This idea started in 2005 when I was just a junior in high school. I was a skater, gamer and into art and design. I happen to still be the exact same way! I was taking an introduction to computers course, not that I needed it. I was certain it was going to be a breeze and I was correct in my assumption. But this class allotted me the time to doodle, sketch and begin fooling around in a program many of you are probably familiar with – Photoshop. I had no idea what the hell I was doing but I was loving it. I had recently gained the nickname “O’Flans” which grew on me and even more so on everyone around me. As I began to experiment further in “designing” in Photoshop, I began branding myself, the name O’Flans. Fast forward 6 months and I was making iron on t-shirts with designs that revolved around the name “O’Flans.” They were solid, or at least I thought. This was the very beginning of my conscious recognition of the idea that designing was fun. This was the very start of my creative career, I just didn’t know it yet! With a new found hobby, I was obsessed with logos, branding and graphic apparel.
Fast forward to 2010. I’m in class at the University at Buffalo listening to the brilliant Ben Van Dyke prep us on what we ought to expect in the coming senior thesis semester. Like many schools, we were to carry out a single senior thesis project that was to trump everything we’d ever done and blow our audience and professors away. While their were success stories, many of us failed. As Ben gave us the run down of what is expected in our projects it became clear simply creating t-shirts was not suggested, for it was an easy, unintelligent way to claim fame, wasting away the hundreds of hours of contemplation, theory and deep discussion on philosophy, art, design and its wonders. For a brief moment I fell back in love with the idea of creating a graphic apparel line. This was an awesome chance to devote myself to carrying that idea out! And shattering that moment was Ben, when he stated, “If you’re looking to create a poster series, or design t-shirts, or something stupid like that then just leave now.” He was right as he always is. It was bad timing. It was indeed an easy way out. The dream quickly dissipated from my mind once more. I thank Ben for destroying that little dream of mine. It was well worth it and it certainly paid off.
Here I am in 2013. I’ve been working as a professional designer both as a freelancer and as an art director and designer for a creative agency for almost three years now. I’ve absorbed more information and learned more through experience than I ever did in any of the years prior. I’m grateful for that. But agency life can, at times, become repetitive. I find there are small periods when you begin to question whether you’re progressing as a professional, becoming a better designer, expanding your mindset and so on. In late 2012 I hit one of these periods. But like every instance before, I found a way to creatively escape. Guess what my little side project was going to be? That’s right. A small little graphic apparel line.
There was no one to stop me this time! I had my nights free, a little bit of money saved and the ambition to just be doing something different outside of the digital realm – just to stay fresh in the imagination. I spent 6 months of long nights building this labor of love. I intertwined my passion for design and my love for electronic dance music into one. I found a small dislike in EDM culture and I decided to address it, really for myself, only hoping others might recognize and appreciate my suggested solution as well. I wanted to create graphic apparel that was inspired by dance music but could be comfortably and appropriately worn by both fans and those foreign to the genre, inside and outside the dance music environment. It’s a thin line to walk when your battling against a market that is saturated with bright colors, naked woman, images of headphones, stereotypes focused on drugs, sex and the party life of the young adult. But to hell with it all! I wanted something unique, something that satisfied me and something that I could call my own after all this time…
Just a few days ago I launched Bafe, a small graphic apparel line. As I mentioned, it is intended for everyone and inspired by electronic dance music. I built the brand from the ground up, starting with the identity. Continuously reminding myself of adjectives relevant to the dance community such as “togetherness,” “unity,” “euphoria,” “energy,” etc., I designed a mark that meshed the characteristics of the letterforms that make the word “Bafe.” The name itself is derived from the various ways I’ve heard the word “bass” pronounced by individuals from around the globe. The first four products are meant to be bold, retaining traditional dance music tendencies such as bright colors and abstraction, while approaching a modern, slightly elegant aesthetic that can be found appealing in any situation. I built the web presence and store with the help of so many including Adam Butterworth, Lawrence Basso and Laura Haas. I’m tackling the shipping, the legalities, the promotional material, everything you can think of and I’m loving every second of it!
If it fails, so be it. The happiness it has brought me through the whole process was well worth it. If it succeeds…well then I guess I can officially check off a bucket list item that’s been churning inside my imagination for almost 10 years. Above all, the process of starting something as simple as a graphic apparel line and seeing it from concept to fruition is overly gratifying. I recommend stepping outside the daily routine, engaging yourself in experimentation and discovery in order to keep the imagination moving. It helps refresh good habits and break bad ones. Because of this adventure I’ve escaped the repetitive mindset I fell victim to last year and once again I am starting my days with enthusiasm and ending them with a feeling of fulfillment. Though a graphic apparel line might not be overly impressive, it’s the effect that it has had on my creative outlook that will prove extremely beneficial both in my agency and freelance work in the future.
Stay fresh, mix things up, and if you happen to have a small little dream lurking inside you I’d suggest giving it a go.