Sweet Tees 2: Q&A's with local t-shirt designers

What inspires them, who wears them, and why their tees are necessities.

The Mink Clothing Company
Q&A with Co-Founder & Creative Director Matty Mink

What’s that little soft patch made of anyway?
Well, about a year ago we did a super limited release where we used genuine mink fur for the patch. I think there are only like six of those t-shirts in existence. But normally we use a few different types of faux fur.

Is it on everything MINK makes?
That's the idea but we've released a couple items without it. And that was only because it didn't necessarily fit the aesthetic of that particular product. 
Do you do the artwork yourself or do you partner with artists to create your vision?
The artwork is basically all me. The team always has input in the form of design ideas or suggestions about existing designs but everyone is comfortable just letting me run with it. They trust my vision for the brand and my ability to execute.

Who else makes up the “we” behind the brand?
Ali is co-founder and co-owner of the brand. In the beginning, it was only the two of us. Since then it's grown into a big family. Mac is the guy I go to when I want to brainstorm concepts. He's a fucking weirdo like me so we have great chemistry. Frank, Ahmad, Thomas and Mike are awesome with promo and getting MINK to the right people and places. Barry's like the mascot. Our character logo (a little mink animal that appears on some of our pieces) is named "Sir Barrington,” which is Barry's legal name. Then we have our manufacturers. We keep them hidden and sworn to secrecy.

What are/were your backgrounds prior to getting into this biz?
Ali has owned a clothing store in Clearwater for over 10 years, so that's what really got us both into this. We used to make heat transfer shirts for his customers like eight or nine years ago. I'd come up with the designs and Ali would sell them. It was just something fun to do for extra money. That's actually when I came up with the name MINK. Back then it was spelled MINC and stood for "Matty Incorporated." I still have a shirt from back then with "MINC. '06" printed on it but I wasn't serious about making clothing my entire life back then. So I kind of pushed MINK to the background for a few years while working shitty jobs that utilized none of my actual skill set. In late 2011, we decided that MINK could be a real sustainable business if we just approached it right. I quit doing everything else and jumped into MINK headfirst.

If you could see any one person wear a MINK t-shirt who would it be and why?
Kanye West. He just understands and appreciates fashion on a different level than most people. Not to mention the exposure would be awesome for MINK.

What does "MINK-Strike" mean?
Basically, we'll do a "MINK-Strike" release when we want to get a couple products out between major seasons. So they're limited edition shirts (or hoodies, hats, etc.) that are only ever going to be released that one time.

What’s coming up next from the brand?
Some really dope stuff. I don't want to give too much away, but I think everyone's going to be really excited about what we do next. I've always thought of MINK as having this fraternal vibe to it. If you own a piece of MINK, you feel like you're part of a club. What we do next will definitely reinforce that feeling and add a whole new dimension to the brand. 

Why do you think it’s important to shop local?
The local market is a reflection of the community as a whole. They thrive and suffer in unison. It always makes sense to support a locally owned business because it adds to the value of your community. Plus there's a relationship aspect to it. The guy that owns the clothing store is going to be much more willing to help you than the employee of a faceless chain store who's just trying to collect an hourly paycheck.

Tell us about your favorite t-shirt of all time, why you love it and where you got it…
Well it's gotta be a MINK tee. That's not some shameless promo shit either. I honestly believe that we make the best t-shirts in the world. If I didn't, I wouldn't want to be in this business. Anyway...I'm sure this opinion will change by tomorrow since I own like 500 t-shirts, but I think my favorite of all time was the "Jet Life" tee. The graphic is a framed oil painting of a guy with 10 enormous joints in his mouth at once. I love it for too many reasons to list but mostly because the guy in the picture is Barry and the joints are all real.

How many t-shirts do you believe a person should own?
One for every day of the year.


Ides of March
Q&A with Co-Founder and Artist Dwight Morrison

Why did you start a t-shirt company?
I started a t-shirt company as a creative outlet to fulfill my passion for graphic design and fashion simultaneously. This medium gives me the opportunity to share my art with others in a way I hadn’t considered before. It’s a lot of fun.

What is your brand philosophy?
Our brand philosophy ties in with our tag line “Long live the idols.” It’s to keep pushing and making yourself better with each step. Never stop working toward change until you are exactly where you want to be. Be an idol for yourself and others.

Do you do the artwork yourself or do you partner with artists to create your vision?
All artwork is collaboration between myself and my partner. [Ricky is the co-founder who assists with a lot of the backend details and the second artist/videographer is Joseph]. We bounce ideas back and forth before committing to a design and in most cases they go through a few revisions.

Describe the weight and feel of your pieces.
Our pieces are lightweight and soft. We wanted to go with something that didn’t feel too heavy when you wear it and gives a breathable fit where it’s not a loose fit but also not super tight.

Where do you picture people wearing them?
I picture people wearing our gear to school, concerts, skating, just hanging out with friends and any other casual/informal event, outing or activity.

