Elektrek

Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Ryan Goldade and Amie Nguyen

Location: Montreal

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Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Amanda Di Genova from Montreal. I’m born and raised here. I come from an Italian culture and I’m 23 years old.

Tell us about the style of printing you use and how you got into it.

First off, I started out as an illustrator. I was applying for college at Dawson and for a while, I hadn’t been accepted into the program. So during that time I thought, “Why not make the most of my talents and pursue something I enjoy doing?” I did a lot of freelance work for some fashions here in Montreal. Being so involved with those shows, it kind of inspired me to start my own brand and get involved with the actual basics of what is put into a clothing brand. From then on, I started out with small silk screen printing sets and went through a lot of trial and error. Eventually, over the years, I was able to push myself into producing higher quality work that was all self-taught. That’s basically how I got into the whole silk screen industry and the brand.

What convinced you to create a line of t-shirts that represent the style of Montreal?

I started to pursue that in ’09. ’08 was just more for fun. I saw the potential that it had after meeting a few of my supporters along the way. They were always asking, “What’s coming out next?” That’s when I decided to get really serious about the brand. By then, I realized that there weren’t that many current brands here in Montreal and I wanted to focus on the style and the outlook of what Montreal really represents to those who live here.

One of the taglines that your brand carries is Street Stylin. Define Street Stylin and tell us how the street culture of Montreal is portrayed in your brand.

Why do I use the term street styling? Because I feel like that is one of the most stylish scenes that I’ve seen here in Montreal because it’s so diverse. We’re really into hip-hop and a lot of pop culture and I enjoy street wear on its own so that inspires me when I come up with a clothing line. That’s definitely the direction I want to head.

With the name Elektrek, you chose to use a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’. What does the ‘k’ symbolize?

The ‘k’ just symbolized Elektrek as being different. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re called Elektrek, that we’re about electricity and what not. It’s mainly just to step out and have people remember the name more instead of having a generic term.

Your motto is “toujour fresh” meaning “always fresh”; why did you choose to blend French and English?

Just to really create the feeling that you get when you’re in Montreal. What I’m trying to represent is our brand as a Montreal brand. I want to spread that worldwide but I want to make sure that everyone has that attachment to the brand itself so they feel like they have a little piece of Montreal with them when they’re wearing it. Montreal is part of a French province and we have a lot of French supporters. Something that I’m really proud to be a part of is having that French culture and I want to spread that world wide.

Throughout your years at Elektrek, what are some of the prominent designs that really made noise or generated buzz around your clothing line?

One shirt that made a lot of noise in the fashion industry was when Michael Jackson passed away, we had a Thriller release. Usually we don’t dedicate a lot of shirts to celebrities but since he was so involved in the whole music scene, we thought it would be nice to dedicate it to his legacy. With that release, people started to really feel the Elektrek brand. That pursued people to be more involved with the line and later got attached to the whole local pieces that we generated, such as the Montreal Fists. A lot of locals tend to enjoy seeing brands that represent Montreal.

Where do you get these ideas to create the shirts?

Usually I get the ideas from just being in the city itself and the inspiration I get from it. I do a lot of sketching of people on the metro or the busses, anything that is very urban, very street. That’s the main outlook that I’m going for. I also like to look at different styles and not just things that are particular to street wear. For instance, the Montreal Fist is very tattoo related. That was inspired by a friend of mine that works in a tattoo shop here in Montreal.

What are some up-and-coming releases that our readers can look forward to seeing?

Currently, we’re in the process of developing a new line for a fall launch. It’s a really big launch and we’re very proud of it. Basically, we’re working with a big ad agency that’s known locally and worldwide. The company is Sid Lee. They’ve worked on campaign ads for Adidas, Cirque du Soleil, etc. We decided to collaborate on a new line coming this fall and there are 13 or 14 pieces which are strictly related to the cities that they’re located in such as Toronto, Amsterdam, Paris and Montreal, as well as their new location in Austin, Texas. A lot of the tees will represent these locations themselves.

When someone picks up one of your products, what do you think they would notice the most? What are some unique aspects of the shirts?

One is that it’s completely sweat shop free. It’s made here! Our upcoming launch will be on quality American Apparel shirts as well so it’s not only printed here, it’s also manufactured within North America. For packaging, we enjoy giving away a lot of free goodies and making the shipping experience really great. When you purchase a shirt, you get a custom silk screen package.

Tell us about collaborating with local designers and what effect that has on your brand.

We were very open from the beginning to work with local artists, not just designers, but in the music industry as well. I met Danny Demers through illustration and design.  Basically, we decided to work together because we had a genuine connection and we had a similar style. We really wanted to work on something together and we ended up coming out with a line with I Love Nu. We only released a small teaser for what’s to come and we hope that we work with him further.

What other kind of garments do you plan on exploring?

We’re looking at varsities right now. Custom cut and sewn varsities with patches and what not. I’m going to be more involved with Danny on that one. We’re also coming out with snapbacks this fall. Also a possible collaboration in the winter for a cut and sew crew neck sweater. It will be completely custom from stitch to final product.

You’ve worked with other brands in the scene and helped them print their own t-shirts. Tell us about the process of helping print t-shirts and helping build that community together.

Elektrek is only just a brand, but it’s very involved in the whole arts scene and street styling scene where we actually get involved in helping and producing other people’s shirts as well. We got into that from working with musicians when they needed merch. I was in charge of creating their logo and printing their merch. Word of mouth started to spread and we ended up hooking up with other brands here in Montreal and currently we’re helping them produce their line as well. We got more involved through hooking up with other brands and our connections grew over the last couple years. Especially Danny! He’s been a huge part of exposing us to other brands and helping us push towards developing and printing their brands as well. A lot of artists like to work with local artists as well so that’s why there’s such a successful community that’s been started with Elektrek.

What is HYPE?

HYPE is what’s current!

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