May 23, 2008
We interview Van Bui of Vee Bee Clothing
TM: When did you decide that t-shirts was your thing?
VB: I’ve been on and off about getting into the industry for several years. It was in 2001 that I decided I would take the initiative to research and find out what the industry was like. It was a drag going to the local Mall and not being able to find anything! You have money but you can’t spend it because everything you see is bland and uncreative. So began my ‘mad scientist’ phase of my life getting into the world of clothing.
TM: How long have you been in the t-shirt biz? And what have you learned?
VB: We started VeeBee Clothing back in April of 2001, so pretty much a year has passed being in the business and what a great journey that was. Teaming up with my good friend Arif we tackled the long task of learning about the capabilities of silkscreening and taking our love for Art, Music and Life to a whole new medium. You always think it should be pretty easy to start up your own brand. How wrong that is to think it’s EASY, it’s not at all and at sometimes you just want to give it up. However, through the support of my good friends and family we are still here, alive and kicking! You learn how much time it takes to keep up a brand. Through all the late nights sketching, to the late nights on the computer digitizing to the marketing and promotion of your items. It’s a huge task and it takes up a greater part of your life, so don’t dive into it less you’re willing to go the whole nine yards.
TM: How did you come up with these cool characters on your shirts?
VB: As a child my family never had a lot of money, my parents immigrated to Canada in 1982 and were working seven days a week. I mostly stayed home with my older brother or else usually by myself since the age of four. Living somewhat under the normal living standards toys were never something we had when we were young. So what’s a kid suppose to do to kill time? Well, I used to make little action figures (or dolls) out of paper tissues. I’d scrunch up a ball of paper tissue and then take another 1-2 pieces to form the cover of the head and the body. You can actually see an example of this in the show Keroppi, as well, there are many of such things hanging under the roofs of homes in China. What better way to bring back your childhood then to bring back an example how truly creative a kid’s imagination can be!
TM: You ever think of making vinyl figures of them?
VB: I love vinyl figures and all the sort – I’ve always wondered how to get producing them. If I could, I would definitely look into how to get them manufactured. I have a lot of ideas for figurines that I think other people would enjoy as well. If you know someone in the industry, get at me please.
TM: Which of your shirts is your absolute favorite?
VB: Of the four shirts from season one, I have to say my favorite shirt would be the Panda design, growing up I was in love with Pandas! I did all my school research on them, I even had Panda shirts growing up and I have to admit my favorite color is Red! So you can see how I took the two and put them together for my benefit but most importantly for the benefit of the people who love Pandas and the color Red!
TM: Do your run your label alone or do you have a team?
VB: I run my label with one other person actually. To start, the other half of this company my good friend, Arif Jina who takes care of all the marketing and advertising portion of things. You can say he’s the front man and I’m behind the scenes. I actually quite like it that way of course! My family of course are always helping me out doing promotions and getting our name out there to the people.
TM: Where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to designing t-shirts?
VB: When it comes to designing t-shirts my inspiration pulls from all sorts of things that are related to music, life and art. I sometimes find myself drowning in all different kinds of music that stirs my emotions and wanders my mind. I can take a little bit of everything I see in my surroundings and convert it something creative and original. I’m hoping to take a step further by designing some cut ‘n sew products for my brand as well. That won’t be for another year or so though as we are still getting out there to the people.
TM: How has having a BigCartel shop been working for you?
VB: Big Cartel has been awesome to us in terms of making a service readily available for people who aren’t too shopping-cart-savvy. I mean, I’m an expert in my field but when it comes to things like programming and getting a shop set up I have no idea where to start. Big Cartel makes all of that very easy and I’m greatful for finding such a good service.
TM: What’s in the works for the future of your label?
VB: On May 24 we are releasing our second season of shirts. This season is definitely a very huge thing for us as we have been working and tweaking designs for about 6 months now. All our hard work is finally paying off and I just can’t wait to see people wearing it. Right now, we’re toying with the third season for the upcoming fall and winter. We have even greater designs, concepts and going to be releasing some hoodies and perhaps toques as well.
We are also collaborating with local businesses to help each other evolve and grow. An interview with a local magazine called FIXX and of course this interview with you guys. We also are hoping to break into the US market by having our very own section in a boutique that will be opening in Tuscon, Arizona. This will be one big step for us Canadians!
TM: What tips could you give to others trying to get into the t-shirt biz?
VB: Work hard and try even harder is the most important things to remember. It’s easy getting a company incorporated and putting some text on a shirt. It’s hard to conjure up concepts that people will buy into and probably the hardest step is getting your name out there. It takes hundreds of hours of hollering and hooting to the masses. You have to work every medium out there, whether it be in person or on the internet. It’s all about networking so get into the industry and find out who does what and where. The more people you know the more likely you have a chance at being a success.
For more on Vee Bee Clothing check out RockTheVee.com