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Hindering The Violent Acts Across The World

Violence is a clothing brand based out of Houston, Texas that's been spreading anything but violence with their unique garments and live events. We spoke with the founder Connor about his experience starting Violence in 2014 to now having released his iconic "Kindergarten" series and gearing up for the drop of his new collaboration on November 8th. In addition, we also spoke to Connor about his relationship with other creatives, balancing a full-time job with his brand, and his plans to continue growing the community around Violence while promoting initiatives that both he and his supporters can be proud of.

Where are you from?

Connor: I was born in the Dallas-Fort Worth area but I grew up in Midland, Odessa. I wouldn’t say it’s a country town, but it’s definitely more conservative. There isn’t much of an art or music/fashion scene out there. It’s primarily high school sports and football. Friday Night Lights and oil are about the only reasons people know Midland Odessa. So I grew up there and graduated high school and then I went to Texas State in San Marcos. I started Violence my first semester during my freshman year of college. I’d always been into clothing and I always skateboarded so I was into Etnies, Plan B, Element and other skateboarding brands when I was younger. Then when I was about 14 or 15 I started listening to more music and got more into fashion. It was always something that I enjoyed and something I wanted to do on my own. San Marcos is where the brand started and I was there until December 2018 and now I’m in Houston. I’ve been coming back and forth to Houston for about a year and a half now since my girlfriend Julia and I were in a long distance relationship. Houston is the residence now.

When did you start Violence?

Connor: I started it during the Fall of 2014. That’s when the idea was initially coming around, and I ended up designing one of my first concepts or graphics in November. But I didn’t post anything until January of 2015, so I consider that more or less the founding of the brand.

What was the inspiration behind the name?

Connor: Every time someone asks me that the answer changes a little bit. But originally when I was thinking of brand names I was sitting with a good friend of mine who was going to be in on it with me. We were just sitting around throwing out names and one of us said Violence and I thought it could be cool. There wasn’t any meaning behind it initially but I knew I could roll with it and add my own meaning and connotation over time. I don’t promote violence at all, I’m just trying to bring people together and consciously produce better products, content development, management, and more of an image behind the brand. At some point I’d really like to have events where we donate the proceeds to help fight specific issues whether it’s drug abuse, domestic abuse, or anything else important.

What made you want to start a clothing brand?

Connor: I had always wondered what it felt like to make clothes for people and the process behind it so it was always something I really wanted to do. At the end of my first semester of college I still didn’t know what I was going to study but I thought I should try making clothes. It’s funny because so many people aren’t aware of how easy it is to just start something. I think I walked into a local printer and spent $200-300 to get shirts made. I didn’t have a lot of money to put into it at the time but the people there said they could make it work so we tried it. I remember getting those first shirts back and it made me feel better than anything I’d ever bought. Even if I didn’t sell one shirt I could still say I went out and tried, however I got lucky enough to sell them all. After that I wanted to keep doing it and putting out better pieces. It was something that I wanted to do for a long time, and after a while I thought why not try it since there was nothing holding me back.

Were you always interested in art and fashion growing up?

Connor: My brother and his wife were always really into art and they would introduce me to new movies and documentaries. They worked at art museums until they graduated and my mom always loved art as well. My mom definitely influenced me in fashion because she loved Alexander McQueen. When I was five or six my dad introduced me to a ton of music as well. My first few CD’s were Blink, Jimmie, and Green Day. Listening to stuff like that at such a young age influences you in different ways versus waiting to hear that when you’re older. Growing up I played drums for 13 years and I was in a band. I did that for a long time and that was really my only creative outlet where I lived. Where I lived people wore cowboy boots and jeans, it was very southern. Watching Mac Miller music videos was definitely one of the main ways that I got into clothing. I remember I’d spend hours looking up the clothes that Mac wore in Senior Skip Day or Best Day Ever. Seeing the culture behind that at such a young age was very cool because people twice my age were still rocking with this stuff which showed that there was more behind it than just being a shirt or a pair of pants. It was really something I learned through my own outlets.

Let’s talk about your Violence Kindergarten Series. What was the inspiration behind that collection?

