We first approached Le Collektor as an art project but once we saw the potential to build a platform that artists could use to reach a new breed of collector, we knew we had to put the pieces in place for a scaleable business. Going from idea to product is one of the most rewarding yet challenging aspects of being a designer. And while the idea of a detachable hood seemed basic enough, everything from curating the right artwork to finding the right zipper involved so much more work than we thought.
HOW DID WE CHOOSE OUR ARTISTS?
We approached our inaugural collection as if we were curating a group show that artists would want to attend. We wanted to showcase distinct styles that could be seen in cities around the world. We also wanted to work with artists who were on board with what we were trying to do. Our inaugural artists – Nick Gazin, Chris Uphues, Sonni, Drury Brennan, EWOK, David R. Head, Jr. and Joseph Meloy – have been amazingly supportive. It has been great to work with artists who trusted a new brand with their work.
PUTTING ART ON A HOOD
It's exciting and a bit unnerving to think about your artwork appearing in a totally different new venue or medium. Apparel presents a unique case as the artwork is integrated into the wearer's personal style and affect. How will the art look when the hood's down? Or when it's up? Also, unique challenges arise when translating what is essentially 2-dimensional art — typically painted on a flat wall or canvas — onto the 3 dimensional surface of a hood. Some artists worked with repeating patterns of their work so that placement of the art on a particular panel of the hood relative to the other panels was not an issue. Other artists tweaked their designs to fit the curved surface.
We started by taking a look at all of the best hoodies out there from Reigning Champ to Aviator Nation to American Giant*. Then we mashed them all together to create the ultimate hoodie. Made from soft, extra warm, custom-knit fleece with flat-locked seams for added durability, our hoodie is built to last. We put in everything we could think of from a port for your headphone wires to a bomber collar that lets you wear your jacket without a hood if you feel like mixing it up. Then we had to find someone to make it.
MADE IN THE USA
We decided that we wanted to make our hoodie in the United States, which a lot of top streetwear designers cautioned us against. The thing we heard over and over again was that we would make no money if we used US manufacturing. We heard them but went forward anyway. We partnered with a top notch manufacturer in Los Angeles that shares our commitment to socially responsible production.
When developing a new production relationship, it's nice to be able to spend time getting to know the operation while working on the sampling together. All of this means a lot of time away. Los Angeles was a lot closer; we had a lot more contacts there (i.e., places to crash) and so it was much more feasible for us than China. Also, some of the best knitwear manufacturers out there are in downtown LA. We were able to get everything from our custom-knit fleece to our hangtags there. That sunshine didn't hurt either.
But everyone was right. Manufacturing in the U.S. was expensive...so we needed more money than we had planned on. That's where Kickstarter came in. Read our words of wisdom on financing your streetwear dreams on Kickstarter here.
* Yes, we have read this article, but thanks for sending it our way. Hopefully, you will buy our hoodie and realize that it is in fact the greatest hoodie ever made.