This is the sixth edition of the Indie Tee Spotlight and this week I highlight Daren Girdner and his brand Never In Wonderland Clothing, or, as it is often referred to, NIWL.
Daren started NIWL in July 2007 with the help of his girlfriend, Kassie.Â Since then, NIWL has been a team effort between both Daren and Kassie with the both of them sharing promotion, packaging and selling duties. I was fortunate to have a word with Daren and we talked a bit about how he runs NIWL, the secret behind the NIWL name, that Johnny Cupcakes incident and how he has used the Internet to market his brand.Â
Coty: You started NIWL just a little over a year ago (July 2007) “for fun”, what has the experience been like for you since turning your fun idea into an actual business?
Daren: It’s been really fun! It’s amazing to see how well the reactions are from all these kids who enjoy what my girlfriend, Kassie, and I are doing. NIWL is like our baby, we watched it start out from just a few ideas, and now we are watching it grow.
Coty: The first tee you produced for sale was “Hungry for Cupcakes”, you no longer have that one available for sale on your website. What did that tee look like?
Daren: That tee was printed on American Apparel, and it featured only a 12 inch print, with a little zombie monster holding cupcakes. After we released it, we sold a few, and Johnny Cupcakes and his designers sent us threatening messages, saying we ripped him off, and that we must take it down. At the time I designed that shirt and got it printed, I had no idea who Johnny Cupcakes was, or what he was about. After selling all those shirts, we decided to never print anything with cupcakes on it again. We respect and love what Johnny is doing, we had no intention of copying him! But you live and you learn.
Coty: Your brand name, Never In Wonderland, is an interesting choice. What does it mean and how did you come up with it?
Daren: Honestly, there is no real story about where Never In Wonderland came from. After brainstorming some ideas, I just came up with that name. People think that since Kassie and I don’t use drugs, Never In Wonderland was meant as an anti-drug reference, which is not what our company is about at all. We do what we like, and you do what you like.
Coty: You run your own business and yet you just graduated from high school a few months ago. Other than running NIWL, what else are you up to? Have you followed through with your plans of majoring in photography? If not, what other things are you up to?
Daren: Currently, I am just working on NIWL. Next semester I plan on going to college for photography, but I’m not sure where yet.
Coty: Many indie brands hire artists to design tees for their brand. Do you design the NIWL artwork yourself or do you hire artist to do the drawing for you?
Daren: In the beginning of NIWL, I used to design the stuff myself but after awhile I felt that I would be better off hiring artists.
Coty: There are a ton of quality indie tee brands out there at the moment, which are some of you favorites? Was there any particular brand that inspired you when you first started out?
Daren: Right now I am currently into 410BC. I really enjoy what they are doing, and they have a little bit of something for everyone. I believe that they are going to go a long way if they keep at it.
As for inspiring brands that helped me start there really aren’t any. I mean, when I was growing up my uncles and aunts were all silk screening their own shirts and trying to sell them over the Internet. So I guess I just picked up from that and did my own thing with it. I’ve never really looked up to any brands because I was way to busy looking up to bands like Blink-182. I never figured I would be selling shirts over the Internet. But I love it and seems like a lot of kids are enjoying what we do so that makes it even better. If I had to pick one brand that I look up to currently I would say Johnny Cupcakes.
Coty: One of the most important things for new brands is to get exposure. What are some of the things that NIWL is doing to get the NIWL brand noticed? How have you used the Internet to maximize your brand exposure?
Daren: Well so far we have only used the Internet for exposure. We haven’t sold at any shows or things of that nature. But it seems like the Internet has been getting the job done for us. As corny as it is we just have a MySpace account that kids see and they check out our website and if they dig it hopefully they buy a shirt, and if they don’t then they move on. It is as simple as that. But don’t get us wrong we would love to sell at shows and things like that. We just haven’t had the chance to yet.
Coty: Finally, you’ve mentioned on your blog that your goal would be to open up a NIWL boutique. Running a physical store takes a lot of dedication and hard work. In an ideal world, what would be your time frame for accomplishing this goal? What other goals do you currently have for NIWL?
Daren: Depending on how things go with NIWL we hope to get our own store 2-3 years from now. Man, we have so many goals that we would like to accomplish it just takes time. When we first started out one of our goals was to get cut and sew t-shirts made, and we did it. We want to get into a lot more cut and sew things such as sweaters, denim, etc.
*I’d like to thank Daren for allowing me to interview him and also his patience in waiting for me to get the interview questions to him! I’d like to wish both Daren and Kassie the best with NIWL and that in the near future I can shop in a NIWL boutique!