So this week I got the chance to pick the brain of Greg Kerr the owner of Miles To Go Clothing and Miles to Go Belts. Miles to Go has been one of my favorite indie brands since I came across them about a year ago. They continually put out quality products, always hiring the best designers in the biz, as well as using top quality materials for their products. In this interview we got to discuss how Miles to Go got started, his inspiration for designs and Greg even offers up some advice to upstart labels.
So could you start about by telling us a bit about how Miles To Go go started?
I was working at a print shop in phoenix, acme prints, and had access to tons of print equipment after hours. i had been debating doing tees for a while because like most people, i really didn’t like the options out there for shirts. i rarely did or do ever buy graphic tees in stores. so, i whipped up some really basic designs, printed a few and just kind of eased into it all.
Very cool! So how long ago was that?
I think i stared about 2 years ago and i did the designs myself, mostly bad images taken from things, like marlon brando or some other simple, classic look. i really wasnt sure if i had intentions of really doing a line or not initially.
So when did you decide to take Miles To Go to the next level hiring out artists and really making the brand what it is today?
I started selling in phoenix at first fridays which is an art walk through downtown and they’d let you set up a table and hustle on the street corners. i had maybe 4-5 designs and was getting a good response and doing well enough to have more funding. i think my first commissioned piece was for my cost of ideas shirt from dave quiggle. i really dug his work and used t be a fan of his old hardcore band, disciple, so i really wanted to work with him. i knew i couldnt execute what i saw in my head and after realizing the possibilities of what a real professional could do i got hooked. i knew from the beginning, with naming the company after a robert frost poem i really wanted to keep the designs based off of literature as my theme. it may be nerdy but its what im into.
While we are on the subject of how you got your name I would really like to talk about your inspirations for your designs. I absolutely love that almost all your pieces are based off of poems, artists and figureheads. How did you come up with this idea and could you ellaborate on this?
Ive always been a heavy reader and luckily my pool to gather ideas from is huge. i really like my designs to be about something specific and i even try to put quotes relating to the pieces in the item write ups. so far ive basically been getting designs based off of books ive always loved and that list is endless. after i got the artwork for the guy on fire, based off of fahrenheit 451 i realized how the theme could work and would be a great launching pad for ideas. when the artwork got sent over it had my name in it and i thought it took away from the art and since then, i always tell artists they dont need to put miles to go into it unless it somehow works well into the design. im a bit older and dont want to wear tees with names all over it and i hope other people get that im focused on the art work more so than in your face branding.
I really think this says a lot about your brand and the idea of branding. To me it seems like a lot of upstart lines dont really have a focus or brand indentity. Do you have any advice for the upstarts out there?
As most people that have been in this field for a while(2 yrs with shirts, 7 with belts) you really have to figure out what will set you apart and spend a lot of time before you go dropping money. your friends stop buying tees after the 1st or 2nd shirt and you need good products. i decided that miles to go is a passion project and as long as im having fun and not losing money i will keep doing it. i love commissioning artwork and never fight the cost. im helping support a fellow artist and i feel like a patron of the arts and own something amazing, created for me. some companies want to be in stores like pyknic from the get go and thats fine too. theyve done a great job but their goals were and are much different then mine. i flirted with retail for a bit and did a trade show which went well, but i liked the idea of bein more exclusive. maybe johnny cupcakes rubbed off on me a bit over the years.
So you mentioned your belt company. Could you give us a little insight as to what that is and what you do with Miles to Go Belts?
With miles to go belts im basically like a shirt printer but with a different medium, using belts. bands or clothing companies will order anywhere from 5 to 1000 belts for their store or shows, etc. its how i pay my bills and im very thankful thats its been supporting me for years now. i just sort of stumbled upon the idea as a way to pay my rent while on tour. ive been very fortunate to work with great bands and inspiring people that keep me going and have taught me so much. im all word of mouth and its not a stuck up thing, its just that advertising hasnt done too much in the past. im fortunate that a lot of my customers are willing to give up who made their belts when asked.
Very cool! That seems to me like it would be a very competitive market
Merchandising in general is. thankfully i think im still the only person who does the kind of belts i make. the stuff i use is so tempermental is ridiculous but im used to using it by now. lots and lots of trial and error before it got going. the scene has changed so much though. my first big order i got from giving geoff from thursday a belt at our labels bbq one time and i could talk to people in bands because they did their own merch. now its all fulfillment companies and honestly, they dont seem to care quite as much and its a bit harder to get in touch with people about belts.
So lets get back to the shirts. You have worked with some incredible designers, Godmachine, Dan Mumford and Dave Quigle. What can we expect from you in the near future?
The future of miles to go is still up in the air. i fight with mysef daily about how many designs to do, blah blah. i have ideas for a few more new shirts and i hope to get the ball rolling on some soon. i dont do seasonal releases because im not catering to retail and when the artwork comes in, i pre-sale for 2 weeks and print. i love having a consistent look to my line and love the work ive gotten so far but i think the designs still vary enough to keep it interesting. i feel bad for those guys when i send over my briefs. i cant tell you how many times ive been told im very thorough with my ideas for a shirt. i send over as much detail as i can to help give an idea of colors, print size, anything to assist which hopefully isnt too annoying. Im sure most artists probably prefer that level of detail! Well we are really looking forward to what you put out next! also, some people have asked for logo shirts so i made two which will be up soon. i didnt print many, just putting them up for people into rocking brand names. im also doing a new version of the sirens which wont be limited and the colors will be different. i said i wouldnt reprint it but i really love the art and have to make more.
I also recently noticed that you have branched into kids size t-shirts. What was the though and inspiration behind this and do you expect on doing any designs aimed towards kids?
honestly, im going to be 30 in a few months and have a growing number of friends with kids who kept asking me to make tees. i grabbed some simple designs and printed them up and some people have been picking it up. one thing i didnt realize would happen was when i watched a little size 2 poison tree coming out of the dryer how much it made me melt with its overwhelming cuteness. i doubt ill make designs specifically for kids but i think its pretty sweet having a little kid with a shirt with a robert frost line on it…i have promises to keep.
Very cool! I love this idea and hope you continue to do a few more kids shirts. So before we go any , you said you were really into books. What are some must reads?
Oh, man. i love any vonnegut, palahniuk(except latest one), ayn rand, robert frost, poe, milton. my book shelf is taking up half of my room at this point. i recently finished atlas shrugged by ayn rand and its a really hard read but well worth it. i used to spend 45 mins on the train each way to school for years and no one talks so all i did was read read read. im also halfway through the god delusion by richard dawkins and its a great look at religion and atheism.
Makes sure to check out: www.milestogoclothing.com/