Sleepy Dan x FatKidOnFire - Interview #118

Sleepy Dan x FatKidOnFire

Interview #118

Chris has been a bit quiet of late (I’ll let him explain why) but he’s back with another stellar streetwear feature…

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It’s been a hectic time for me lately; starting a new job that’s not only required a fair chunk of my time, but a regular amount of my writing time. Sadly FKOF has taken a bit of a back seat of late, sorry about that!
However, I’ve got a couple of articles lined up for over the next month, so no need to worry! This next brand is another brand that got a grin on my face; with a sharp sense of humour and style, backed up by slick graphics, there’s a lot to like about this brand and its general vibe.

Called Sleepy Dan, and based around the idea of not wasting time (but also based on a love of sleep), it’s a brand that’s really struck a chord with me since starting the job! I was lucky enough to be able to chat to Sleepy Dan, who’s not only created a great brand, but is also a great guy. One of the most helpful and friendly people I’ve come across recently, I’m pleased to be able to put together a feature on him. The brand hails from Dallas, Texas, and as it turns out Dan has formed a friendship with a certain Mr. Teabelly, so it’s really great to get a feature up and carry on a sense of community amongst the indie brands worldwide.

So, Sleepy Dan; who is Dan and what’s he all about? This started out as a nickname I was given while attending Ringling College of Art & Design. I was taking too many classes trying to graduate on time (because not all my credits transferred in from my NY college). It was all worth the effort because I did graduate on time, but I was very well known for yawning all the time and falling asleep anywhere… Everyone thought I was on the verge of narcolepsy, but the truth was I just working late through the night on design projects all the time. 

I still have a crazy schedule – designing all day then going home to work on Sleepy Dan stuff at night. I guess the traits were always there, it just took a nickname to define them a little more!

What made you decide to create the Sleepy Dan brand? After college, I started working as an apparel designer for larger license branded merchandisers. It’s been a long strange career but very much worth it… I’ve met and worked for some major celebrities and amazing artists from around the world. The job makes me keep tabs on current street fashions that I’ve always gravitated towards, so it was inevitable that I would one day bring Sleepy Dan to life… This also helped me come to one startling realisation, I don’t want to be famous! So this project does not have a purpose to make me famous and rich. I feel sad for all those celebrities that have lost their private lives. I cherish my family time and ability to give back to the community with the success of my talents.

As an independent brand, how have you found running Sleepy Dan? I’ve been screen printing and embroidering for almost 15 years now, so I’ve always had great working relationships with the best local production companies. I love the work I do, so I started making friends with the local indie brands by helping them get in touch with the local production companies I knew. Then sharing some business practices to help them create a better product.

I would rather compete with other indie brands by the art we create, rather than the companies we know… This helpful philosophy (and nurturing Dallas’ community of artists) has helped create a “family” of indie brands that I love hanging with. We trade shirts with one another and proudly wear each other’s brands in recognition of the city we proudly call home. That’s why I love creating Dallas shirt designs… I keep in touch with indie brands around the world, like Edward Teabelly. I happily hand off production contacts to friends I know can benefit from them. Support Indie!

‘Fun’ brands often get dismissed as being a copy of a certain confectionary-based brand; how do you feel about that? Have peoples reactions (positive or negative) contributed to what you do with the brand at all? Ha! What a very PC way to refer to Johnny… Truthfully he wasn’t the first so I don’t know why you’d think anyone would be copying. Remember the Big Johnson t-shirts when we were growing up, well I’m probably dating myself a little, but everyone had a shirt company or clothing brand they liked when they were growing up. I guess I just always gravitated to the funny side of life… So it continues in the Sleepy Dan art.

I have an extensive t-shirt collection from all the brands I’ve loved and kept in contact with. Several years ago I went to the JC lecture at Ringling to talk with him and get some background reference from who I thought was a successful designer. My advice is never meet your idols because they will always let you down… Everyone I’ve met has always been a surprise, so I tend to prefer designers like Benny Gold who keeps his personal life out of his clothing design. I love indie brands like Fresh Kaufee, Grits Apparel, and Edward Teabelly that have a brand theme and message you can understand without them having to explain it with a logo telling me the name of the brand.

Being a naturally sleepy person, what do you find gets you out of bed every morning? Ha! That is a perfectly silly question… Truthfully most of the time it’s my dog or the alarm or I would never wake up on time. For those first ten minutes I am a total zombie, but I don’t drink coffee or tea so I just kind of need a minute to boot up my brain, then I’m ready to go… It’s kinda weird being a sleepy guy but I’ve never needed caffeine to wake up, it just kind of happens?!

I love my day job almost as much as I love working on Sleepy Dan so getting out of bed early for work is not a bad thing when you love life.

On the weekends when I can sleep in, I am only getting out of bed to get ready for a local trunk show or clothing event. Being a local indie brand in Dallas, we are lucky to have so many clothing events we can set up at… Even if I’m not setting up at the event, I love to just hang and talk with the indie family.

Is there anything specific you want to achieve with the brand, or is it just a fun journey for now? Sleepy Dan started out as a design outlet for what I was not creating at work. All of the licenses I designed for had a required direction so I could never truly create originals for them. Since the first year, this project has been giving back so much more than I could have dreamed possible. I don’t look at the Sleepy Dan project like it’s a job or something I have to get done, it’s how I keep sane as a day job designer. This is definitely a life journey, I never realised how deep the rabbit hole would go!

Any motivating words of wisdom to all ambitious sleepy-heads out there? My favorite motivation is ‘You Snooze You Lose’ because I always felt that if you were sleeping, you weren’t being productive. I grew up in the city that never sleeps, so it’s only fitting that it eventually became my lifestyle.

And lastly, any shoutouts? Shoutouts to the indie family around the world, there are too many to name them all. Just know that we all support one another whatever type of project we are working on… Break the chains of corporate bondage and shop indie whenever possible!

And there you have it! Hopefully this latest brand feature was worth the wait, and hopefully we’ve put another quality indie brand on your radar.

Get onto Sleepy Dan’s websitewebstore, Facebook and Twitter to follow what he’s up to, and hit up the website to check the brand out further! I wish Dan the best of luck, he definitely deserves it.

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Hit Chris up on Twitter (or you can have a chat with me on @FatKidOnFire) or shout away in the comments if you enjoyed his feature with Sleepy Dan!

And if you’re a brand looking for exposure, why not drop Chris an email?