Connor: When I first came up with the idea I was on a campus bus going back to my apartment and I was listening to a Yung Bans song called No Mercy with Yung Lean. Yung Lean is one of my favorite artists and the cover art from that song almost looks like a star from Mario Party or some game like that. That star gave me the idea to do something with characters so when I got home I sketched out a few things, and the first character I drew was the star which I loved. I’m not that great at drawing but when I got better at Illustrator I started making most of my designs there. But I used to draw all my graphics so I drew these characters a couple times and shaded them in with colored markers and they came out pretty cool. I didn’t know what I could do with them but I kept that around and started making plush toys by hand for fun to see if I could do it. From there it was almost a full year before I sent anything off to be produced. Initially I was going to go for this varsity jacket that had all the characters miscellaneously placed on it as chenille patches and one big graphic on the back. However, I wasn’t in a position to do that at the time so I still needed to figure out what pieces to make. I was sitting around wearing this multicolored Bape hoodie from 2002 and I thought of the idea to make a full zip hoodie and shorts. I sketched it up and it was one of my favorite things I’d ever made. I sent it off to Champ who’s helped me since I first started doing cut and sew pieces. I remember I got the pricing back for the samples and asked my girlfriend if I should do only one color or all of them, and she said there was no reason why I shouldn’t since they’d be awesome. I remember I got a picture back from the supplier and I couldn’t wait to get them. It was the best feeling ever because I felt like it was the best thing I’d ever made. It’s been such a fun project, all the characters are pansexual which ties back to the whole idea of community in that we all need to come together at the end of the day despite our differences. The whole nostalgia side of it is really cool too. All the collectibility behind it and the color and the meaning made it a well rounded release. The quality of the pieces was a really nice way to top it all off.

How did the photoshoot for the lookbook with everyone in Chicago happen?

Connor: We weren’t even trying to do much for it. That was our last day in Chicago during the Half Evil store opening but I went up to Winnipeg for Hybrid’s event in February and I met Sam there for the first time as well as Parker, Anthony, and Champ. It was wild seeing Champ because I’ve worked with him for as long as I can remember once I started my brand. Aaron was there and that was my first time meeting Adam as well. But Chicago was really cool and it was a lot of fun getting to shoot with all of them. We were all hanging outside Champ’s Airbnb shooting pictures and I think it really fit the image of the brand. It was just a fun shoot getting to see Jaden, Parker and Unathletic do their thing. It was almost like getting to finally meet everyone that you know on the internet. It was a really fun deal and I’m very thankful that all of them wanted to be a part of it because they all killed the shoot.

What colorway was your favorite?

Connor: As far as shorts go I liked the white ones best and I liked the blue hoodie the most. I still wear those shorts every day.

Are we going to see a part two of that series in the future?

Connor: That’s kind of where I’m a bit torn. I have the one rug that I’m doing now and I haven’t said anything about it publicly but I just sampled a separate rug with a whole different design. We’ve been thinking about hosting a Houston popup with an exclusive colorway and then we’d throw the rest online after. At the popup we wouldn’t have many clothing pieces but instead we’d have accessories and ideas for collectibles. I’d like to have it as more of an interactive experience for two days with an online release following after. I want to see if I could get those jackets made and if I could do something else cool. There's definitely a possibility of having more clothing in part two but I’m also working on home goods and collectibles.

I know you’ve also teased rug ideas, are you planning on dropping one of those soon?

Connor: I would like to. I’m still trying to figure out pricing and bulk options with suppliers. I’m concerned about the shipping costs because production wise they don’t cost much but shipping them over is ridiculous. I don’t want to charge a ton for the rugs because I don’t like to charge a ton in general and a lot of people now like to keep prices affordable and I really like that mindset. I always try to keep that mindset and that’s why I made the kindergarten bundle. So I’m still trying to get a handle on the pricing because I’d feel bad about charging people a ton for shipping. A lot of people have asked me to drop them but I definitely want some made for the Houston show.

Are there any other garments or accessories you want to experiment with in the future?

