An ode to Independence

An ode to Independence

I get a lot of emails. It’s partly my fault for openly publicising my email address – and most of the time, my inbox is on the receiving end of complete garbage as penance. However, I do sometimes get sent stuff that is truly exciting…

This project was one of those times. Back in November, I had a message, through from my About.me page, from a final year graphic design student from the University of Gloucestershire. Chris had contacted me with an idea he’d had for his Final Major Project – which turned out to be pretty identical to what I’d set out to do with FatKidOnFire when I launched almost two years ago.

Chris wanted to research what was going on in the world of brands producing independent t-shirts, with the end goal of producing an exhibition on the processes that go into making the world’s most popular fashion garment. I can try and explain what he was trying to do – but he can probably do it better:

Whilst the current state of affairs in the world at the moment have made it tough for pretty much everyone, I also think it makes for exciting times in terms of people taking the initiative and trying to make something for themselves. Yes, it’s tough going trying to sustain something off your own bat, but those willing to innovate, take risks, work hard and produce strong work will survive, and therefore raise the bar. It forces people to either sink or swim.

And that’s partly where I’m coming from with ‘Independence‘. It’s the result of 4 months hard work and is, basically, a piece of University work. I study Graphic Design at University, and instead of a dissertation, we can do a practical version – a major research project. I really wanted to use this as an opportunity to explore the independent streetwear scene in the UK, something I’d just started to get really interested in. I spent some time looking at the tees etc. themselves, and realised that one of the more interesting (and perhaps less celebrated aspects) was the ‘about’ page on brand’s websites – the people investing their own hard earned into doing something they love, the people printing stuff up in their sheds, the people holding down a 9-5 and then coming home and almost doing another 9-5 to keep a brand running.

After this revelation, I immediately set about organising to meet up and have a chat with the people behind some of the most exciting brands around, with the help of a certain Wil Benton. I had a fantastic time travelling firstly to Plymouth, and then to London, meeting some really great people and experiencing what they’re all about in person. They really inspired me to invest some time and effort into producing something that’d do the content justice.

Chris and I have traded roughly 100 emails since he first contacted me last year. We discussed how best to get the project off the ground, which brands he was interested in meeting and pretty much everything else under the sun. I introduced him to a few of the friends I’d made over the history of running FKOF – to see if they’d be as intrigued in the ‘Independence’ as I was.

After a while, Chris decided that running an exhibition might be a bit too ambitious (this time), so he had the idea of producing a small run of printed collectables…

Instead of going for a glossy magazine, I instead settled on a newspaper format, printed by independent printers who produce newspapers because they love it. Newspapers have been around for decades, and have been used as a canvas for all sorts of views and opinions from all across the spectrum, much like the t-shirt. I then wanted to give things a personal touch, a nod to the guys printing in their sheds and spare rooms. I got my hands dirty and screen printed a canvas bag to package the paper in – something you can take shopping that reminds you, whilst you’re out and about on the high street, to think of the independent brands.

I’ve received some fantastic feedback so far and have been completely blown away by people’s responses – so much so that this is something I have plans to carry on. I have a lot of enthusiasm and time for people trying to make something for themselves, people who don’t think ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’, but instead go out and do it, and would love to be a part of all that in some way. As they say, watch this space…

I’ve been truly blown away by what Chris has achieved in the past few months. He’s gone from an idea to a collection of featured streetwear brands he’s taken the time to talk to, as well as an editorial and a superb opinion piece from one of the most exciting brands I’ve featured in the past two years, all lovingly displayed in a newspaper – printed by an independent printers. It doesn’t really get better than this!

You can either contact Chris directly, via the Independence blog or his Twitter account, for your copy of Independence, or you can purchase it from him using the Sellaround widget below. As Chris explains below, he’ll not be making a profit if you do purchase a copy – but it’ll go some way to recoup his (fairly substantial) costs.

INDEPENDENCE at sellaround.net

If you want to see what I’ve put together for yourself, check out the blog at www.independenceblog.tumblr.com and pick up a copy for a fiver. I won’t make a profit out of this – I’m just keen to get my work out there and get some more responses, and the fiver covers postage and makes some contribution towards costs. If nothing else, you’ll get a bag out of it!

Don’t take our word for it. Pick your copy of the Independence up today, but don’t hang around – there are only 20 or so. If you don’t manage to get your hands on one of the 20 that are up for sale, don’t worry. You may see the Independence again…

There are few projects that I’ve been as proud to take part in as this, and hopefully those of you who buy a copy will understand why.

Peace, love and respect.

FKOF