http://thehollowbonesclique.tumblr.com/I had the opportunity to catch up with the mega friendly Patrick from The Hollow Bones Co.; a dope little label springing up from our Nations Capital. You’ve probably caught Steen Jones busting HBC caps and the tees popping up everywhere around Australia, proving that the size of the city you’re in ain’t shit when you’re chasing dreams.
T: What’s the story behind The Hollow Bones co. – How did it originate and what does it stand for?
HB: There’s not a whole lot to it really. It started out just with me doing the freelance design thing; I did a lot of work for musicians and other labels for some years before eventually speaking with a couple friends about starting something of our own. I always had the idea of eventually putting out something a bit more personal, whether it just be a couple t-shirts or something bigger but it wasn’t til I got together with some friends that I could actually hone my ideas, stop fucking about and actually do something. From there the three of us started up Hollow Bones with the idea of releasing good quality, aesthetically interesting and affordable garments. Nowadays it’s just me behind HBC but the ideology has stayed the same. I’m not out to change the game, just hoping to put out some interesting and well made gear that people wanna wear.
What was it like beginning a label in Canberra? Were there any struggles or obstacles to overcome getting off your feet?
It was surprisingly easy to get it off the ground initially, actually. Not that throwing pictures on t-shirts is some wild, unobtainable shit, but for years I’d been wanting to get my own thing going however I had set up all these obstacles in my head like “yo before you get this thing going you’ve got to do X, Y and Z otherwise you’ll fuck the whole thing up”. It was really just procrastination and nothing more. Canberra and all the brilliant people here were nothing but welcoming, whether it be my friends or just peeps I came across in my travels, people were always super down to help or drop some advice or whatever. It was real nice to see and experience. I think that’s what separates Canberra from a lot of other spots; while people here complain that it’s too small and everyone knows each other, that’s what I found really helped. There’s a huge sense of community and family here, even though the “streetwear” (seems like such a dirty word these days huh?) scene is fairly small here, if someone is trying to put out something honest and interesting, people pick up on that and offer what they can, even if it’s just a thumbs up and some support. It made all the difference and still does.
With so many clothing and street labels in the game, how does The Hollow Bones distinguish itself from the rest?
It’s just honest well made clothing, that’s all there is to it.
What does your work area look like? Do you have any weird rituals when creating a collection?
For the longest time my work area was pretty much any flat surface I could sit on. I never had a desk or proper set up, I just did all my shit on couches, benches, tables, in vans, in bed; when and wherever. Just recently though I’ve set myself up something proper, I’ve got a desk, a new record player and a shit load of old figurines. I’m a real grown ass boy now. I’m yet to see if a real set up will increase my productivity though, I might have a few too many Star Wars toys around to stay focused.
Where do your design concepts come from?
I have a pretty strange and eclectic range of interests, some contradictory to others but with these tees I’m just trying to get across a look and vibe that sort of encapsulates all the weird shit I’m into but also universal topics and ideas that mostly anyone can relate to in one way or another. It’s hard to say where the concepts come from exactly; most of my best thinking happens at the witching hour, late at night when I should be asleep but instead I’m watching a movie or bumping a song I’ve been stuck on for a week or even trying to picture what my upstairs neighbour looks like when they’re running Careless Whisper on loop at 2am. Any of those things could contribute to the ideas coming out or they could just be interesting side characters. I don’t even know.
And in terms of mentoring labels – who do you like and follow?
I try to keep an eye on as many labels and whatnot as possible, mostly because I just like seeing people put out new or exciting things. Plus I carry a pretty heavy t-shirt addiction of my own; recently I had to get rid of about 100 shirts and fleece because I just didn’t have the room for it all – my wardrobe is still busting out even after that. But as far as favourites go, I’d say top two would be Benny Gold coming out of San Francisco and Acapulco Gold on the East Coast of the US. With Benny Gold, not only are the designs also excellent but the philosophy behind it all and the way he runs that company is something I just love reading about and experiencing. While it’s a bigger company selling all over the world, everything about it still feels personal and friendly. I’ve got to say BG was a huge inspiration when trying to get my shit together for the first few t-shirts HB did. That company really makes you think you can achieve anything with the right attitude, I love that and I really love that they’re picking up and doing more gear with wider distro. A couple years ago you wouldn’t see BG gear anywhere around here, not in stores nor on backs, nowadays though I’m spotting tees or hats every week almost, it makes me real happy to see. Nothing better than seeing good people succeed.
