Kyle Crawford is easily one of the most well-known and polarizing clothing line owners in the game today. He absolutely never hesitates to speak his mind, regardless of the topic, company or issues at hand which is honestly why I have grown to love and respect him and his brand Electric Zombie as well as shake my head in disbelief at some of his approaches and comments. Regardless of whom Kyle Crawford is as a person and whether you like him or not you have to respect him as a guy that truly knows how to run a clothing company. His clothing line Electric Zombie has literally grown leaps and bounds every year and line he puts out stretching the boundaries of what you can expect from an indie clothing line. So with that all being said I figured I’d interview Kyle to get the real scoop about running his clothing line, how he views his fans and the industry. Enjoy.
Huge congrats on launching once again an absolutely massive summer line. How hard is it to plan a line consisting of that many pieces and how has the feedback been so far?
Thanks man. The planning wasn’t really so involved as you would think. I never go into the thing thinking, IT’S GOING TO HAVE THIS MANY PIECES. I Just look through my ideas, figure out who’s best for what idea and then hire out. By the time I finish my pieces and I get the pieces I hired out for, it’s like “Fuck I have a lot of shit.” It just happens. I never plan it out to be that way. The hard part is organizing everything after the designs are done. The designs are the easy part. Feedback has been awesome. There’s particular fan favorites, which always happens so overall it might not be the biggest and best sales wise. I just think people buy the ones they like the most, get it in the mail and go “Shit, I need to get more, this is awesome.” Not to say that the line is doing bad. I just think I offer too much goodness that people are more selective. The one thing I’m not looking forward to is the “Bring back the Street Sharks Shirt” comments once that design is long gone, much like the TMNT ones from a few summers back.
I know you just exhibited at Bamboozle and I have a lot of upcoming clothing lines ask about exhibiting. What are some positives and negatives of exhibiting at festivals and do you think it’s a good idea for brands that are just starting out to try and exhibit?
I think TRY is the key word. I’m not going to be someone who blows smoke up your ass. But the people that go to these things, you have to remember are girls, or the lowest of the low of people. They either want free shit, or well free shit. You have to look at these things as a way to interact with people and get your name out there. If you sell some shit in the process, then hey, today was a good day. If you think going out there, automatically gets you money, you’re dead wrong. I’d be lucky to break even at bamboozle. The money I spent to be there. The display, the freebies, the product, it’s a fuckload of money. If you’re going to do these things. Really think about how you present yourself before you think about how much product you’re going to bring out. Bring as much free shit as possible, seriously. It’s all these people care about. Bring somene who is vocal as hell. With me, I am not one of those, HEY YOU YEA YOU COME HERE, CHECK THIS OUT! I can’t do it. If and when I go to events like this. There’s always those fuck heads who do that and have their super soakers and blast me in the face, and I want to drop kick their nose off their faces. I just can’t do that. It’s annoying. I feel like if someone wants to check you out, they will. I mean it’s an all day, sometimes ALL WEEKEND event. Don’t be a doucher, be patient.
Along the lines of exhibiting at shows what should a clothing company know before they exhibit at their first show and do you have any advice for preparing?
Like I said, bring someone who is vocal and that you trust. Be prepared for all weather conditions. The first 2 bamboozle I put everything in cardboard boxes and it rained both times. I finally started bringing everything in Plastic Totes. This year it was windy as shit, there’s prepping for that beast. As a result, I hardly gave away any free stuff or had anything on the table. If you’re going to do signings, make sure you get 2 spots, all your doing is hurting business. Those 30-120 mins a band is there doing a signing, yea brings people to your spot, but they don’t give a shit about your name, they just want that scribbly line drawn in sharpee. Take a few weeks and REALLY plan everything. I think it’s smart to do the thing once and the 2nd time you’ll have more of a readiness and a sense of what to expect in the future.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about running a clothing line?
That you have a lot of money, success and that it means you’ll get loads of vagina. That it’s super easy and that everyone and anyone can do it successfully.
Has there ever been a time that you wanted to pull the plug on EZ? And if so what made you keep plugging on?