Connor: I really want to do stuff with fleece jackets. That isn’t anything crazy new but I’ve always loved fleece jackets in general. I’d love to do something with that, and I’m also working with some new materials for my upcoming release. Expect to see more knit work, more unique fabrics, and garment wise maybe some more pants. I’d love to make shoes for the kindergarten collection but I don’t know when that would be. That’s definitely something that’s on a bucket list of mine, and definitely jackets too. I haven’t really gotten to dive into the jacket realm as much as I appreciate them so that’s definitely something I want to look at.

Where did you get the idea for the “Is This Insomnia” hoodies?

Connor: That’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever made because of the meaning behind it. The meaning was derived from the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When I designed those hoodies I locked myself in my room for a weekend and pretty much just designed. I watched that movie a lot and I also watched Lost In Translation over and over again while I designed those pieces. I don’t remember what his name is, but he’s one of the mind erasers in the movie and he has a brown hoodie on with gold stripes down the sleeves with eyelets but no hoodie strings. I always had a hard time finding hoodie strings that I liked so I thought I could just do something like that. The whole silhouette was influenced by that movie, but the colorways I chose were based on the times of day that I was working. The light blue was from the early morning sky when I was working and couldn’t sleep, and the pink was from the sun setting. The quote on the back, “Is This Insomnia” was something I said during the time when I had a really hard time sleeping for about three months since I wasn’t in a good headspace mentally. I don’t even remember how it came about but I think I said it to myself or heard myself saying it and thought it would be cool. Everything blended together with it well and I drew the skull on the back as well. That was a really fun piece to pull together.

Do you think your design style has changed since you started?

Connor: I would say yes. I definitely know that what I personally like wearing has changed. When I first started it didn’t seem like I was graphic based whenever I was releasing cut and sew pieces so I then started having more graphic tees and graphic products. STEEZ absolutely killed it on the graphic we have for our upcoming collab. After doing graphic-heavy pieces I want to take a step back and go back to the basics of shirt patterns, color blocking, stripes, and just making pieces that reflect on a specific time or mood. If my style hasn’t changed yet I think it’s changing now in a good way, but I still like those pieces that are crazy on the kindergarten collection. I think just being able to find that balance is good. That’s why I wanted to push part two back and experiment with something new for the upcoming collection. I didn’t want that to be seen as the only way I could design. It would still be cool but I think it’d lose its luster quickly if that’s all it was.

What should we expect to see from your upcoming collaboration with STEEZ?

Connor: We’re previewing everything November 3rd and we’re actually having a photoshoot this weekend. So far it’s going to be single color print hoodies that will be in multiple colorways and then the multicolor will be in two colorways. I believe we’re also going to make a T-shirt with that multicolor design as well. We were going to try to do some sort of accessory but we couldn’t really decide on anything for it. I might make stickers for it or a coffee cup which would be cool, but I’m not sure if I’d be able to get those in time to take product pictures versus just having a mockup. But so far that’s what you can expect. They’re going to be 16 oz hoodies, so pretty heavy duty. Our printer in Houston really killed it on the print quality so I’m excited about that too.

When is it dropping?

Connor: We’re dropping on November 8th.

What makes you want to work with another designer or brand?

Connor: The only collaborations I’ve done before now were with Champ and one of them was sort of a joke with memes. It was a really fun collab but before that I collabed with him a long time ago in my early design career. I think for a while I was really focused on trying to find my image and my pace for how I like to design and what I like to release. But now I feel like I’ve gotten a better grip on that. It was really wild how I found STEEZ since someone on Twitter tagged me under his artwork saying that we had to work together. I saw his art and immediately thought it was awesome, it fits with anything that I’d ever want to release and it’s not even my artwork. I followed him and we started talking and I said if he was ever down to do something I’d be more than happy to work with him and that we could work out some deal since it’s his art and I don’t want to take that away from him. There are lots of other people I want to work with but it’s about finding people that equally enjoy it and don’t make it stressful. It’s a really unique opportunity for both parties as you’re able to blend two creative styles together.

Are there any other brands or designers you want to work with in the future?

