 2017. I was looking for streetwear with loud, grungy graphics that had some type of positive message behind them without having it compromise the look of the clothes, if that makes sense. But I couldn’t find that type of streetwear anywhere, so I decided to start up my own brand and make the type of clothes I would want to wear and that I felt were missing from the scene.

How would you describe the overall style of DFKT Clothing?

The style of DFKT is characterized by attention grabbing graphics, often with a somewhat dark and or grungy feel to it, even if the graphic itself isn’t dark in nature. Doesn’t matter to me if the graphic is smaller or bigger, I always want it to pop and grab your attention. All graphics also have an underlying message to them, and they all promote a proud and positive way of representing yourself and your personality.

What has been the biggest challenge of owning your own independent brand?

Having to do and learn everything by yourself. The only things I outsource is my production and photoshoots, but I do everything else by myself. By now I’ve gotten pretty used to it, but it’s definitely a challenge to have to learn all the parts of running a brand by yourself. There’s a lot of trial and error, but it’s definitely worth it once you start noticing your improvement.

Does this current crisis have an impact on your creativity and motivation? In which way?

Yes, but not to a very big extent. It’s been a bit demotivating when it comes to the business side of things, but I’m working my best on adapting to it as we speak. Creatively speaking it hasn’t had a major impact, more than the fact that I have more time to spend on being creative and making new designs.

Any advice for young creatives that want to pursue their dreams?

Go for it, but spend time practicing and researching as much as you can before you start everything up. Going for it is great, but there will be challenges along the way, and they’ll be a lot easier to deal with if you’re prepared for them. And continue to always try to do better and improve! Analyze what works and what doesn’t once in a while, and make your move thereafter.

Lockdown music?

I’m a huge music fan so naming just one song is going to be very hard. I’ve been listening a lot to Don Toliver’s latest album as well as Baby Keems. But if I had to choose one song I’d actually say Topdown by Channel Tres. It’s a nice mix between electronic, club type music and rap, and it’s just got a super dope vibe to it.

Any new stuff on the way?

I dropped my newest collection featuring my Bubbles hoodie and Growth tee last month, so definitely check that out if you haven’t already! Besides that I’ll be dropping new products as soon as the pandemic starts easing down, and in the meantime I will most likely be restocking two of my most popular previous products, so be on the lookout for that!

www.dfktclothing.com

@dfkt_clothing