As for Acapulco Gold though, their graphic tee game is just so on point. Every drop I find myself wanting everything they put out pretty much, they have such a clean, crisp and individual style. You spot an AG tee and you know it’s AG, I love that.
Is it just a hobby or is it a dream?
A little of both really, I’ve been dreaming about doing a label for years and definitely have large ideas for it all but at the same time I didn’t want to push it beyond my means either. So right now it’s kicking along at it’s own pace, I make time for it but it’s far from a full time thing at the moment. The dream would be to branch out into some cut and sew gear and broaden the reach of the product, perhaps open a retail space. But none of that can come without a little hard work so HB will keep plodding along, expanding a little with each run and we’ll see how it goes.
What have you learned from starting up your own business?
I’m constantly learning. There’s not much point in doing anything if you aren’t learning from it. The thing I’m figuring out at the moment is juggling my 9-5 work life, my personal life and the brand. It can be tricky as hell at times and I still haven’t nailed it, but if I ever work out the perfect balance I’ll let you know, haha.
Is there anyone you would love to work alongside or for in the future?
There are so many people around that I would love to work with in some capacity, even if it was just sitting in on them while they do their day to day. I’ve always operated on my own for the most part in my design work but I can really appreciate the combination of ideas and stories that comes with collaboration. I have a real thing for typography and well crafted text. There’s a sign-writer from Minneapolis that goes by the name Dusty Signs that I would love to work with one day. I have no idea what it would be for exactly but I constantly find myself going through his site and marvelling at how crisp and clean his lettering is and would love to work with him in some way in the future.
Some people a little closer to home that I really respect and admire however, are Malade from Newcastle, Ruler from Melbourne and my man Benny Chop from right here in Canberra; they’re all constantly putting out quality, no bullshit garments that get better every run, not to mention putting on some dope events and the like. I’d love to cook something up with any or all of them, I love seeing what they’re up to. Mad respect.
What is it that you love about clothing?
It’s an unspoken language. People say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but you can learn so much about someone by what they choose to wear and moreover, you can say so much about yourself without even having to open your mouth.
The past few years I’ve spent a fair bit of time traveling around the country for one reason or another and I always love that in an unfamiliar city you can just look at the people and sort of gauge what’s around you and if you’ll be able to click with the community at hand. It’s ridiculous how many people I’ve met and call friends now purely because we liked each others t-shirts. Having said that though there’s nothing saying I’ll see a dude rocking a Grand Scheme cap or something and suddenly we’ll be best mates, but as an example, the first time I visited Laced in Brisbane, I was wandering around the mall trying to find it and couldn’t figure out where I was going until I saw about 3 people in a row rocking Mishka, I followed the breadcrumbs up the stairs and voilà. It’s just little things like that, that I love about clothing, it says the unsaid.
Proudest moment so far?
I’m not sure if this counts as ‘proudest’ but the moment I was most stoked was receiving my first samples of caps earlier this year. I’ve been a fiend for headwear ever since I was a kid. I started collecting Starter caps when I was about 7 or 8 when my father first brought me home a Yankees cap from the US and it’s just grown ever since. So actually making my own was a really cool moment for me. My first lot of hats went really well also and received a lot of positive feedback which was awesome to hear. I’ve got more plans in the headwear department so I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of what I’ve got coming up.
Do you think the Government should offer incentives for home grown production of Australian labels?
