The more time I spend on BC’s campus, the more shocked I am with the creativity it has to offer. For people new to the school's culture, BC comes across as a CSOM-focused place where artistic expression is often overlooked. Talking to Trey Amar and Mike Felix proves that stereotype wrong. These guys are the duo behind their brand Valid Culture, which you have definitely seen embossed on crews and hoodies around campus. The two sat down with me to talk about what the brand is about, and how they plan on expanding in the future.
So before we begin, why don’t you guys tell me a little bit about yourselves?
Trey: I’m Trey, and I’m currently a junior in CSOM studying accounting. I’m originally from south Jersey, near Atlantic City and Philadelphia. I like penguins; penguins are like my love, so that’s a fun fact for you. You should see them at the Boston Aquarium.
Mike: I’m Mike Felix, and I’m a psychology major in A&S. I’m from Mount Vernon, NY and I’m also a junior.
Trey: You don’t have a fun fact, homie?
Mike: Fun fact? Umm, I did martial arts for 9 years.
Trey: That’s fun?
Mike: That’s fun!
So how did you guys meet and how did the idea of the Valid Culture brand come about?
Mike: How we met was during freshman year--we lived on the same floor in the same hall.
Trey: Xavier 2!
Mike: And from there we had mutual friends and started hanging out. And that’s, I guess, where the idea first developed. We both had business aspirations, and we had similar tastes in clothing, so we said, “Why don’t we start something, like a clothing brand type thing?” In the beginning we were just playing around with the idea, trying to figure out how to launch it and get it on campus and get people to become aware of it, or if it was even a possibility. We made a few items of clothing, but just for ourselves, to see if we were actually invested in doing it. Sophomore year, we were direct roommates, and started planning this whole thing out. We really started getting down to the printing and we created a website and started getting everything together.
Can you tell me more about Valid Culture and what the brand is about?
Trey: Valid Culture is kind of an abstract clothing brand. We have a philosophy behind it; I guess that’s why I say it’s abstract. The idea behind it is to kind of open yourself up to to other cultures, other ideas, and to not box yourself into one culture. You have skate culture, indie culture, punk or whatever the case may be; it’s not about any one of those cultures but to create your own by kind of mashing those ideas together to create a cool new look as opposed to staying in one box. So that’s kind of the philosophy and the mindset. And then we expanded that beyond just clothing. You can take that philosophy to wherever you want to take it, like the things that you do, the music that you like, or whatever the case may be.
So where do you guys draw inspiration from? Is there any one particular brand or artist?
Mike: I get inspiration from music, and the culture behind it and the different genres of music. And abstract things, like patterns and shapes and designs--stuff like that captures me. Apart from that, a few clothing brands: Play Clothes, a brand called Entree Lifestyle, things like that.
Trey: I try to stay open at all times to whatever I might see in everyday life. But when I’m really trying to come up with an idea for our next design or just want to start thinking creatively, the first place I usually go is tumblr. I like to filter through the abstract stuff, like there’s a chaos filter where there a lot of things mashed up together, worlds flipped upside down and stuff. Any abstract art or interesting professional photography really gets me thinking. I saw something today actually that I thought was thought-provoking. It’s a quote: “All art is inspired by nature.” I think that that’s relevant and definitely applies to when I start trying to design. I look at album artwork too, like when bands don't just put a picture of themselves but have artwork that has some meaning behind it.
How do you incorporate the message you want to get across into your brand and the pieces you create?
Trey: The message that we want to descend, which we touched on earlier, is being open to various cultures and using that to create your own. We try to convey that message through our blog, which has been asleep lately [smirks], but it emphasizes exposing yourself to things that you otherwise might have not found, seen, or looked at legitimately. The blog is definitely the first spot to look for our message. Also in our future designs we’re looking to incorporate a more diverse set of stuff, a more diverse drawing sense of inspiration.
Mike: Yeah, just touching on that what we’ve done so far has been more of getting our name out there and more simple, basic designs, so we can showcase what we’re working with. We have an upcoming line that’s called “The Hidden Collection," and it’s basically incorporating the wilderness, with camo patterns and stuff like that, so that’s the direction we’re going in. We have some pieces in the works that involve photography of forests, and we incorporate that into our designs.
What are some examples of some pieces that you guys have available now?
Mike: What I have on right now [laughs]. We have a series of hoodies, which is under a line called “Lifestyle. Mindset.”--a message we embody. We’ve been using phrases to establish what we’re all about, but now we’re trying to switch up the focus and have more patterns and hidden messages incorporated into our pieces.
You guys talked a little bit about moving forward with “The Hidden Collection," but beyond that, where do you see the line going in the future?
Mike: We have a website, validculture.com, and that’s where people can go to buy our products. We ship everywhere in the US, and if you’re on campus, you can come to us, or we’ll go to you. Our focus is on college campuses, so we’re looking to expand here at BC, and to get our products to other colleges, as well. We were actually at an event at Harvard as vendors, and we’ve been trying to publicize ourselves more on other campuses to get our name out there. Online we’ve partnered up with a couple of companies that have thrown our name out there, so that’s been mildly successful but we’re always trying to do more.
Trey: And in regards to the future, ideally we would love to be in stores. I know that there are some smaller boutique stores in Boston, like Bodega and AWOL, and that would be amazing to just be in there for even a week. I’ve always thought of Valid Culture as something that could be found in Urban Outfitters or places like that. Obviously, once we expand and have all the resources we need, that’s my personal vision that I’m going to work to make happen.