Interview by Jenkin Au
Words by Cornelius Suen & Alan Ng
Photography by Jenkin Au
Life and Wisdom is a t-shirt brand from Toronto that is looking to expand their product line from printed tees to cut and sew pieces. Formed by a group of guys who bring their individual expertise to the service of the brand, Life and Wisdom is equipped with the creative minds necessary to take it to the top. With a visionary founder, savvy public relations director and fearless designers and graphic artists, the Life and Wisdom team is replete with the energy, creativity, and technical know how that is at the genesis of all great clothing brands.
The guys from Life and Wisdom gave justalilhype! a peek into their hectic lives. Each member of the core team juggles full time jobs along with their responsibilities to the brand and it is this very enthusiasm and drive to create that should make the public excited about Life and Wisdom.
Tell us more about yourselves.
N: My name is Nico and I am the founder of Life and Wisdom. I came here from the Philippines when I was six and have been kicking it here in Toronto since.
H: I am Hollywood and I am the director of public relations. I have a background in broadcasting and I do a lot of journalism projects myself. I handle the marketing responsibilities and making sure that we are spreading awareness of Life and Wisdom.
P: Peter. I am the t-shirt designer for Life and Wisdom and I am a tattoo artist myself. I have been tattooing for about eight months now and I am currently in an apprenticeship. I also run my own business called Get Real. It is a collaboration with Life and Wisdom and we have a collection set to be released in the fall.
E: My name is Errol aka Carlos. I am a graphic designer from George Brown College and I have been freelancing it ever since I graduated.
Tell us more about the start of the brand. What compelled you guys to start it?
N: It started when my friends and I thought of spending our money on starting our own brand instead of giving our money to established brands. The three of us grew up together and went to the same high school. The brand kicked off after high school, when I established the name and registered it. Peter here caught my eye with his designs on Facebook and I didn’t even know that he did that before. I gave him a call to see if he would be interested and then he became my designer. Hollywood and I clicked two years ago when he was doing his broadcasting work.
Tells us more about the brand’s name.
N: It’s pretty self-explanatory. You need the life and wisdom. We wanted to create something that would resonate with any individual.
What products do you have? Where do you guys produce your products?
N: We are sending our stuff off to a production company right now. We have a warehouse down on the Westside too. Our shirts are of a good quality but soon we will process our own screen prints and possibly getting into embroidery just to kick off the game a bit more.
Is cut and sew a goal for you guys and if so, why?
N: We are playing around with cut and sew sweaters for the fall line. Cut and sew is very important because the product is made out of individual pieces by hand and will become a special garment that is unique afterwards. It will be different than anyone else’. There are lots of challenges and competition in the cut and sew arena but when you see the piece that you made yourself and you realize that it is unique, the feeling is very gratifying.
What are some challenges that come with bringing up the brand?
H: A major challenge that we face coming out of Toronto is being able to convince a city that sees nothing but one off t-shirts and to convince them that we are not just a one off t-shirt brand. It’s all about seeing and believing. You can say that you are doing something cool but no one will believe you until they see it. Finding the correct resources is a challenge as well. There are a lot more manufacturers in the states. We are always looking to do things economically, like finding cheaper prices and thinking about the customer. Two major challenges we face are the need for more resources and convincing the public that we are not just a one off t-shirt brand.
E: As a graphic designer, one hurdle is designing something that stands out. Personally, I see a lot of crap out there because the politics in the industry will impede artists’ creativity. Some people make it because they have connections. We put in so much effort because we know we have to make it through hard work.
This question is for Peter. How do you put your tattoo background to use in Life and Wisdom?
P: Tattooing is a passion of mine and airbrushing is a strong facet of Get Real. There are a lot of styles in tattooing. My whole style is west coast inspired. I use a lot of black and gray and I focus on realism. That is my style. This influence will bring a new flavour to the lettering and images in the clothing industry.
Tell us more about the things people should look out for when they buy one of your shirts?
N: We put time and effort to sew tags onto our shirts. It is possible that we will be doing a patch. For now, we have every detail meticulously inspected.
Because of finances, the amount of detail and quality of the brand may not be at the level you want. How do you work around this?
E: When we design, there is a lot of detail before printing. We get a quote, it comes back, and we have to sit down, look at the design and see what can be eliminated. We want to make it cost effective but dope too.
This question is for Hollywood. With new technologies, it is becoming easier to market things. Do you feel that you have used your tools effectively to market this brand and how would you want to improve on that?
H: I think the material in the clothes speak for themselves. I can only bring it to the public’s attention but that is as far as it goes. It’s easy because I have confidence in the brand. I can rely on the design so I don’t need to second guess myself when it comes to marketing it. Targeting your demographic is important as well.
You guys all have full-time jobs aside from running this brand. What is it about this brand that keeps you guys motivated?
N: It’s pretty much the support of family and friends. Seeing individuals wearing our stuff gives us a good feeling as well. My work is being recognized and it makes me feel great. I would rather do this as a full time job for minimum wage than what I am doing what now. I just love designing things. I am not the best artist and that’s why I have artists right here, but my mind is creative and for me to collaborate with these talented guys is a great privilege.
You guys come from a multi-ethnic background. How have your individual backgrounds added to what you do with the brand?
P: Culture is Toronto. Once you leave here it isn’t the same. You love and cherish your own culture but you learn to appreciate the other lifestyles as well. The fact that you can connect to others and have further knowledge about other cultures will present new opportunities for your life. Each culture is creative and traditions are different, and that’s where you can find different art, technology, and ways of communicating to broaden your horizons. What I bring to my designs do not speak to one culture. It speaks to a community of cultures. Typically, I am going to be engaging where I am from and connecting it to different cultures.
What is HYPE?
N: HYPE is pretty much designing that one thing and seeing an individual or a group of people going bananas over it. This interview is HYPE. We’re definitely going to remember this day.
H: This experience alone is HYPE. Having a passion towards something and feeling thrilled about it is HYPE already.
P: HYPE has to be a game changer. Someone who does something different than somebody else and creates something new that everyone can follow is HYPE.
E: HYPE is becoming successful with a bunch of guys who have stuck with you from day one.