OH THE PUNS! I think about pulling it all the time, see now I made a pun! No but seriously. I always look back at the other clothing brands I’ve done work for, and look at where they’re at today. I don’t want to be one of those guys. Sometimes I feel like finishing on top (ANOTHER PUN!). A quit while you’re ahead type of thing. But then I get an idea, and another and another. So it keeps chugging along. Sometimes, things that go on in my life, or with work make me want to just pack everything in and give the world a giant FUCK YOU. I’m a pretty tense person, so it happens a lot. But I also know that I am a tense person and know I shouldn’t make any rash decisions. When I stop running out of ideas, then I’ll sell it or just bury it. The thing about it being just mine, is I can bring it back if I ever wanted to. I’m sure that once I have kids and get married, it won’t be high priority to keep it going, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
In many t-shirt circles you are as famous as your brand if not even more famous. As anyone has hung out on Emptees or now Mintees, they have probably come to the conclusion that you are a pretty polarizing guy. People either to love you or hate you. First why do you think this is and do you let it bother you and second do you think having this persona about you helps or hurts your brand?
This is a toughy. It’s a bi-polarish type of scenario. People dislike me because they think I’m just this bully ass mean guy. Which I can be, but it’s not for “NO GOOD REASON”. I have a lot of people who I think may be jealous because they spend hours and hours on something and I take something familiar and put my own spin on it, and they get all pissy because it wasn’t completely original. There’s people that dislike me because they think I pick on people, like it gets me off or something. I say what’s on my mind, I might not use the best words or the most proper language. I may even come across more angry than I really am. But, I’m really not, it’s just my foul mouthed negative attitude. I don’t put up with shit, I get it not everyone likes my art or my brand and that’s fine and well. But it’s almost like, hey man, no one’s going to call my kid ugly, if anyone is, it’s gonna be me! type of things. I think it’s hilarious when people start their FUCK KYLE CRAWFORD banter and I come in and defend myself and then I’m the asshole. The contradiction makes my head slightly cave in a little.
There’s a lot of people who can’t believe I get away or say the things I say and or do. But what the fuck do I care? It’s T-shirts. If all else fails, I’ll become a lawyer or that guy who mops up shit or something. I’d rather say what I want, do what I want and say I was me, then be like, well oh gee, that just isn’t the nicest thing to do. I think as long as you’re being true to yourself and honest, it doesn’t get more right than that. It might not be what you like to see or hear. But in the end, I really don’t care if you like me or not. I don’t lose any sleep or any sales. There’s people who hate me but still buy my shirts. There’s people I’ve told off, that still come to me for work. I do good work, I work hard and I tell it like it is. If I was just some schmuck walking around saying fuck you guy, and hey you, fuck you too. That would be different. If someone wants to take on the challenge to calling me out, shit I love to argue and i could use a break from work, let’s do this. I think about 90% of the people who know about me, love me for this. Then there’s the other 10 that either hate me for getting away with it, or because they were on the receiving end, roll in some jealousy and there’s your explanation. I think people get this vibe from me that I am this cocky piece of shit. In reality, I’m probably the most insecure artist around. I’m sure people will now point the finger to that’s why I am the way I am but whatever. I do about 4 shirt designs a day, 6 days a week, sometimes 7, and sometimes more than 4. But I showcase about 100 designs on my portfolio. Obviously I don’t think I’m hot shit or anything by any means. I also feel like my designs in the Electric Zombie stuff, can’t hold a candle to the likes of everyone else. I feel like I’m the fat friend in the circle of hot chicks. I’m pretty hard on myself. I am cocky about how much I work, how hard I work, and how I accomplished so much, in the time I did and by myself. That you can call me out on.
Sometimes I wish I could be a little better with my customers, or get someone else to handle them. But I think it’s better for someone who owns the brand, who knows the brand to be the one who answers their questions. But sometimes, they are the dumbest questions ever. I explain things plain as day, and make it as easy as possible. I even have a FAQ section. Kids just refuse to read, they’re lazy and they EXPECT answers and in a minutely fashion. I don’t think they realize how much I do, and it’s just like, I’m not sitting here waiting to cater to you. I don’t need your 20 bucks that bad. I’m here cranking out work, use google, or the website, that’s why it’s there. Quit being so damn lazy. I tend to unleash and be a little harsh on the customer. Lots of people find it funny, sometimes the customers do too. But let’s be real, you/they are being lazy. I thought about giving away wet naps in orders to people who ask a lot of questions and design the package so it says, “I even wiped your ass for you”
I don’t like being the bad guy all the time, but when you’re good at something, do it and if it’s fun, then do it more. People who have met me or know me in person see and know who I am. I still talk shit and say how it is, and i still say fuck a lot, but the anger is toned down. I’m actually a fun/funny and nice guy. I just don’t like to get the word out on that.