Most definitely! I’m doing my best to keep HB local, using local Australian product and printing in Australia, which for some things isn’t easy but I think it’s very important to try and keep as much business here as possible. Supporting Australian business and small business in particular is vital to it growing and flourishing here. I think that if enough people show that we want to buy local as much as we can, a few more Government incentives helping Australian small business might pop up, particularly in the art and fashion world. Australians have proven we are quite adept at designing and producing well-rounded product capable of going international, take a look at artists like Meggs and labels like Grand Scheme, both doing really cool things abroad right now. Now I should say, I’m not saying there’s nothing now in the way of government financial help, there are definitely several grants and initiatives and whatnot to help kick off new businesses and young artists here which is awesome, but I think if people take a little more notice about what’s going on locally and not just what’s on the pages of Hypebeast and Karmaloop and shit, maybe government bodies will take note and some more interesting and exciting opportunities and incentives might present themselves.
What do you think is the most pressing issue in Australia at the moment?
Honestly I think it’s just local support. Obviously there are people out there keeping an eye on smaller labels and picking up their shit and that is so awesome. But for every one of them there’s about 10 who are only concerned about the new Supreme drop and what have you. And cool, everyone has their labels they love and all that, but there’s exciting shit going on right next door as well that I would love to see people hanging out for. It’s fair that the majority of what’s going on in the “streetwear” world is happening O/S and therefore people are more likely going to be able to find something that grabs them amongst the millions of tees and such kicking about out there, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got shit pumping in Melbourne or Sydney or hell, even Canberra that say something. You’re probably more likely to find something a bit more reflective of you and related to you if you look locally as well. The thing a lot of people overlook about this industry is that it’s not just about pretty pictures slapped on garments or grabbing the tee that Kanye wore in some video, it’s about saying something about you, your community or your situation through garments. A lot can be said and done with a powerful message on a t-shirt and that message may just spread a little further with a little more local support.
Obviously your parents had a large influence on who you are today – what are some of the simplest things you learned from them?
On top of giving me a bit more of insight into the world outside of my circle and my immediate life they always told me to always work hard for something if it means anything to me. I’ve always had my hand in something artistic ever since I was small but I never did very well academically, I think without their support and example, I probably would’ve dropped it and would still be stuck in a shitty job at a hi-fi store right now. Something I believe is, while education is a brilliant tool and I’m not going to discourage anyone from studying, it’s not the be all end all of life. Just because you don’t have a piece of paper saying you’re a qualified filmmaker, doesn’t mean you can’t make films, just like I don’t have a piece of paper saying I’m not a qualified designer, but that hasn’t stopped me from working design for nearly 10 years. Often case people find their passion and joy well outside the walls of a school and I don’t want people thinking they can’t succeed just because they haven’t got the right documentation. Persistence and hardwork is what is important, with or without the necessary papers.
There is a photo of your father opposing conscription in the 1970’s on Hollow Bones’ Tumblr with a caption outlining that you should always fight for what you believe in.. What do you believe in and what would you fight for?
Just the right to have your say. My father was on the run from the police basically for trying to express his beliefs in regard to the Vietnam war and Australia’s conscription laws and I think that’s bullshit. Everyone should have an opportunity to be heard by their peers, sure some of the shit some people might say could be whack as hell but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to at least say it, some of the shit people could say might change lives too. Those inspirational photos with quotes over top you’re reblogging on tumblr aren’t just filler for your dash, that was somebody putting their beliefs out there and having their say which has now gone on to touch people generations later. Freedom of speech is incredibly important and while I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in a country where (for the most part) I have that right, there are so many places out there where people will be hunted and persecuted for questioning what’s going on around them and expressing themselves and that’s some bullshit right there.
Thing’s have been a little slow of late just because other things in my life have popped up, Hollow Bones was started with the intention of working at a pace comfortable with everything else going on in my life. But the engine is still pumping, I’ve got some gear I’m really siked on in the works right now that will be coming soon, a few tees, headwear and a bit of outwear also. I’m really happy with what’s coming up and I’m looking forward to getting it out. Keep your eyes on the Facebook and Tumblr for more news.