Why do you think it’s important to shop local?
It’s important to shop local in order to help foster the talent that may be right around the corner. It inspires others within the community and allows other creatives to feed off the positive energy created from the love and support. All local business need that grass roots following from the scene they plan to represent.

Tell us about your favorite t-shirt of all time, why you love it and where you got it.
My favorite t-shirt of all time is actually one that I purchased recently. It’s one of the tour tees from Kanye West’s Yeezus tour. The reason why it’s my favorite is because he’s my personal favorite artist and I made it a point to specifically purchase the shirt at the venue instead of heading to the local shops that had been selling them before hand. Made it feel more authentic and I was able to throw it on immediately at the show, which was nothing less than amazing!


click to enlarge SLOH Co-owners Fredrick (left) and Cedrick Bowden - Xong Hang Photography
Xong Hang Photography
SLOH Co-owners Fredrick (left) and Cedrick Bowden

Q&A with Co-founder Cedrick Bowden

Why did you start a t-shirt company?
Actually SLOH Apparel is not just a t-shirt company. We are starting with t-shirts but we have designs for several other things like jackets, sweaters, polos, hats, denim and button down shirts. The reason we started is simply throughout our whole life we have always loved fashion. People who know us can attest to that fact. Another reason we started this company is to make a difference in the fashion industry and spread our philosophy on self-confidence.

click to enlarge Sweet Tees 2: Q&A's with local t-shirt designers - Xong Hang Photography
Xong Hang Photography
Sweet Tees 2: Q&A's with local t-shirt designers

What are your designs inspired by?
Our designs are inspired by many things—colors, a cool image, a cool pattern, a basic concept or even a simple saying or slogan.

Describe the weight and feel of your pieces.
Our shirts are made from top quality heavy weight preshrunk cotton with a double needle hem. They have a durable high-end feel. Our shirts are definitely made to last.

Describe your ideal customer.
Our ideal customer is anyone that wants to make a statement with his or her clothing. We stand by our saying, "Confidence is universal." We want customers from the young executives hitting happy hour on Friday, to the teens hitting the mall on Saturday, to the 30-40 something’s going to brunch on Sunday.

If you could see any one person wear your t-shirt who would it be and why?
For men, Jay- Z because he exemplifies our brand philosophy on confidence, swag and self-assurance. For women, Eve Mendes because she exudes sexiness.

Tell us about your favorite t-shirt of all time, why you love it and where you got it.
Our favorite t-shirt of all time is the Superman t-shirt. Wearing it gave us confidence to believe that we were invincible like him.



Q&A with Founder & Designer Rachal Chisholm

Why did you start a t-shirt company?
I started fostering kittens when I was about 16 years old. I would take hundreds of pictures and I loved to put them in Photoshop and play with them. Of course that meant putting kitten faces on some of my favorite characters in film. I was mixing two of my favorite things—cats and movies!
With all of this artwork I was doing, I needed a medium to place it on. At the same time, I was at an age where I loved buying graphic tees. Making artwork and then sharing it on clothing seemed like a really fun idea. I always imagined myself being a boss and owning a company. My senior year of high school, I finally started printing on t-shirts and it’s been an adventure every day since.

What is your brand philosophy?
The name Threadish actually came from playing around with our motto. Do you have an excessive and irrational need for threads? We can help you with that! Quality is a big thing for me. If I’m not 100% happy with the garment, it’s not going to be used.

What inspires your designs?
My foster kittens inspired me in the beginning. My family constantly inspires me with the crazy things they do and say. My designs are often influenced by movies and pop culture.

I understand you do all the artwork yourself. Tell us about that...
I always appreciated art, but I never saw myself becoming an artist. I was more of a computer geek who loved gaming. Discovering Photoshop was a blessing and a curse. I say that only because I wish I ‘d learned Adobe Illustrator first! My artwork in the beginning was very primitive. Edgy lines and, dare I say, stick figure-ish. Making mistakes in software can be fixed with a simple ‘delete’ or ‘backspace.’ Nothing is permanent and I can try out so many different versions of one design.

Any plans to partner with other local artists to submit designs for Threadish?
We’re always open to new business opportunities!

Describe the weight and feel of your pieces…
Our base product is 100% cotton, 5.3 oz T-shirts. Every once in a while we have specialty products that we offer for a limited time. Normally this means, super soft, fitted, American made t-shirts.

Who is your ideal customer?
Someone who appreciates the artwork as much as I do. If they understand the joke or the connection to a movie that’s awesome too.

Why do you think it’s important to shop local?
It’s important for a community to stay connected, share ideas, and support one another. Small businesses keep the local economy running smoothly.

Tell us about your favorite t-shirt of all time, why you love it and where you got it…
It’s difficult to pick just one! My closet and drawers are filled to the brim with my favorite shirts. It’s no surprise that I love all of the shirts I’ve designed, otherwise I would’ve deleted them in the planning stages! There is one shirt that I really enjoy wearing. I got it in San Francisco and it’s fitted but not clingy. A bunch of cats are riding a trolley.


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