What are some mistakes that you have made running Electric Zombie and how have you learned from them?
The thing I am starting to learn or mistake I’ve made is, not allowing myself enough time to get everything done. I’m still not completely prepped and ready for the summer stuff. It’s ridiculous! Trying new garments was probably a bad idea as well. I think I put out too much product. I give kids and customers TOO many options. But I’m one of those people that if I don’t make an idea while I think it’s a good one now. Then I wasted my time and energy thinking it. There’s a lot of double edged swords with Electric Zombie. I think I trust people too much too. I’ve been screwed over a bit in the past year. Money stolen, betrayal, YOU KNOW THE GOOD STUFF! I’ve made a few errors and maybe I don’t want to share them because that would be a little too useful to those companies reading. I feel like they should learn those mistakes first hand, and also, who knows if MY mistakes will be THEIR mistakes.
How is it working with a fulfillment house such as MerchNow compared to doing everything on your own?
It’s kind of a different situation all together because I work here. But before I worked here, I was with Merch Line. I feel like it was and is a big help to have someone do that work for you. When I was on Karma Loop a few years back, I had to ship everything myself. Fill out forms, tracking all of that. I did that every Saturday for 6 months and I hated it. I maybe did about 20-50 orders a week with them and it was grueling. Then I had to come back and email them their tracking number and marked that it was shipped. FUCKKKK THAT. I’d rather just give someone a percentage to take care of it for me. I have enough going on as it is.
With me working here. I can check on stock by walking through doors. Notice problems and present them to them and it gets fixed. Rather than having to get on the phone or wait for an email. I get an automatic answer. So that rules. Being able to do the same thing with the printing of my stuff is great too. The whole situation I am in, is a pretty great one. Not everyone gets to see their stuff come in on the dock, get printed, pick your own ink colors, pinpoint errors before it’s too late, see the shirts come off the dryer and then put on the shelf. I’m pretty lucky.
You do a fantastic job of branding your line from cohesive photos, lines, designs and images which is something I see a lot of clothing company upstarts struggle with. Was branding something you established as your built your brand or something that you had a plan for from the start.
I kind of just do my thing. I don’t really have a plan of attack so to say. I just have an idea or a vision and I execute. I’m just very controlling and Iod know what I want, and I’m not satisfied until it happens or I get it. I don’t know if I just have this natural eye for it or if I just get lucky and comes together. Sometimes one idea leads to 7 more and it works together as a unit. A phrase or quote that I created may spark a buttload of other ideas. It just happens. I think me just being artistic and overly organized gives the appearance that I have a strategy. It’s a question I can’t really answer. I just make things and I know when things don’t fit so I save them for next time or ditch them all together. I have no idea, haha. I’m just a think machine.
Moving forward what is your long term goal and vision for Electric Zombie?
Ideally I’d like to do way more custom pieces. Way more fashiony and out there. Toys would be awesome. More grown up approach in the fall / winter. I always put that, go out with a bang mentality in my head when I plan the next line or the future. You have to take that risk, at some point you’re going to fail and the business will be non existent. I’d rather fail and learn. In the fall I have a nice little theme again and I already have the summer and another line after that planned out. So Electric Zombie isn’t going anywhere in the near future.
Before we go, is there any last minute announcements, shout outs or advice you would like to leave us with?
I just wanted to thank you ( IATT NOT YOU READERS!) for all the support over the years, nice write ups and informative and entertaining write ups and posts and videos. You don’t get too much of that now a days. I also want to thank my fans in the philippines, indonesia and malaysia. You guys are crazy supportive! Richard Minino, Derek Deal, Keaton Henson, Chris Lovell, Felix LaFlamme and Rhys Cooper for all their help this summer. The Johnny Cupcakes crew for being awesome at Bamboozle. Johnny For advice and support especially. Thanks for all the nay sayers and the fans who drive me to make the best stuff for you and for myself. I’ll be starting the fall stuff in a few weeks and it’s just a matter of time before the KYPE takes over again!
You can check out the entire new Electric Zombie Summer Line at: www.buyelectriczombie.com