Thanks to the chaps over on Casual-Connoisseur for the interview, It's appreciated.
1. How did the idea come about for The Casual Connoisseur?
There's three of us involved now in the running of the business, though we use various companies to produce our product and often collaborate with other designers or companies to bring out a different range. Well it was started as an idea muted a while ago. My brother and I have always been creative and have done a range of varying design work from websites, with people literally telling us we should 'put that on a t-shirt', it came from that, we feel there's is a market for what we do, we're not at all strictly aimed at the football casual style folk, whilst a selection of what we do caters for that and we are proud to do that, we have much wider appeal, people into music and movies are also into our brand. We are passionately into varying things, from art, film, music and style, can you be passionately into many things over different timescales? yes, casual connoisseurs. As time has passed and the label has grown, we now feel there's a place for us to carry on with what we do and further our range, there's a market for us to offer decent, well crafted products at affordable prices. There's some great labels out there at the moment, making top quality stuff, we don't want to pretend to be like that, we are self sufficient and intend to offer a cool and quirky, and quality product we'd be happy to wear alongside those other expensive brands, we want to bridge that gap, with garments which don't cost hundreds of pounds to buy, but on the flip side are still very decent and people want to wear them and everything is always fairly limited and exclusive.
2. Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Allsorts of ideas and inspiration from the various cultures, we have a love of allsorts, from films and music, to art, the outdoors and real ale, general lifestyle kind of thing. Our aim is always where possible to be a bit quirky and different to the norm. Some designs take months of planning and work, some happen overnight, sometimes those split second ideas turn out to be the best, whilst the one's you've really stressed over and are really proud of aren't half as well received as you thought, that's something every designer or label will tell you though.
3.How does the whole thing go from start to finish?
We brainstorm design ideas, many either get put in a queue to go into the design process or some we get started on right away. As mentioned certain designs are months in the making, taking a while to get completed from an idea through to a finished design on a tee, others can be thought of and designed and finished in a day or two it all depends on the ideas. We then either design them with the limitations/restrictions in place for the screenprinting process, or change our works to make them screenprint friendly - this can sometimes be a lengthy process depending on the actual design. We then have the tee sampled for approval or any relevant changes until we're happy then we go into screenprint process the timing can very depending on the volume and intricacy of the design.
With the other products we are doing, it's a case of tracking down someone who can do it, the Weir hats have been a great success for us, and we found the company who did that ourselves, without any prior knowledge of them, a bit of a gamble, but it paid off and they do/did a fantastic job. We're currently getting other garments sampled and produced, but as I've said finding the right folk to do it has been the hardest part believe it or not, the funds are there, but sometimes the people are not, which is frustrating, very few people are willing to give you a foot up in this game, which we've learned. We could get things mass produced in Europe or South East Asia tomorrow but it's complicated and always a risk, plus we do intend to have everything produced at home where possible - and we're not just saying that to sound all trendy.
4. What do you look for when you design a tee?
Something different and imaginative each time, but we'll occasionally revisit and reproduce old stuff which always do well, certain designs outsell others totally, but sometimes the odd one or two which not everyone will 'get' are released and that's what we're about, it's expressing yourself on a blank canvas. There's some very popular designs such as the Northern Music and Tinted Lens, and then there's one's the total opposite which appeal to a totally different crowd. Sometimes a real complex design will go over everyone's head but for a few hardy souls, yet sometimes the more generic/obvious designs will simply fly out.
5. I have noticed that you are planning on designing polo shirts, What factors have gone into this and what quality have you been looking for?
Yeah, we've been planning them for over two years, well we designed what we were after then and it's taken as long to find someone we're overly happy with or will do less than say 300 a colour and all that. We wanted something designed to our own specifications down to each detail as opposed to just picking something off the peg and customising it, anyone can do that so we didn't want to. We're wanting a good fit, good weight and quality akin to the big boys and the best polos out there. There's no shame in admitting we are pretty much intending to base this on the classics such as Lacoste and Ralph, a simple two button placket polo with our own branding and quirk. We've been wearing stuff like I mentioned for years, they've never changed, simple and timeless style, it's a no brainer to take it from them. We've tried several different people before we were happy with one, they're now into production, we've got to see more sampling with every detail and change taken into account then they'll be approved for full runs, intended to be out in time for summer if all goes well. We've learned unless you have a book of contacts you've got to search and search until you find the right people to work with and that is often the hardest part.