It’s been too long since the last streetwear feature here on FatKidOnFire, way too long. And, as usual, with the focus of the site seemingly moving away from the balance of ‘fashion | music’ I try and strive towards, I figured it was about bloody time we tried sorting that out.
And when Chris got in touch to say he wanted to play a bit more of an integral part in building FKOF onwards and upwards – we killed two birds with one stone. Here Chris is with his first post as FKOF’s brand spanking new Streetwear Editor…
It’s not often I come across a brand that actually makes me break out into a genuine smile. Sure, I often get excited and hyped up about a brand and their great design or whatever, but when I think about it, it’s rare a brand will make me smile and feel a little bit happier than I did before. However, American-based, British-born designer Patrick Marini’s brand Twentypence got just that reaction out of me.
Twentypence is actually a very new brand, with a total of 4 tees currently for sale. The story behind the brand is an interesting one, and involves utilising the exciting Kickstarter platform and giving something back to the local community. With a very British vibe behind the brand and their designs, I could think of no better time than just after the Jubilee, and during the Olympics, to be a bit patriotic and get this brand featured.
In your own words, who or what is Twentypence? Twentypence is a culmination of my creativity, personality and entrepreneurial spirit. Over the years I have conceived lots of creative side projects and this is the first time it feels right . It’s a relatively new company and the overall outlook is still evolving. Twentypence is a brand that is based off my British upbringing, love for my country, and my willingness to share that with the rest of the world. It’s also a great way for me to combat the sea of obvious “British” products that have flooded the market. Stick a Union Jack flag on something and it’s call it British – it’s just too easy. With Twentypence I can challenge myself to think outside of the box, something all good designers strive for. Understated Britishness.
What was your motivation for starting Twentypence? I moved to New Jersey in 2010 to marry a British girl who moved to America as a child. Coming from a family who is very proud their British roots I think played a part in me starting Twentypence. During my time here, I have had so much positive feedback from everyone I meet. Whether its a “I love your accent” or “I’ve always wanted to go to England”, the accent always provokes a positive reaction. I also get asked lots of questions about British culture. Unfortunately I don’t personally know the Queen, I’m not from London and I don’t speak like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Some people would get tired of the constant attention, but I love it! I feel like a VIP. Even trips to the supermarket become a tweet worthy event.
After many years of coming up with design concepts for others, I was looking to do something for me. As a big fan of Ugmonk, a typography based successful indie clothing brand I began sketching ideas for my own line of clothing. No real theme, just what came into my head that particular day, a lot of it humor based. After a New Years trip back to England and some blunt advice from my family, I decided to go in a different direction. I decided to use myself and my upbringing as the inspiration for my designs.I brainstormed names with my family. It had to be something British but very subtle. A twenty pence piece, is a British coin (worth around 30c) with a unique 7 sided shape. I feel it works perfectly.
When looking for inspiration for Twentypence designs, whats your process? I don’t necessarily look for inspiration. I’m constantly in contact with friends and family back in England, so I’m susceptible to real British culture on a daily basis. Also with the upcoming Queen’s Jubilee and London Olympics there was no shortage of inspiration. I love to sketch and doodle ideas. On any scrap of paper and pen I can find whether at my desk, in my car, out shopping. I make a quick note of the idea and normally jump on it as soon as I get home. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. I now have a nice bank of ideas . Not just print for clothing but custom made products as well. My education was primarily product design. I’d say 60/40 of my ideas are 3-dimensional products versus designs or illustrations to print.
Is it more difficult being in another country, or does it give you a whole new perspective to work with? I honestly think deciding to live in America was the best decision I ever made. There’s a positive energy and the idea that you can achieve anything. I joke with my family that everything in the USA is bigger and better, but it really does feel that way. As far as designing for Twentypence I think it really helps seeing Britain from a different perspective. After living in America for over 2 years I can see first hand the cultural differences between the 2 countries. The pros and cons about the people, living and working in both countries. It also allows me to see the lesser known and interesting facts about Britain that I can share through my Twentypence designs.
How have you found running a very British brand in America? How do people respond? I actually launched the brand through the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. I went all out to promote the project, contacting local press, t-shirt blogs, British expat blogs, through twitter, Facebook, worth of mouth etc. I got a lot of positive feedback from everyone I contacted. As a resident of America I wanted to work with as many American companies as I could. One of my company slogans is British design, American made, and so far I have stuck to that. I also decided very early to donate a portion of my sales to a local organization in my area. The brand was started as an outlet for my creativity, not as a money making scheme. I chose to support a school for troubled children called Oakwood School. My wife is a 4th Grade teacher, and this was a cause that was close to her heart. Again, this ties in with the hem labels on every shirt, “Look good, live better”. I wanted to promote unity and generosity as well as high quality products.
