Q: You built a multi-million dollar street wear brand from the ground up – a journey that started in a garage and eventually saw your listing as one of Australia’s wealthiest young entrepreneurs. What role did art play in the development of this brand?
In the apparel industry, an artistic approach has become more relevant over time as people have become less inclined to purchase clothes with corporate logos emblazoned on them. Today people want to wear art that has meaning. At the same time, more and more artists have set their sights on apparel. In the past designers would always want the opportunity to see their art on vinyl record covers, then it was CDs and now the t-shirt is the ‘go-to’ canvas.
Q: Tell us about the new brand you are launching and its art-centered approach.
ArtxYouth is exactly as the name suggests. It celebrates and upholds the feeling you have before early-adulthood disenchantment sets in. As a brand it says what needs to be said… The type of thing you say around the kitchen table at home with intelligent friends that rarely sees the light of day.
Q: Visual arts and imagery play a bigger role than ever in marketing and social media. What advice do you have for businesses – especially those who are not in an artistic industry – who want to learn from artists how to be better communicators/better businesses?
We are visual creatures. A picture tells a thousand words. An image will most often be the tip of the spear in a movement; the ultimate is combing a powerful image and a single word or phrase. A good example is the HOPE image of Obama designed by Shepherd Fairy. That image and word combination helped turn the election.
In terms of social media, we live in an increasingly noisier and busier society. To cut through all it all you need to produce powerful art. The ‘picture’ now rules because it is the most condensed form of communication there is. Newspapers 30 years ago might have 5 or 6 pictures no larger than the palm of your hand. Now newspapers are full of large pictures sprinkled with small amounts of copy.
On a deep, psychological level, art resonates in a way that other media cannot; businesses that understand this will be the ones to triumph.
Q: “Authenticity of voice” is often cited as one of the most important aspects of successful social media engagement. How does art enhance authenticity?
I think authenticity is simply a longer word for ‘truth’ and ‘humanity’. To be free or ‘authentic’ we need to learn to think for ourselves in what can sometimes feel like an ocean of chaos, we need to be creative and open to change.
But far too many companies stifle change and authenticity. Employees are too fearful to be authentic. Change is simply snuffed out before it has a chance to take root, and this can have disastrous implications for the survival of a business.
The truth is that customers have learned from five decades of billboards, noise and negative messages; advertising telling them they are not rich enough, not beautiful enough. People are rejecting the status quo and turning their attention to businesses with more authenticity. Businesses who, therefore, don’t encourage freethinking and embrace change are setting themselves up for failure.
Q: Most customers of your street wear brand were “millennials” and you were very effective at communicating with them. What characterizes this group? What should business know if they wish to engage with this group? How will this group change the consumer landscape in years to come?
I think young people know instinctively the system is broken. Most of them can’t put their finger on exactly why, they just know. So art that shows them their instincts are correct resonates, and they flock to it.
Art also opens minds in a way that, for the most part, the establishment does not. Schools pay lip service to the idea that ‘you can do anything that you set your mind to’ and ‘draw your own conclusions,’ but they do not teach kids how to do this. Instead they teach how to get in line, listen to authority, regurgitate information and not rock the boat. But kids want to know how to think for themselves, and art can help in this journey.
Q: How, in your opinion, does art inform/influence other facets of life, like personal growth, parenthood, etc.?
I think art is a type of divine organic form of record keeping for our species. It is synonymous with our anthropological past. Not too get too deep in this short interview but I believe it is our way of knowing we are real.