While geek chic has become ever more popular and more and more of us fly our geek flag with pride, it is never surprising to see the increase of outlets that have caught onto this by producing ranges of geek-inspired clothing. Insert Coin is just one of those companies, and to my delight, this Brit-based team of gamers produce some amazing designs and quality t-shirts that I have admittedly fallen in love with.
I interviewed Dan Long, Head of Communications, and Jon Rhodes, Creative Director, as we talk inspiration, designing, the importance of knowing your cotton count and what we can expect to see in the future. Don't forget you can follow Insert Coin on Twitter, Facebook or go straight to their website to check out their stuff -- they don't charge for shipping, even worldwide!
So let us start with the basics, who or what is Insert Coin clothing?
DL: What is Insert Coin? That's a difficult question! I guess it is just a group of people who love gaming, love tees and love bringing the geek out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Or we're a tee company making sweet gaming designs that people like wearing. One of the two, ha ha!
JR: As to who we are, well, there are about five of us now, but it started out with just me and Dan -- we worked together before. And while we're still the people who drive things forward, we've brought other people onboard to keep everything tight and focused.
DL: We've got really varied backgrounds -- design, writing, fashion, stagecraft. I used to design and build planes -- so it's a bit of a mad mix of skills and that's something unique to Insert Coin I think.
What prompted you guys to even get started? There were already places out there selling gaming-based clothing, what really pushed you to think 'hey, we can do this too'?
JR: To be honest, it was because of what was out there already. I was looking for some new tees, thought I'd get something gaming-inspired and I was just really disappointed.
DL: We used to chat all the time about games and tees and so gaming tees would always come up as a topic -- and in particular the lack of decent ones. I remember the day Jon brought one in ... it was
terrible. The tee was thin and wispy, the design was badly printed -- we knew that couldn't be the best
anyone could do. We knew we could do better and give gamers tees that wouldn't fall apart and that'd
look damn cool too.
JR: It really was a wake up call. We knew we had the skills and the resources to do this and
so Insert Coin was really borne out of the crushing disappointment of those first tees we bought.
As we know you have started Insert Coin as a completely new business enterprise, what was that hardest thing you had to overcome?
JR: I think that whenever you start up a business, it's hard. If anyone thinks 'ohh, they just make tees --
it's easy' then that's really only the tip of the iceberg. There's so much to consider, so much to do and you have to work at it with everything you've got to make it a reality.
DL: And then work even harder to make it a success. We've put a lot of effort in because we know that this isn't the best time to start any kind of new business. But we've been overwhelmed with the response we've had.
JR: This is so true. People forget -- or don't even realise -- that we're not even a year old yet. In that time we've come a long, long way and while it's been tough at times, it's been so much fun too.
DL: The hardest thing I think is explaining what we do. At first, the idea was difficult to pitch to people -- making gaming tees that didn't have a huge picture of the main character on the front -- but now it has all fallen into place. People already know the great work that Dark Bunny and Last Exit do in the world of films, so now they know that if they want gaming tees with the same kind of subtle, stylish sensibilities, they come to Insert Coin.
Who does your designs? Do you think of them yourselves or do you look out onto the internet for some creative talent?
DL: Everything we do is in-house and, when it comes to the designs, then it comes down to Jon -- as our creative director -- to make them a reality.
JR: But the original ideas and concepts are very much a team effort -- we all pitch in and work around designs that we like and that we think other people will like too.
DL: I think if you live and breathe games you notice these little design flourishes that are lovingly put into titles and they inspire our designs and guide our creative process.
JR: We do get loads of external ideas and encouragement too though. Our fans and followers are really great and they're always giving us suggestions -- it must be at least two or three a day we receive. They help us shape what games to look at next and what sort of style designs people are interested in. And of course, we ran a competition with another gaming website forum to develop one of the ideas for our spring range -- so that's one of our fan's ideas directly inspiring a finished design!
What has the reception been like from the fans? We all know how people on the Internet can be when it comes to sharing their opinions.
JR: We've been really surprised -- they've been overwhelmingly positive!
DL: It's been lovely really, we seem to have really tapped into a great community and they're always positive and constructive with criticism and even when you do get random 'less good' feedback, it's normally good to help steer the company in the right direction.
JR: The only 'bad' things people say are things like 'why haven't you done this design yet' or 'more tees inspired by this game' ... it's just so difficult because there are so many great ideas and so many tees we want to do, we just can't do them all at once! We wish we could ... but it'd probably be impossible to search our site for what you wanted, ha ha!
DL: Sometimes people question the price point of our tees and hoodies too ... which we kinda understand, but they're actually much cheaper than most other geek or gaming tees, particularly when you consider they're made from scratch and not just standard 'off the peg' items. We also offer free delivery anywhere in the world. No one else does that and so it makes our tees cheaper overall ... and take that from someone who's bought tees online from all around the world -- from Japan to Brazil!
JR: But overall, yeah, we've been really, really pleased with the response. Quite touched really ... we get some great emails sent in about how much people love what we do and that's what it's all about.
Personally, what has been your favourite design and why?
DL: It's difficult because it's always changing! I do love 'Calbers' though as it is just so beautifully oblique and obscure and Jon's done a great bit of treatment on the initial idea.
JR: I always gravitate towards the black tees ... I think 'Klobb' is getting the most chest-time at the moment!
DL: Oh yeah, Klobb on a hoodie awesome ... simple but those gamers who see it instantly get it!
Have you ever been in trouble because of your designs?
JR: We haven't really had a lot of problem with our designs to be honest. In fact, we've had a great support from inside the industry -- Naughty Dog, Sega, Xbox, EA, LucasArts, Capcom, Blizzard and more each day. We offer a very simple approach to it all though and are quite transparent that the majority of our designs are inspired by our favourite games. We're more than happy to work with any games companies! We've already got some deals in the pipeline that are very, very special indeed.
DL: The big piece of news that we CAN tell you is that we were asked by Sega to produce two celebration tees for Sonic's 20th birthday. They're still under wraps at the moment as they're with our friends in Japan, but they are scheduled to go live in about six weeks.
JR: Sonic is a huge part of all our gaming lives and so it's a huge honour to be involved with this kind of celebration ... it's going to be really cool!
Now, not that you want lots of competition to start springing up but what would you say to someone out there who wanted to started their own business or someone who wanted to start promoting their designs?
DL: Well, we're still learning all the time too, so this is only what we know so far -- ha ha! First of all, good luck! Second of all, be prepared for long hours, sleepless nights, an unbearable knowledge about cotton weights and the most fun you could ever imagine.
JR: You need to do your research. That's the key. You need to know every aspect inside out and you need to work bloody hard to make it work.
DL: And you need to keep at it -- determination goes a long way!