Ross Dewey and his company 8-Bit Zombie have been on a mission to single handedly bring back trucker flip caps, the good old days of NES and everything 8-Bit. He has really carved out a name for himself creating some of the coolest flip caps in the game and has recently branched out to t-shirts as well. With too much awesomeness to ignore we chatted with Russ about everything 8-Bit Zombie.
Please start by telling the fine folks in the audience your name and your company.
My name is Ross Dewey and I own a clothing line called 8-bit ZOMBIE.
When did you get the idea to launch 8-Bit Zombie?
A few years ago I decided to start a screen printing company. I went into it knowing that I wanted to make my own merch to sell on the side but I took some time to learn the ropes and hone my skills before venturing into my own clothing line. When I felt I was ready to start producing stuff for myself, there was never really any question about the themes I wanted to run with for my brand. 8-bit ZOMBIE was born out of my love for retro gaming (Specifically the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System) and all things 80’s. I love making things that bring back childhood memories for both myself and my customers. I see the brand as a tribute to the things I love from the past. Another inspiration for 8BZ would be zombies/horror. I’ve been a HUGE zombie movie fan for many years. Combine all that and you get 8-bit ZOMBIE!
I believe you are almost single-handedly bringing back the flip cap into style. Why the flip cap and what was the inspiration behind it?
Well thank you, that’s a pretty big compliment! The hats came about after I had seen some random hats with screen printing on the brims. They were cool looking but I knew I could make something way more rad. Most of the hats I had seen had text or writing on the brims but I knew right away that I wanted to do big illustrations that cover the whole brim. After a lot of research and a ton of ruined hats, I eventually got the process down and the rest is history.
More recently 8-Bit Zombie has branched out past just hats and into apparel. How has the t-shirt world treated you and when can we expect some new 8-Bit Tees?
The tee world has treated me great! Starting off with the hats, I was able kinda get my foot in the door and gain a small following. So expanding things has gone pretty smoothly and people really seem to enjoy the stuff I’ve been coming up with. As far as new stuff, I’ll be releasing a few new items this spring, then I’ll be doing a massive release this summer. I’m beyond excited about it. It will definitely be the biggest release to date.
Have you approached any stores about carrying 8-Bit Zombie hats or apparel and if so how has that gone?
I haven’t really approached any stores but I have been approached a few times. I’ve kinda decided to keep 8BZ an exclusive thing though. I attended a lecture by Johnny Cupcakes last year and he definitely influenced that decision. I could probably make more money off of my stuff if I sent it out wholesale to a bunch of stores but I like the idea of keeping the brand more of a unique thing. Plus I really enjoy all of the little extras that I put into each package. I feel like ordering stuff directly from me, customers get a much more enjoyable and memorable experience.
What have you done to promote 8BZ?
Not much, haha. 8-bit ZOMBIE pretty much started on Emptees and I still use that site to promote my releases. (Sadly it’ll be closing down March 1st) Other than that, Facebook and Twitter. And of course IATT has been very good to 8BZ from the very beginning! I feel lucky and I’m very appreciative that you guys dig 8BZ so much.
Do you have any advice for people looking to start their own brand?
Start saving and planning. And come up with a theme. I feel like brands with a solid and cohesive theme will always stand out from brands who just seem to randomly choose their designs. And don’t expect to get rich quick. In fact don’t expect your brand to even start generating profits in the beginning. Most start up businesses will lose money for their first year. If not longer. The tee biz can be a tough nut to crack. But it’s also very rewarding.
What if any extras do you include with your packaging and how do you feel this impacts your brand?
8BZ buttons and stickers go out with every order. For bigger releases I like to include freebies that go along with the theme of the release. In the past I’ve sent out old M.U.S.C.L.E. Men figures and vintage packs of Nintendo trading cards. I think those extra little touches can vastly improve the customer’s experience with your brand. I know from experience how much happier I am when I order a shirt and there’s cool stuff in the package. Even if it was just a button or a sticker.
Do you have any sales or coupon codes our readers should know about?
Use code “IATT” for 10% off your next order!
Any last minute announcements or shout-outs?
Come hang out with us on the 8BZ Facebook. Stay up to date on re-prints, new releases, contests and all other 8BZ news: http://www.facebook.com/8bitZOMBIE
And keep those peepers peeled for new 8BZ merch. The stuff I’m working on right now is absolutely amazing. Can’t wait to show off everything I’ve got planned. It’s gonna be nuts.
This interview wouldn’t be complete without a some Nintendo based questions now would it?
Favorite NES Game:
That’s a tough one! I love the classics of course – Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Metroid, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, etc. But some of the few games I actually owned as a kid have always had a special place in my 8-bit heart. Wizards & Warriors is one of them.
Worst NES Game:
I’m pretty sure the game “Deadly Towers” is considered to be one of the worst. And rightly so. For as many great and classic NES games that there are, there’s probably almost as many terrible ones out there. Seems like almost every big blockbuster movie from the 80’s & early 90’s had an NES game. Most of them were pretty bad.
Mario or Luigi:
Power Glove or Power Pad:
Haha. Definitely the PowerGlove. It’s so BAD.
Legend of Zelda or Zelda II The Adventure of Link:
I’d have to say Legend of Zelda. They are both great games but Zelda II was a bit of a departure from the series. Plus the original Zelda just held so much more mystery for me as a kid, way more nostalgia there.
Favorite Mega Man bad guy:
Skull Man from Mega Man 4 is rad. And for some reason I’ve always like the lowly Cutman from Mega Man 1.