It’s also been quite a while since we were last genuinely excited by an independent streetwear brand. So we’re more than a bit pleased to be sitting down with one of the most exciting brands we’ve come across in a long, long time…
We’ve been keeping an eye on Ben over at VIHMIRU (vim-ear-roo) since we first caught his work on The Daily Street last December. We love supporting the independents here at FKOF – but it seems every man’s got a printing press these days. We’re not seeing that many complete ‘brands’ (in the true sense of the word) with a full product line up. Don’t get us wrong, there definitely are some but there aren’t many who could stand up against some of the well-known/ international/ established streetwear brands out there.
So when Ben, as his first foray into the market, launched VIHMIRU with the amazing custom Zippo lighter and an equally awesome bottle opener (see them both here) he definitely caught our attention. Since Drop01, he’s launched 4 tee designs, a wristband, a keyring, a (truly amazing) wallet and two snapbacks. That’s a fairly extensive product catalogue!
We managed to grab Ben away from his hectic schedule recently to talk things through…
Who and what is VIHMIRU? VIHMIRU is a lifestyle brand for night owls.
Essentially what that means is if you stay up late and want to represent that fact, it’s for you.
You’re flying the flag for the one-man-brand, how have you found running a streetwear brand on your own? What lead you to starting out on your own? Running things on my own has been an enlightening and invigorating process. But equally it has been a struggle and extremely hard work. A lot more work is involved when you’re on your own and takes longer to get to certain places. It’s more rewarding though I feel.
Partnerships can be great but it’s finding someone who feels as passionately about your vision as yourself. You don’t want to find yourself in the position of doing all the work while your partner just takes it easy but still reaps all the benefits because the business is doing well. Partnerships in my opinion are a bad idea unless it’s well balanced and with someone you can trust.
Also, getting people to work for you rather than with you can lead to the same pitfalls. Employees are working to keep their employer’s business afloat while preferably making it profitable. But a business can only be as successful as its workforce. So if you’re employing people who aren’t too bothered about your business then the situation will go south pretty quickly.
For the most part, partnerships and employing staff are a viable solution for most businesses but I felt it just wasn’t the right route for me to start from.
So to make sure I was in full control I decided to build the foundations of VIHMIRU myself. Having this amount of control and keeping all the design in-house allows me to keep everything consistent from the products through to the website and store.
Being your own boss is great but has its downsides too. For example if I became ill who looks after and takes care of everything? That’s where having someone else to fall back on does come in handy.
But these first several months on my own were an invaluable experience and I’ve learned a lot. And I’ll be staying on my own for the foreseeable future.
You’ve just released your third drop but already have a full-blown catalogue of tees, snapbacks and accessories. Was it a conscious decision to do things a bit differently; not starting out with a simple run of tees? Actually, while the brand was in development I was initially going down the route of making it mostly clothing orientated. But because of the abundance of ‘t-shirt brands’ that keep popping up I later decided I wanted to launch with something more unique, something that no-one else would be doing at the same level, something that would set me apart from my competitors.
So yes, it was a conscious decision to change it up and do it differently.
What does or will distinguish VIHMIRU from the rest of the UK streetwear being dropped these days? As mentioned previously, there are far too many ‘t-shirt brands’ popping up all over the place at the moment. You can clearly see from how they are presented that no thought has gone in to them and will most likely only last a matter of weeks or months. It almost devalues the hard work other serious brand owners are putting in.
They are created by ignorant people that think it is easy to run a brand. Most can own and operate some sort of brand, but how easy is it really to make and keep that brand successful and profitable?!
Do most even realise what a ‘brand’ is? I don’t believe they do.
A brand isn’t a logo or a set of products; a brand is an experience and is ultimately what a customer feels about a business. Obviously we cannot control what a customer will think or feel but we can steer them in right direction.
So when it comes to creating your business image and identity, you need a strong message to communicate to customers. Something they will understand and relate to. Something that tells them what makes your business special. Why should a customer give you their time over others.
I chose to focus on the act of staying up late as the message for VIHMIRU. Because so many do stay up late, and VIHMIRU is specifically tailored to those people, it helps convey a sense of belonging; something they can invest in and be a part of.
VIHMIRU is not just a design on a t-shirt, VIHMIRU is an embodiment of the night owl lifestyle and culture. So long as my brand stays true to this it’ll continue to grow.
Obviously logo identity and branding are also important and play a vital role in securing customer interest. VIHMIRU boasts strong and engaging logo design and branding which continues throughout the online store journey.
I like to create products with a view for them to become talking pieces; the bottle opener for instance. This got a lot of attention when I launched it and everyone that has this product have said their friends always ask where they got it from. The Stealth Wallet is shaping up to be another popular product.
Although VIHMIRU is still very much under the radar, it won’t be long before more find out about it as word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool.
Who or what influences you in your work? Because my brand is heavily themed around night owls I just think up ideas that will relate. I know what I feel looks good so once I have an idea I just work it up and develop it until I’m happy. It goes from hours to days and even weeks. I’m quite meticulous in my approach.
