Zephyrus: Can you give a description of your brand “Above”?
Tommy Bowers: It’s a skateboard/streetwear brand. We do different releases every couple of months and we try to follow the trends in fashion while staying unique and thinking outside of the box. We have limited quantities on each drop, so I do different products on each one, and I try to switch it up and add a new accessory every single time.
Z: Do you work through a different company for the production of the clothes?
T.B: I’ve messed around and experienced a bunch of different manufacturers, and I try to find the best ones for the products. Since my brand hasn’t been going for very long, I’m still experimenting, but right now I’m working with a drop-shipping company called Printful, which is working very well for me because they have a wide arrangement of different products that I can use.
Z: How did you create your brand?
T.B: I started my clothing brand for fun with a friend, and I wanted to just have a way to get my ideas out there. I always wanted to make some clothes for myself because I had so many good ideas in my mind, but I just didn’t know a perfect way to get them out there, so by experimenting it grew to something that it is today. The story behind the name is that I want to put out the message that you need to live above others and think differently than them. I also think that you need to live life to the fullest—live above—and always be happy and just do what you want, push the limits, because life is short and you don’t want to miss things.
Z: How do up come up with designs and ideas for clothes?
T.B: I think that also one of the hardest parts of running the brand is trying to create the ideas. The way that I create a bunch of different designs is I take things that I see online or ideas I have in my head that go along with my life. Since life is crazy and you experience different things each day, I try to always keep my mind thinking, ‘Oh would that be a good design?’ and the weirder the design, the better it is. You just look at something in like the corner of your classroom, think of it as nothing, but you always have to think how it would look on a t-shirt, so I’m creating designs like almost every day. I see how they look on the t-shirt, and then when it comes to the final drop, then I find the ones that I like the best out of them. Another hard part about making the designs is you also have to please all of your followers, which is hard because all of my followers [have] such different [lives]. Everybody has different perspectives that change all of the time, so you always want to try to see what other people think of your designs; so, I always tease them out, see how people respond to them, and then if one gets a really positive response then I use that one for the design.
Z: What have been the biggest challenges while creating and running your brand?
T.B: The biggest challenge is definitely the criticism you get because some people think your designs are dumb, and they just don’t get it when it really goes along with your life; so, not everyone will get the designs. Even if people like your brand they just think that it’s not going to go anywhere and everybody talks it down, and so they realize ‘Wow, my friend that I really like is wearing that brand, maybe I’ll check him out and give him a chance.’ I feel like now people are more accepting of the brand because I’m trying to get it out there more. More and more people are supporting it, and so it’s really just trying to have people accept the brand. I think that’s the hardest part, along with finding the best manufacturer which can get the products out there fast enough and really fulfill your needs.
Z: What brands have influenced your design?
T.B: Worldwide Youth, Half Evil Co., and 1340 Collective because they really have their own strategies and unique styles to their brand. I think one of the main parts of a brand is how you promote it: the right people to choose to model the clothes, the right people to contact to [represent] your brand, and I feel like those companies do it best. Also, I keep up with a lot of the skateboard culture, like the streetwear, because even if you don’t skateboard you’ll always catch somebody at your school who doesn’t skateboard and doesn’t even know how to ride a skateboard and they’re wearing skateboard clothes because they think it’s cool. I think skateboard culture plays a big part in clothing brands nowadays because everybody, even if they’ve never stepped on a skateboard, is influenced by skateboarding culture, rap culture, and they all kind of tie together and make a style that’s kind of old-school and everybody at school is starting to wear thrifted clothes or other skateboard brands even if they’ve never skateboarded before. Also, these brands really inspire me because I think clothing brands are mainly about how you choose to promote it and if you choose the right people that are successful to [represent] your brand, the right people to model, the right people that look like they would fit your style and you get them to wear your clothes and then you really get people, like a different audience, to realize ‘Wow. I should be wearing this clothing brand,’ and then they promote it on their Instagram story or on YouTube videos and stuff, so you really have to focus on the big people and you always have to risk your money and send it out to people if you think that they’re going to be successful, and that doesn’t always happen so it’s really risky to [experiment with] all of the different promotions.
Z: What plans do you have for the future of your company?
T.B: There’s a bunch of kids around Minnesota who are starting their own clothing brands, too. I try to reach out because I’ve had mine for a year, and a bunch of people have just started them in the past month that I’m friends with. I have a few collabs coming up that I’m doing with them. They both are helping me grow my brand and then I’m helping them grow theirs. I feel like it’s a pretty strong community of people who own clothing brands. Also, I’ve been working to get my clothing into stores more. At Help Boardshop on December 14th, I’m getting my clothes in there, and we’re having a release party for that, too, so that will be pretty interesting to see how my clothing does in a local skate shop because I feel like the local skate community is really supportive of other brands. I mainly promote it through Instagram and I have a website for that, too. I do seasonal drops, and the one that just came out was the Halloween one.