We had the opportunity to interview Pyknic, Pyknic is a very popular brand that was founded in 2006 and has been gaining popularity ever since.
We wanted to interview the pyknic guys because they know about how a successful brand is made. Their interview gives a lot of insight into that and into the brand. Now onto the interview!
When did you start Pyknic and how has it changed since day 1 to now?
Pyknic started in January 2006, my freshman year of college. The Chef and I became friends after playing a college soccer season together and both shared a mutual passion for boardsports such as surfing, skating, snowboarding, and wakeboarding. After a visit at a surf shoppe one day, we realized that the designs were so saturated and unappealing to those not wanting to buy a shirt basically advertising the company’s name. Soon we came to the conclusion that we could use our knowledge of business and fashion to create our own brand that broke away from the norm.
To be honest, we didn’t end up straying too far from it. Our passions for the surf/skate world would end up causing our designs to conform to the very designs we were so against! It’s very hard to compete with established brands like Billabong and Hurley because someone will easily buy those shirts for their brand name. We had to change things up and start generating interest in our brand for our art rather than our (lack of) name. Our last shirt designs I put together from this “era” were more art oriented and they had done considerably better than their predecessors, some even being featured in Pool Tradeshow’s Art Book as well as in Beautiful/Decay’s store.
One night we were eating at Red Lobster and as with any other occasion, the topic of the company and its future came up. We had the passion for this business, The Chef and I literally worked on it every day since its conception, but it was just missing something. That is when we decided to feature illustrated t-shirts unlike anyone else featuring something no one can resist, food! Fortunately Pyknic was already our name so thus begun rebranding.
Is Pyknic your full time job/income? And what does a typical day consist of?
Unlike most of our graduating class, The Chef and I were fortunate enough to inherit a full time job! Everyday is different around here so it is really hard to pinpoint a typical day. Right now we’re in the middle of planning our fall line (yes, we’re hella late) so basically we’ve been going back and forth regarding different pieces as well as communicating with our different retailers, making sure they’re ready for future orders as well as insuring that past orders are selling well, etc so basically a lot of emails. Also, I personally package all the web orders! There are days where this takes up the bulk of my time but I cannot complain about sales. Fun days for me are when we go to events, such as festivals or tradeshows, as well as high profile meetings! The Chef and I have done so much traveling across the country that most college students are not experiencing (besides bro-out spring break cancun trips).
How many people run Pyknic?
Pyknic is just the two of us, The Chef and The Butcher. We do everything from answering customers emails down to every last detail of a shirt concept.
You guys have been getting into cut and sew more and more recently. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? make?
Cut and sew has been our dream since we first started Pyknic but realistically at the time that was just not possible. One thing we were able to do was constantly improve production of our items, starting with thick prints on Gildan tees to gradually being able to print water based inks on American Apparel. It’s a process that does not come over night but our belief is to provide the customer with an item we want to wear ourselves. This being said, creating cut and sew items was just the next step in our development. We were happy to officially get away from that “t-shirt company” label.
You guys are available in a bunch of major retailers – Pacsun, Hot Topic and Zumiez. Why did you decide to go with these retailers?
Pyknic is available in a ton of boutiques and shoppes in Europe, Asia, and Australia but had little representation in stores stateside. There are a lot of fans that are not able to get hold of items online plus there are some that just rather feel and try on our stuff before purchasing. These major retailers were an easy solution to this problem.
Also when we first started, our primary goal was to appear in these retailers. I remember after a long day of passing out school-printed flyers around the mall to shoppers, we would go into PacSun and Hot Topic rating all the clothing for sale. Although in retrospect Pyknic was far from ready to being on the racks, we knew that we would be able to create a product that was. Being in these stores now helped us realize our dreams.
Some people say that it’s a bad idea to be in too many mall retail stores. There is that whole philosophy that people want what others don’t have and if you make your brand accessible to everyone you will “sell out” and the appeal of the indie brand will be lost. Do you agree or disagree with this? Do you think this has been true or false in terms of Pyknic?
the population of the world has not come across our website, the thing is that it is still available for anyone to get a hold of. People also find us at these events that we partake in around the country. I cannot limit the amount of purchases made nor ask for photo credentials prior to purchase, besides I think there are U.S. laws in place against that ha.
I can certainly understand those who feel that selling in these mall retail stores is selling out but I think if done properly through limited styles and colourways, it can only be beneficial for everyone. I cannot tell you how many e-mails or myspace messages we get from kids in the US or people overseas visiting the US that cannot purchase online. They need a physical store to make their purchases and who are we to deny them of it? Our brand is now reaching more people and in turn allows us to create better products, attend more events, and even possibly open our own store to sell at, etc.
There are so many more styles available only on our website so if it is such a concern, it’s easy to separate the “legits” from the others.
Any plans to open up a Pyknic store? If so, where would it be located?
There have been serious discussions, everyone will just have to stay tuned in the next year. I can confirm that we have an office and bigger warehouse on the way soon.
What is something you have learned from running your own brand that you wish you had known in the beginning?
I think there have been so many things I have learned throughout this whole process, mostly from mistakes, but I think without them I would not have grown as a businessman or person. I will say stay realistic, minimize outside involvement, and set your goals.
What steps are involved in releasing a line? How long does it usually take from when you first come up with the tee ideas to the day the line comes out?
This fall line has been in the works since April. I have a sketch notebook that I take everywhere, the class and even on airplanes, to jot down ideas as well as sketch out concepts The Chef and I have collaborated on. After sending it out, we’ll go back and forth with our artists until every detail is exactly how we envisioned. This does not even include the process of retailer ordering, printing, sorting, photoshoots, etc. It is very timely but it is the best way we can ensure the best product for our customer and that the release is truly something we are proud of.
What is your most memorable or proud moment from your work with Pyknic?
When Pyknic first started four years ago, I worked at the Pacific Sunwear at Quakerbridge Mall, NJ. Being around all the successful companies clothes all day made me work that much harder with our own project. I was tired of folding their generic shirts and knew that I had a better product that people didn’t even know about! I would plastic our cheap Pyknic stickers all over the backroom and even visible spots where customers would see like on ladders and even the register. I always told our managers about it and how we’d be the next hit although I don’t know how serious they took me. I even remember telling customers about Pyknic and concocting ideas of sneaking Pyknic shirts onto the racks to see how they would react. To walk in there with the Chef and find Pyknic hanging on the racks by register meant the world.
Need an E-Commerce Website?
- Says Jeffery Kalmikoff, Former CCO of Threadless.comStart your own clothing company and become the next Mark Ecko, Obey, or Johnny Cupcakes! Learn how to dominate the t-shirt business.