And I try not to be influenced too much by what others are doing.
But if a brand actually makes me notice them because they’ve put out something truly remarkable it kind of gives me a kick up the ass. It makes me think, ‘I should be making those kinds of moves’, and sets me off in a new direction to create something better.
What’s your take on the independent clothing scene in the UK at the moment? How do we compare to the rest of the world – can UK brands compete on an international stage? I don’t understand the mindset of certain people; what makes t-shirt brand X think they’re better than t-shirt brand Y. Is it the type of design (illustrative, photographic, mature, comedic), is it the type of shirt (loose or fitted), is it the printing technique (discharge, plastisol, foil) or is it what their brand is all about, their ‘ethos’. Who knows. But if these t-shirt brands want to break the mould they need to up their games and bring something new to the table.
But if you’re not prepared to invest, take risks and work hard, then you’ll get nowhere fast.
I believe the UK independent clothing scene has the potential to be truly great but it’s about having the right product, made by the right suppliers and having the capital to make it all happen. Using ‘blanks’ for clothing will only take a brand so far and the same goes for generic ‘off the shelf’ items and just branding them.
The aim for all brands should be to end up doing cut and sew garments and fully custom products. Creating everything to spec, even t-shirts. Everyone wants something unique that no-one else has. But because of the crazy high MOQ [minimum order quantity] it’s super expensive.
The UK also doesn’t seem to have the same sort of facilities that are available in the likes of China and the US. I’ve tried to get a lot of my products made in the UK but ended up elsewhere because we just can’t cater for it over here. That is our disadvantage. If there was a super decent manufacturer in the UK that offered cut and sew with reasonable MOQ, they’d make a fortune.
Speaking of which; my next task is to source some cut and sew manufacturers, wherever they may be located.
All that said, we do have some brands in the UK that are smashing it and doing it right. One brand that is yet to launch but looks pretty dope is Enclave. I’ve got high hopes for it [so have we]!
Where do you see you and VIHMIRU being in 5 years time? I run VIHMIRU in my spare time around a full time job. In 5 years, I’d like to be running VIHMIRU full time, possibly out of a brick and mortar store as well as online and have a much wider variety of products. I’d like VIHMIRU to have also gained a substantial loyal following both nationally and internationally.
Where can people expect to catch your product, is VIHMIRU in any physical stores? Customers can currently only purchase products from the official online store.
I’m actively turning down stockist requests at the moment because it feels like I’m just selling out. I want my brand to reach new heights on its own and not get successful off the popularity other already established stores.
Yes, it would be hugely beneficial and some might see it as wasting an opportunity but I just see it as taking the easy route.
I have expressed an interest to certain stores that I may be up for the possibility of VIHMIRU in-store exclusives. I’d do a design or two for each store and have those particular designs only available at those stores. But I haven’t decided on anything concrete yet.
The most obvious benefit of having products in physical stores is customers being able to see them in person, touch them, try them on etc – which you cannot do with an online store.
However, I do provide superb customer service which many can attest to. If someone orders something that doesn’t fit right or they decide they don’t like it because the pictures haven’t done it justice, I’m happy to accommodate returns and exchanges.
If you could say something to your fans, what would it be? Likewise to your haters? To the fans; Thanks for the tremendous support thus far! It’s more than appreciated and keeps me motivated for putting out new products. And keep the feedback coming; it’s always good to know what you want to see from VIHMIRU.
To the haters; Well, you’re going to hate aren’t you…
Top 5 favourite albums?
- Wait What – Notorious XX
- Fort Minor – The Rising Tied
- Linkin Park – Reanimation
- Wu-tang vs. The Beatles – Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers
- Dead Prez – Lets Get Free
Shoutouts Big ups to Cal Baker, Studio RUDO, Enclave, FKOF [big up!], BREAKSof10, The Daily Street, Swallows & Daggers, DBD, SGT, Setup85, Brandon D’Orlando, Alex Kel and LiamTheHuman – these guys have been super supportive of everything I’m doing. And a huge shout to everyone else that has been there along the way.
It’s worth noting that VIHMIRU is just Ben. He runs the entire show, from design to marketing to sales – and everything in between. We’ve been consistently impressed with his work with the brand, and are amazed at what he’s built in under a year. All whilst turning down support from external stockists. A truly sensational first year – and we’re pretty sure Ben can only build on these successes!
If you’re keen on what you’ve seen or what you’ve read, head over to the VIHMIRU Facebook page, follow them on Tumblr or Twitter and hit up that all important webstore to support Ben’s hard work and his awesome brand. We will be!
If you have any thoughts on what Ben from VIHMIRU has had to say, or want to recommend us a new brand you’ve discovered or just want a chat about something you’ve seen on FatKidOnFire, fire us a comment below or get in touch via email, Twitter, Facebook or the FKOF TakesQuestions page.