Interview by Ryan Goldade and Jenkin Au
Words by Cornelius Suen and Ryan Goldade
Photography by Jenkin Au
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Tell our readers about yourselves
Ricky: Right now I’m finishing up school in Calgary. I have recently retired after eight years of competitive speed skating. Colin and I go way back; we grew up together in Mission.
Colin: We’ve been friends since grade one. We both went to elementary and high school together. We were always working together on creative projects and then we both left Mission when I went to Hawaii for university on a golf scholarship and he went to Calgary to speed skate. After my time in Hawaii, I came back and realized I didn’t want to become a teaching pro, so I got back into my creative roots. I was lucky enough to grow up in a really creative environment; my mom is a world-renowned floral artist, so I got involved with that, photography, graphic design and illustration. By the time Ricky retired from speed skating, it was natural for us to think of a way to work together and create something unique and that reflects us. That’s where Origami Ghosts started.
How would you define Origami Ghost?
Colin: It’s a reflection of us. We’re not just straight street wear; we have different styles. We don’t just dress a certain way. We wear different styles at different times, so we wanted to reflect this. It’s not necessarily just one straight look. It’s a mixture of things. We’re a mixture, obviously, because I’m Asian and he’s white. *everyone laughs* Our whole background is intermixed with a variety of different things and we wanted our brand to reflect that. It’s not just street wear and it’s not just graphic tees. We want to take it to different areas and different avenues. There are different side projects that we want to do with it.
We want to give back and do stuff within the community. We realized that Vancouver is such a big city so it’s going be hard to give back. We would love to give back to Mission since it’s the community we grew up in. We’re still a Vancouver brand and there are so many different ways to go with it. That’s the exciting part about moving forward.
With a name like Origami Ghost, it’s almost like a racial thing
Colin: That’s what everybody’s been saying
Well you know, origami is the Asian side and ghost is… well…
Ricky: I didn’t even think of that at first, to be honest. Then our buddy Jeff was like, “I GET IT!” But no, it had nothing to do with that.
Colin: The reason why it’s Origami Ghost is that we thought of origami as representing Asian, not just Japanese, but Asian culture in general. The whole basis for our design is to take Asian cultural and popular iconography and use them as inspiration. What we wanted to do was base our whole brand around a character and that’s where the ghost part came in. We wanted to create a character and a face, not just a logo and a brand name. That, in a nutshell, is why we chose Origami Ghost. Not for the racial connotations.
For the mascot, how did you come up with the aspect of the ghost?
Colin: I was just kind of fooling around with different kinds of characters and different illustrations, and then I made this ghost figure. I added some fold lines to it and I was like, “Origami Ghost.” That was a defining moment for naming the company. We knew it had to be Japanese and something catchy. Origami represents the Japanese side and the ghost kind of throws you off. It goes together but it doesn’t at the same time. That’s the whole thing about it: we wanted to do something different.
The Asian side is where the cat, the Godzilla, and the crane come from, right?
Colin: Definitely, yeah. We’re just finalizing all our spring stuff, which are a lot of parodies on Asian symbols and icons. It’s a little different than what our fall line was. We’re just having a blast doing what we’re doing and we want that to be reflected not only in our designs, but in our photo-shoots. We just come up with these crazy and fun ideas, whatever we can think of.
Ricky: It’s nice to have our friends involved, not only with the photo shoots, but with social networking, parties, ideas… you name it. We had a lot of fun doing the photo-shoot.
Colin: Yeah, for sure. For the photo-shoots, we’ve been using our friends and that’s really important to us. They’ve been great by letting us paint their faces gold and putting them in these weird poses. It’s been lots of fun.
Who are some of the people that are involved with the company aside from you two?
Ricky: My buddy Jeff was a big help in launching the company…
Jeff was brought on in the beginning because he has a background in marketing. It was great working with him and hopefully he can come back, but he’s tied up with his job right now after getting a big promotion.
Colin: We also have a couple of friends we grew up with in Mission that helped us with photo-shoots and will help us with some of the sales in the spring. Right now, we’re small and just starting out, so we have to try to keep much of it between me and Ricky to save money in order to put out more shirts. That’s the main thing: putting out new stuff.
Ricky: For sure, friends play a huge role in sales at the end of the day.
Colin: That’s what’s been great about our friends, spreading the word and stuff. It’s crazy, the whole speed skating community in Calgary. I go to Calgary and the big word around the Olympic Oval is Origami Ghost. All the speed skaters have been awesome about promoting and supporting our brand.
Speaking of Calgary, your line is stocked in a store called The Gallery. What are some of the challenges with trying to get your line picked up in Vancouver and gaining exposure?
Ricky: The thing with Vancouver is that there’s more of an established industry, whereas Calgary is a young city and growing so it’s more receptive to younger brands coming in. Aaron at The Gallery has been awesome with helping us and promoting Origami Ghost by letting us sell our stuff there. It’s kind of a stepping-stone to expanding in Vancouver.
Colin: It’s a hard process, you know, just going out and contacting stores and saying, “Take a look at our stuff.” A lot of stores are a little hesitant because there are a number of upstart companies in the street wear and t-shirt business in Vancouver. Our focus is to just keep putting out cool designs and it’s eventually going to catch on. We want to be in Vancouver.