Connor: Ryan Antar from Arvada is one of the people I’ve always talked to about doing a collab. We’ve known each other for a while and I’ve really enjoyed Ryan as a person. He’s always supported me and put out really innovative products in my opinion. One day I’d also like to work with Brigade and Aaron since I think Aaron is one of the best out right now. I’d love to do T-shirts with anyone, Half Evil would be cool. Really just anyone that’s open to sitting around, playing with designs and graphic pieces. But right now definitely the big one I’m looking to do is with Ryan and Arvada because we’ve talked about doing that for a while. Julia and I have always talked about doing a collab together as well. I don’t know what we would do but we want to make some sort of pieces together.

What should we expect to see next from Violence?

Connor: After the STEEZ collab expect to see a really cool collection. I don’t know when it will all release, I’m really just trying to get everything together right now. It’s definitely going to be the most content I’ve ever had for a release. There will be multiple video concepts behind it, multiple editorials, and multiple lookbooks. The majority of the pieces are being sampled, and the pieces represent a general timeframe that I really like. I’m not going to say anything too specific but I already teased the name for it on Instagram. I’m not sure if anyone caught it, but the title of the collection is “Troubling Thoughts At The Country Club.” I’m waiting on pictures from the suppliers now and I’m very anxious to see how everything comes back. I think it’s going to be a really fun release so look out for that at some point.

You also work full time as a tax accountant, correct?

Connor: Yes.

How has it been balancing Violence with your career?

Connor: It’s very challenging. I haven’t been able to sit down and design for probably the past week, but whenever I’m at work I’m always thinking about it. I came up with multiple photoshoot ideas for the new collection while at work and I can do quite a bit for the brand at work that doesn’t involve designing. It’s better now that I don’t have to drive as far since it used to be 45 minutes each way. Now I have more time to think about things and design, but it really is difficult. I probably could put more time into it, and that’s a goal I’m looking to reach by spending a little more time each day and each week doing that. I sometimes think I do great at balancing the two and sometimes I think I do horribly. Julia is in a very similar boat as me in that aspect, so the fact that I see what she does also motivates me to do what I do. If you can find someone who motivates you to do your own stuff it helps a lot. It’s a learning experience, some days I do absolutely nothing creative and some days collections are made.

What advice would you give to other people looking to start a brand while working a full time job?

Connor: If you really want it you’ll find a way to make time for it. I did this while I was doing accounting and studying for accounting in school which was almost more work than what I’m doing now. For the most part I was working full time the last two years of college so I always had school, college, and work. I’m still in school getting my last few hours done for my CPA, but really you just have to do it. A big time each day that I can run thoughts through my head is driving to work which helps a lot. But you need to know that success doesn’t happen overnight and don’t expect everything to go according to your plan because it almost never does. When I ordered the pink Insomnia hoodies the whole bulk order shipped to another address and I had no idea where they were. I thought I lost $5-6k of product, but being able to overcome those things is so important. Just don’t stop if it’s something you really love, and if it’s not don’t get disheartened. Something else will come around, but just get out there and try it. I think creative expression is a very healthy outlet, so just get out there and figure out a schedule and manage your time wisely. That’s one of the most important skills a person can have. And don’t give up. It takes time, but whether it takes 5 years or 15 years any sort of progress should be recognized. There are plenty of times I come right back around, I’ve told myself not to quit so many times.

What do you want Violence to become at the end of the day?

Connor: At the end of the day I’d love to have my own creative studio or small boutique store and be able to live off of it, that would be really awesome. But really I just want to keep growing. I always want to have affordable prices for people while maintaining a high quality, and still being able to interact with as many people as I can. I can’t interact with as many people now as I used to but I always want to keep that sense of community with people and keep making stuff that I like. If by this time next year it’s doubled in size that would be great. I don’t know how much bigger than that I’d want it to be. It would be awesome if my brand was massive don’t get me wrong, it definitely helps me financially and I’m not going to say that the money side isn’t cool. But I still love the process of getting new samples in and designing so I feel like if it got bigger I wouldn’t be able to do that as much. I really just want constant growth while continuing to improve and have fun and bring people together. That’s all I want to do. I want to be able to bring positive themes and ideals into the brand so that it’s a good business that I’m proud of and others can be proud to be a part of as well.

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