Jul 20, 2018
Drew sat down with Jason Kobishop this Spring to discuss his journey into Bound by Blood clothing brand. We met Jason as a student at UW Oshkosh, while he was working in the University Center’s marketing department as a student graphic designer about 9 years ago. Jason started his second and current clothing label, Bound by Blood shortly after finishing college and we’ve been working with and printing for Bound by Blood clothing since its inception in 2012.
In high school me and my friends were really into band t-shirts. Being where we are, many of the bands we liked were not in the area. So we supported underground bands by buying t-shirts. My senior year of high school my buddy and I did an art project on designing t-shirts.
My first dive into it was creating a brand, designs, coordinating printing and figuring out how do we sell them. It definitely reaffirmed my interest in it. Determining the color combinations and designs. Called Content Clothing – For the class we produced 1 design. We got a good response so I designed 5 more shirts and that’s where that ended. That would have been about 2000 or whenever I was still in high school. That was kind of like chapter 1. The brand was about being Content with who you are, geared towards being accepting of individualism and comfortable with embracing people and who you are. We did about 5 dozen and sold them all to kids in our school in like 3 days, so we thought we were onto something.
After the Content brand, I started doing band t-shirts for the bands I was in. The place we were working with at the time primarily did school mascot shirts. When we came to them to print unconventional print locations, the print shop didn’t have a clue.
Made shirts for some Saliva, Alien Ant Farm, 12 Stones. There were others but I don’t really remember who else – I try to forget that period of time.
After that period I got tired of doing apparel designs for other people. That’s when I first considered starting another brand so it could be my own ideas and styles. Not wanting to push another brand’s style or having to live within the expectations of band shirts.
In doing my own brand I felt it offered more creative control and ideas. Additionally, it’s one artistic outlet that encapsulates video, web development and photography. (All of which Jason does very well. Jason’s day job is as a professional web designer) The icing on the cake is that it had to have some type of meaning not just another generic brand that tried to see how many colorways we can print the same logo without having any substance or reason.
Bound by Blood – at the end of the day we’re all people, let’s get past our differences and get along. At the time I was working with it, political strife was common news story. Why is it more common for people to argue about differences vs. find common ground. It didn’t start as a political thing, but over the years people have found it to have more of a political message. At the heart of it we are promoting acceptance and kindness.
The artwork is primarily me, with 2 illustrators on specific projects. Knowing my limitations and finding people that fit the brand.
Started by selling 5-man shows and online store from day one. He does his own vendor markets and community events which is great way to connect people to the brand and story. The hard part will be trying to replicate that on a larger scale. The people that are into it for the message are lifelong customers, the people that bought for one shirt design are less likely to purchase again.
Initially I wasn’t sure how well received it would be so I gave the first run a shot as a test. It continues to grow since day one. I don’t know if I had expectations about how far it would go, trying to keep making it as diverse as the brand supporters are. Initially the brand was geared on promoting the brand and the logo, recently it’s been more about the message into the design. Promotes peace, equality, unity. The brand has grown geographically, from locals, to customers globally.
Brand Ambassadors – Warriors of Peace has helped build the brand. We try to work with people that also believe in the message so that their fans can also be in it. Getting the brand into other peoples hands that support those.
Actively doing things to promote peace, unity, equality. Our list is broad form musicians, athletes, artists, activists, gamers – anyone trying to make a positive impact in the community they are involved with.
Trying to keep the audience true to the brand, while growing it. With so much being word of mouth, there’s a battle of growing it in a way I want. I like the grassroots growth because of quality, but I know there’s larger opportunity through advertising.
There’s a weird unintended barrier because there are many people in the tattoo community that liked the message because they understand the judgements that the community can face. Some people think the brand is for tattooed people because of the models and imagery, so I’ve worked to get more diverse people to be part of the brand.
Took small steps incrementally and happy to learn from small failures. Every time things don’t go perfectly, there’s a lesson to be learned. Now that we’re more established, I feel like I’ve made all the mistakes and people have a better experience now.
I want quality from top to bottom, Shirts, website, photography, printed materials. By taking it slow I was able to make small adjustments and refine the brand, the look and make a cohesive style.
Take your time to develop the brand up front so everything can be cohesive. Too many people create clothing brands that are disconnected and not clarified. When I started, I wanted to make a bunch of stuff and put it out there, but I’m glad I took my time.
Also having a knowledgeable printing company is an important relationship. It’s not all about making a cool graphic, you also need to make a cool shirt. You need a good partner to bring your ideas and designs to life.
Most people that have clothing brands think it’s me vs. everyone, so there’s been lot’s of independent research and reading. Many others have contacted him and I’m happy to share. It was initially a very closed off community where brands keep secrets about the type of blanks they use and the additional details. It would be nice if there was one big resource, but there’s not.
Initially called with questions about doing screen printed posters. First interested in focussing artistic outlet in screen printed art posters. After joining the next band, Offbeat Press was top of mind for t-shirts. Previously the print shop we had worked with was limited in their creative capabilities. Your willingness to do unconventional print locations and push the boundaries made my choice easy.
Being a local print shop also helped so we could talk about the vision, limitations fabrics, etc. The tactile nature is important. Local or not, good communication is key.
I just finished and launched a Custom shopify website for the Bound by Blood clothing store and had to learn a new programming language for that. Now I can rest a little easier at night knowing that when people see the site, I’m not distressed about it.
I’d like to have the line grow into more designer apparel such as custom-designed apparel. Looking to expand the art prints and do more community events such as the Worldwide Meetup. The screen printed shirts and hoodies are the core of the brand and we’ll keep that the regular focus, but trying to continue to change print locations and keep things fresh.
Day one was 1 t-shirt, 1 v-neck, 1 hoody. Now all types of garments, including art prints and pillows. Continuing to broaden the trajectory.
Trying to source custom garments has been very difficult. Many people in the States are actually just outsourcing the production and acting as a middle man. That’s been a challenge without clear answers. It’s been a lot of learning as we go and trying not to make the same mistakes twice.