As a relatively new company, who knows where Twentypence will be 5 years down the line, but so far I’m really proud of what I have started. I have had the best response from British expats like myself – British people who have emigrated to the USA. I’m hoping to expand my reach by releasing more products that catch peoples attention for the design as well as the theme.
The US has a habit of producing highly successful entrepreneurs running their own brands – have you observed/experienced any cultural differences that might help the UK indie scene/brands grow and develop? One thing that has stood out to me with brands that I am inspired by and aspire to be like is that they work hard, have a unique or creative product, something that stands out from the rest. One of the brands that come to mind is Ugmonk. Jeff Sheldon began selling four t-shirt designs much like myself. After a few years he has expanded to accessories, prints and has recently launched a premium clothing range. We met him at the Renegade festival in Brooklyn a few years ago, and you can just tell he has worked his “arse” off to run a successful company. Shwood is another company I really admire. They produce handmade wooden sunglasses. I admire their product first and foremost, their work ethic and the way they present their brand.
I thought being based in the USA would expand my reach to more potential customers, but really that’s not the case these days. Everyone can reach a worldwide market with the internet and the increasing popularity of online blogs and social media. I have sold t-shirts to customers in the UK, Germany, Latvia, Japan and even Australia. Get the word out to more than just people and companies based in you town, city or country.
In the words of my old school teachers, where do you see yourself in 5 years time? I think I have a good balance of naivety, optimism and rational thinking. From the start of Twentypence I have been realistic with my expectations. After 6 months of running the brand I am happy with my progress. Throw in renovating a house, getting married and now selling a house I think I have kept my commitment and focus pretty well.
Time is a big factor for me, and the lack of it. Time to work on my creative projects, time to socialize and time to see my family, in the USA and UK. In 5 years I would love to free up some time to dedicate to all those things. I see myself doing more freelance design work and hopefully running a successful Twentypence brand….and probably a kid or two. Who knows what accent they will end up with?!
Top 5 favorite songs/albums/current playlist? I’ve recently got back into Pandora online radio. I love it because you get to listen to tunes and artists you would never normally listen to. I have to admit I’m a pop fan. My favorite artists include Jack Johnson, Rihanna, Kanye West, James Morrison and Justin Timberlake.
My favorite album to listen to is probably Justin Timberlake – Justified. My favorite song and probably my most listened to song is Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations. Apparently when I’m drunk I play it on repeat for hours. It’s an oldie but a goodie. I also love anything live and acoustic. Huge fan of Youtube and acoustic covers. Think I subscribe to over 200 channels. I even remember seeing one of Justin Bieber’s first videos when it had only a few thousand views. My sad claim to fame.
Any shoutouts? There’s really two people who have made and are still making a big impact in my life. Number one is my brother-in-law, friend and role model Rich (@space36). He has always been there to guide me in the right direction. Always speaks his mind whether I want to hear it or not. He has helped to mould me into a better and more focussed designer and man.
Number two would be my wife Carlotta. When we met I was a shy, reserved British boy. Just being around her has turned me into a more positive, confident and happy person. People thought I was crazy to fly out to the USA and meet her after a few short months of talking on Facebook and Skype. People thought I was crazy to move out here and start a new life 3000 miles from everyone I know. I had no reservations at all. I went with my gut and am really proud and happy with the decisions I made. I have an amazing life out here in the USA. I say it almost everyday how lucky I am. Long may it continue.
Pretty much everyone who’s started a brand has made a sacrifice and taken a risk, and Patrick has perhaps done that to a greater extent than most. Whilst his move to America wasn’t directly related to starting the brand; it was a decision that lead to starting it! And if he hadn’t made the big decision that he did, he’d probably still be going about the same routine in the same place, and I wouldn’t be writing this article. I hope this not only serves as support for Patrick and 20p, but also as a bit of inspiration for someone.
Patrick has very kindly given us a 20% off discount code to share with you all(!), so if you want to support 20p and show your Britishness without wearing something that insists you ‘Keep Calm’, or draping yourself in the Union Jack, head over to the website and use the code ‘FKOF20’. Additionally, give them a ‘Like’ on Facebook and a follow on Twitter.
Hit Chris up on Twitter (or you can have a chat with me on @FatKidOnFire) or shout away in the comments if you did(/ didn’t) enjoy his first post – and don’t forget to go redeem that 20% off Twentypence with ‘FKOF20’ at the checkout!
And if you’re a brand looking for exposure, why not drop Chris an email?