UK t-shirt brand Allriot has caused caught a stir over the years. By taking on the roles as revolutionaries, their thought provoking tees can be seen as controversial to some but empowering to others. Through the use of humor, the brand addresses civil rights, freedom, privacy concerns, and questions the governments agenda. Allriot believes that you should “be a voice and not an echo”. Speaking out against political issues led to the UK ISPs blocking access to their site for some time. Despite the challenges, Allriot continues to raise awareness about heavy political issues. Not giving a damn about censorship is what made Allriot the brand it is today.
I interviewed the Allriot team to learn more about their brand.

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TM: What is Allriot’s mission?

We see Allriot as the alternative to logo-obsessed mass culture. Minimally branded, Allriot offers a profound and meaningful way to engage with the world.

We don’t mind causing a stir with our punchy prints, but there is no nihilistic element to these. There is a clear purpose behind all the designs we produce, and we make sure everything we release has earned its place in the world.

As young people get increasingly pushed out of political debate, our t-shirts function as manifesto and pressure release valve. Allriot fans know that wearing our shirt is an experience: it’s guaranteed to spice up their day, although they never quite know how hot it’s going to get. Most people just laugh, and that’s the reaction we’re striving for. The simple act of ridiculing ‘the system’ shifts the balance of power away from it.

When was All Riot founded and what has the reaction been like during the launch of the brand?

We launched almost 3 years ago, in 2012.

None of us had any background in activism or politics. All we had were the seeds of a vision to make a positive change in the world; that was it. At the time, Pussy Riot were awaiting trial, and we designed some shirts to raise money for them. Pretty quickly we were officially endorsed by Pussy Riot. Our designs were selling faster than we could make them, and we were working 18-hour days to keep up with the demand. Our enthusiasm kept us going for months – we were just psyched that people actually bought the things we were making.

The first few batches of our t-shirts sucked. Oh man! Thankfully, punk is renowned for its raw, homemade aesthetic, so we kinda got away with it. In fact, it probably made the experience more authentic for our customers. The response was largely positive, so we released some more designs to keep the momentum going.

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Do you feel like All Riot has more creative freedom by eliminating censorship on issues that some find difficult to talk about in public?

Freedom is found within us, it’s nothing more than a state of mind, so YES.

We have nothing to lose, and that is our superpower.
We’re not afraid to admit that we get our kicks from poking fun at bigotry and general political nonsense. It’s only natural that the system should fight back, and we’re ready for that.

Last year, half of UK ISPs blocked access to allriot.com on the grounds that it contained “adult content”. Don’t you just love it – the nanny state looking out for its citizens, kindly protecting them from anything remotely thought provoking or unconventional?
Censorship limited our reach, but we thought – oh wow, we must be doing something right – and kept going.

A couple of months ago our server crashed. We lost everything, our site, our customer details, our traffic, you name it, but we rebuilt it from scratch. That’s the ultimate freedom, knowing that you’re in control, no matter what happens to you.

The branding of All Riot couldn’t be more perfect! What went into the concept of the branding?

Branding has always been an afterthought. We don’t even have a proper logo.
What you see is authenticity, and that’s pretty rare nowadays.
Honesty is the key to great branding. Our brand is not something we had to invent, but rather a vision we have honed and perfected with every new t-shirt drop – and it keeps evolving. We like to keep it raw. After all, good art is a work in progress.

It’s always about what’s behind the brand. Everything we release has to have a purpose. Does the world need another lazy logo shirt? No, it doesn’t, so we won’t stock it.

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What public figures have influenced All Riot?

George Orwell, Buddha, Dr. King, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks; the list goes on and on. In fact, we’re about to launch a new capsule collection called ‘Thought Criminals’. It will include all of the above amazing people and a handful of other bad-ass human beings who helped shape our worldview.

Was there any particular news story this year that inspired designs from the Spring/Summer 15 collection?

Police brutality is definitely a hot issue that’s not being addressed properly, despite all the media fuss.

As a supporter of ethical manufacturing, what things did you look into when sourcing manufacturers to ensure that they met your standards?

WRAP or Fairtrade certification is a must.
Fabric composition: we always use natural fibers wherever possible. Polyester all-over prints may look cool, but they are hurting our environment.

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What should upcoming and existing brands that want to support ethical manufacturing do if they are on a tight budget?

We would advise to go Fair Trade from the get go, but we realize that it’s not always possible. There are still things you can do to minimize your environmental impact:

  • Starting small is your biggest advantage. You will make mistakes along the way, and the last thing you want to do is to end up with a pile of clothing nobody wants. That’s bad for the environment, even if it’s organic.
  • Don’t make any big investments until you’ve passed the proof-of-concept stage, even if you have money to spend. We started with a homemade screen printing press to keep costs down.
  • Prototypes are often expensive. Collaborate with design students and ask them to help you make them.
  • Be creative with your branding and packaging to lower costs. Your customers will love it!
  • Avoid synthetic fabrics at all costs.
  • When sourcing products from abroad, make sure your quality control is top-notch. We once had a batch of t-shirts that had tiny oil stains all over them, so we had to give them away to a homeless charity.
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    With a commitment to social and ethical causes, are there any organizations that you have partnered with and hope to partner with in the future?

    We have partnered with a number of charities and organizations in the past. Earlier this month we took part in the Manifest:Justice exhibition in LA and helped raise money for Amnesty International.
    London Guantanamo Campaign is an organization worth mentioning; they do amazing work.
    The Occupy Democracy guys in London are rocking some pretty awesome Allriot tees right now. Due to government clampdowns on peaceful protests, they have to operate under extreme restraints. We hope to work with them in the future to find fun and innovative ways to get their message across.

    What message do you have for Millennials/the youth of today? What should they be doing to ensure a brighter future?

    Millennials now outnumber the baby-boomers, yet we don’t realize that we have the power to change the world. We need to drop the ‘zero f**ks to give’ attitude and take a stand for our future.

    It feels like we don’t get a say in this world, that it’s all been decided for us. That’s an illusion, and it’s up to us to crush it. We need to find our own path, embrace the fear and find out who we really are. Let’s face the world, take powerful action and be awesome. That’s what Allriot is all about.

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    Visit Allriot’s online shop to buy their latest tees.