Before I begin here, I should mention that I am in no way a writer. You may catch a mistake or two. If you do, shoot us a message and we’ll get it sorted.
For those who dont know, HALFWITS early days began in February of 2011. It was an off and on project that myself and James van der Woerd began with the intent to fill a creative void we’d had since playing in a metal band together in high school. We needed something other than college and work to focus on. With this, we started screening t-shirts with Adam Szeminski at Champion Print Studio in Oakville, Ontario. Shortly after the idea was conceived, we added a third partner into the mix. Jesse Storey, a university mate of James’ who helped us out with the arrangement of our first HALFWITS video shoot. We started having fun with it. Using our backgrounds in graphic design and film to create content such as, t-shirts, promo videos, and various other marketing materials. With this work in hand, we started hosting our events within the city, that would bring todays HALFWITS family together for a night of music, drinks, and t-shirt slingin’.
This went on for a couple years, until it became apparent to us that it was time to grow. I graduated from my graphic design program, saved some money (very little), quit my job, and on September 1, 2013, became HALFWITS first full-time employee. With me working full-time, we finally had some hours to invest in the work, and decided that it was time we turn HALFWITS into a business, make a break into custom manufacturing, and start building a stronger product around the brand.
With no background in fashion, manufacturing, sourcing, or any of the necessary components to our next step, we had to hit the pavement, and start thinking of our own ways to get to that next step. We began reaching out to friends within the fashion industry, made calls to websites who offered connecting services to overseas manufacturers, read webpage after webpage, and quickly learned that our size (and order minimums at the time), were not what the factories wanted to hear. Doors were slammed shut, and phone calls cut short. After a few weeks of endless searching, countless hours of research, and a lot of ‘no’s', James finally made a breakthrough. We found a beautiful man in Asia over an online discussion forum. Unfortunately, the thread we found him on had been dead for a couple of years. We got lucky. He was still an active user, and responded to a direct message James had sent through. That night, James stayed up until 3AM (due to the 12 hour time difference), and spoke to this amazing man for 3 hours straight. That night, we learned what the basics were for the next leg of our HALFWITS trip. At this point, we hadn’t locked a manufacturing deal, or anything like that, but we had something that in a way, was worth so much more. Someone who was willing to talk to us, and invest their time in us. We couldn’t have asked for a better connection to of been made.
After several more 3 hour calls, we made our second big breakthrough. This man, in Asia, with a factory, fabric, knowledge, and a heart, agreed to take a chance on us. With our production numbers as low as they were, and our knowledge being as minimal as it was, he agreed to give us chance to make HALFWITS really happen. So that was it. Enough said. It was time to work.
We began our sketches, doing design after design. In the end, we produced roughly 60 unique styles for our Spring/Summer ’14 collection, which would eventually be cut down to only 5 styles for production. From here, it was time to put some of our new knowledge to the test, and build our first tech packs. For those who don’t know, a tech pack is the behind the scenes, written breakdown of how each individual article is constructed. The measurements, the fabric weights, and graphic treatments are all detailed within this document. A friend of Jesses’, Chelsea McLean, a designer for Joe Fresh at the time, reached out with a helping hand, offering up her expertise within the world of tech pack construction. After a couple weeks of working with Chelsea, we sent our first batch of tech packs to Asia. A couple months later, we received these articles and got to the next step of the process. We shot our lookbook, hosted a Spring/Summer ’14 launch event at Sneaky Dees in Toronto, and began selling within our first retail location in Toronto, So Hip it Hurts.
Its now November 3, and we’re looking forward to the next year of business for HALFWITS. In the next 6 months we look to drop our Spring/Summer ’15 and Fall/Winter ’15 collections. With a much larger business plan in position, we have began growing our team in Toronto, and with that, are extremely stoked to welcome Phil Decelis to the family. We were invited by Agenda to exhibit in both their Long Beach and New York summer shows this past year, but due to timing, were forced to pass on the opportunity. This year, we plan to attend Agenda New Yorks’ winter show in January, with exhibit plans in the works for summer 2015 in New York.
In September of this year, we were welcomed down to Asia to work on the next two collections we have coming at HALFWITS. The trip was an amazing one. Getting to know the processes of production, getting to know the team that makes it happen, and getting to meet the man who took a chance on 3 HALFWITS from Toronto with an idea. This post is in no way put here to brag, but simply to say that if you want something enough, you’ll lose sleep and make some mistakes, but will do everything you can to see it through. We had no knowledge, no money, and still have a long way to go, but, we’ve come far from a few screen printed t-shirts, and think thats worth sharing with anyone who’s looking to try the same.
This past year has been a crazy trip, and we look forward to seeing how the next ones roll out. Here’s a few photos from our trip to Asia. Have a look and shoot us any questions if you’ve got em.
Mark at HALFWITS
Welcome to the Family
The only time you’ll ever catch HALFWITS on a runway.
Mountain view while on route into Central, on Hong Kong Island.
The side streets of Central, Hong Kong are insane. I was blown away by this cities ability to use every inch of space given to them. These signs are a typographers dream.
Later that day, I took a 4 hour connecting flight to Brunei. I landed at about 10PM local time. We spent a minute catching up, and headed for the hotel. The next morning was a tough one. Im unable to sleep on planes, so between my travel time, delay in Hong Kong, connecting flight, a 12 hour time difference, and a night without sleep due to jet lag, I was beginning day 1 of production on 40 hours without sleep. But, regardless, I was there to do work, so we got out the tech packs, some Malaysian coffee, and got to it.
Myself, Stephen, and Amil, getting into the patterns of our Spring/Summer ’15 articles.
The patterns of our ‘UOFH CREW’ cut and ready for sewing.
Screens for our ‘PROS & CONS’, ‘T DOT’ and future Spring/Summer ’15 articles.
Fabric dying tests of our ‘RUST’ extended length t-shirt.
With any trip, you’ve got to try and get some leisure in, and soak up a little bit of what that country has to offer. I grabbed myself a coffee, in prep for our 3 hour trek through a Bruneian rain forest.
All sweat. We’re talking 35 degrees of dry heat, and some gnarly hills.
As a Canadian, I was shocked to find out that dogs and cats are the vermin of Brunei. Here’s a pooch trying to catch a few scraps from this families picnic at the beach.
Many Bruneian’s, including the Sultan, live on this river. In this shot, the river is at low tide.
After some sight seeing, we got back to it. Here’s Stephen and I getting the dye down for our ‘RUST’ extended t-shirt.
Piece by piece, our collections came together. Here’s a few shots of our ‘UOFH CREW’ being constructed and stitched.
A still factory at the end of a great production trip.
After the last day of production, I retired to the hotel to begin prep for a 20+ hour (sleepless) trip back to Toronto.
Our Friends & Family:
Champion Print Studio
So Hip it Hurts