Has coming from a small town like Mission affected the way you think in terms of the direction of the brand or the creativity?
Colin: I don’t think its affected creativity. We both grew up being exposed to things outside of BC. We traveled a lot growing up. I was lucky enough to travel to Asia a lot and all over the USA. So growing up in Mission did not affect the creative process as much, but as far as community goes, I think it’s a huge plus growing up in a small town. You get the sense of a tight knit community and that’s the same idea that we want to create around the brand. We want to give back to the community and the people in Mission. We have several plans this upcoming year about doing some stuff and giving back to the community of Mission. We want to promote art and creativity within the community. Growing up, you’re not exposed to a lot of art. You only have your art class in high school, and we want to really enhance that experience. We’re not trying to tackle huge communities, but we can tackle a small community like Mission.
What were some of your artistic influences growing up?
Colin: I think growing up with my mom being a pretty prominent artist within her field exposed me to a lot of artwork. She draws inspiration from a lot of modern artists. I remember traveling to New York when I was in elementary school and going to the big Matisse exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. I really got into photography growing up and that’s when I got back into my artistic and creative mindset after coming back from playing golf. More recently, we’ve been following a lot of prominent street artists. That’s really the reason why we decided to do this, to bridge the gap between our artistic abilities and street wear.
Ricky: My roots aren’t as deep, but Colin’s family had a huge influence on my knowledge of art. Like Colin said, over the past few years we’ve both become pretty interested in street art. I find that pretty interesting and appealing, because it’s both modern and sociological/political. You’ve got people like Banksy and Shepard Fairey putting out some pretty powerful statements, and finding a way to produce it through artwork is pretty influential.
What are some of the projects you guys have in the works?
Colin: We want to start a program in Mission to promote art and creativity, similar to Vancouver’s 4Cats. There’s nothing like that in the Valley.
Ricky: It’s nice to give back.
Colin: We have a couple other fun ideas that we want to do that share different nostalgic things from growing up. We might do a movie night and show old movies… stuff that relates to Origami Ghost, like The Karate Kid, with an outdoor movie event in the park. We want people to have a good time, relax, and look back on the days growing up.
Ricky: It adds excitement to the Valley and to Mission. To be honest, we didn’t have that much to do, really. We always traveled outside the city, like going to Vancouver to see the Grizzlies and such, so it’s nice to bring something back to the city.
Colin: Product wise, we’re working on a bunch of things. We have our spring line coming out in February or March, and we are also doing some snap backs for hats. We want to focus primarily on our t-shirt designs but we do have some cut and sew pieces that we want to do for the summer. It’s exciting, not just product wise, but also everything else that we have in the works.
Tell us about the State-of-the-Art exhibit at The Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival
Colin: When I first got back into art and creativity, my mom approached me about doing this book in Hawaii, which was basically a flower guide of tropical flowers. That’s where I got back into photography. The book was mainly product shots, but it gave me an opportunity with all these plants to also shoot a bunch of style shots. I came away with thousands and thousands of images, and I started playing around and doing some digital painting with the photography and came up with this whole concept of photo-art. It came out with this really cool look and I was lucky enough to have some of my work in a gallery downtown. They have this event at The Telus Ski and Snowboard Festival where they have action sport photographers do a showdown in the convention center. It’s the most amazing thing! They were giving away tickets, but you had to do something special for the ticket, so I said I would donate proceeds from an art piece to a charity of their choice. In the process they checked out my website and saw my artwork and I got invited to participate in the whole art exhibit of the event. It was an awesome experience; there were so many amazing artists that were featured there.
How has Origami Ghost changed your view on life?
Ricky: You learn to appreciate the details in creating a business. Before, we were kind of overzealous with our ambitions, but we’ve realized you have to take smaller steps along the way.
Colin: I think you have a new appreciation for artists in any form. We’re all lucky enough to get to do what we love for a living and you really appreciate that after you get into it. After doing this for a while, you being to view normal day-to-day things in a different perspective because you see ideas everywhere you go. That’s what I love. Every day I’m jotting down new ideas for a shirt in my notebook or recording it on my phone.
What’s the long-term goal for Origami Ghost? In five years, where would you like to see this company?
Colin: Everybody wants to gain national or world-wide notoriety and become a big brand, but for us, we want to just continue doing what we love. If you can get by and make a living doing what you love, then that’s great. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and if it grows to something huge, then that’s great. It’s not about making tons of money. It’s about making cool designs and putting out cool stuff that hopefully other people will like too.
Ricky: It’s all about being exclusive. We want to remain true to our ideas by creating limited pieces and unique designs. At Origami Ghost, you’re never going to be getting something mass-produced.
What is HYPE?
Ricky: HYPE is a build up that others push on you. I like to follow my own trends and not live up to other people’s expectations.
Colin: There’s a lot of over-HYPE; people HYPE stuff that doesn’t deserve that kind of anticipation. Once you create that HYPE, it’s all about fulfillment. You want your level of fulfillment to equal your level of anticipation and HYPE. HYPE is about anticipation and creating a buzz, but there are definitely risks to it.