In this interview Jerry, CEO of Infinite Apparel’s iconic and expanding empire, talks about how Infinite Apparel is living up to its mission is to unite dedicated artists and creators through fashion-focused endeavors.
- For those who do not know you; can you please introduce yourself? Absolutely. My name is Jerry Cannon and I’m the owner of, and an artist on, InfiniteApparel.com.
- When was Infinite Apparel started? Tell us a little bit about your background: Infinite Apparel was originally called Infinite Bit. I used Infinite Bit interchangeably as a pseudonym long before it became a brand. I started selling clothing under the name Infinite Bit in 2013. We made the switch to Infinite Apparel more recently in 2017 as we wanted Infinite Bit to become our in-house brand and it is still the title for our Facebook page. I’m originally from just outside of Philadelphia (now in Colorado), and have been designing websites since 1997. My father owns his own business so I guess the entrepreneur-bug was contagious. During my high school years, I studied commercial art and digital advertising at a vocational school for 4 hours a day while taking weekend classes at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. During my senior year I also worked for a local web design company part-time after school. After high school, I moved to Baltimore for college and attended Maryland Institute College of Art where I studied interactive art & design. Just recently I found some t-shirts design I made during my high school years so I guess this has always been a love of mine.
- What is unique about Infinite Apparel and your mission? What was your inspiration? Our mission is to unite dedicated artists and creators through fashion-focused endeavors. With Infinite Apparel, I wanted to create a platform where artists felt confident that they would be paid fairly, and have the highest-quality products to represent their artworks. Another element that I feel is unique to Infinite Apparel is our garment design. I know many people have grown incredibly tired of seeing the same trite “slap an image all over it” designs without any intention behind the design or any care for the placement of the imagery. Sublimation fashion is a fantastic new printing technology of the last decade and I want to see it utilized for so much more than novelty t-shirts. We feel the artwork needs to compliment the fashion, and vice versa. We take our time working with each artist to design garments that best compliment their styles. Our goal is to have the artist be thrilled with the final design, the look and feel of the completed garments, and the service they receive throughout the entire process. This guarantees that they and their fans will be happier to wear them and share them. As for my inspiration, I’m absolutely inspired by the artists. Hearing the stories of artists, their inspirations, their struggles, their disciplines and techniques — it’s the most inspiring part of this job day-in and day-out. If you’d like to share this inspiration, each artist we work with has a collection of their own on the website. This collection page has a photo of the artist, a short bio, and links to the artist’s websites and social media accounts so that new fans know how to stay in touch. You can find each page under the “Artists” link in the header of our website.
- We noticed Infinite Apparel is much more than just an ecommerce site for artwear prints on clothing, accessories & Decor but also some sort of movement in the way you promote emerging artists and fashion designers. Given that most Art fairs & marketplaces usually focus on galleries, why focus on the artists? We’re glad you noticed! The amazing and talented artists we work with ARE what make the brand. Their stories, their creativity, and their incredible works are what fuel our brand internally and also what keeps so many fresh new designs flowing to our store. Our care and attention to making this an enjoyable experience for each artist is what we like to think sets us apart the most. Sometimes beyond the artists we make clothing with, we share art that we see and love to our social media channels, tagging the artists in each post. This is done just to help promote emerging artists for the love of art. So many of the artists who’s works we share respond thanking us for doing so and it brings a smile to our face as we hope it does to theirs. It’s hard to make it as an artist and I guess this is our way of showing some solidarity amongst peers. Not every artist gets into galleries, and not every gallery has the time to manage merchandising thus they resort to generic on-demand websites that anyone can use. As an artist myself, I found most of the generic on-demand websites make the artists do all the work designing products and setting up their stores to only give them about 5-10% of the net profits (if even that much). There are so many wonderful artists out there struggling to have their works seen and unable to create quality garments to sell to their friends and fans. We offer each artist 30% of profits with an app to track sales and commissions, incredible pricing to purchase and sell their own line of clothing themselves (if they so choose to), and unique garments with intentional placement and design to best represent their works. All of our products are also made in America to ensure quality control and to make sure we don’t risk sending artworks to countries that do not adhere to US intellectual property laws. In addition, we take the time to set up each artist’s collection and product pages, handle the display photos, and market each artist’s works and products to thousands of our followers. We aim to make it easier for artists to spend more time doing what they do best, creating! Recently we’ve found many local fashion designers who also go through many of the same fears about having their patterns knocked-off or stolen, not having the time to run the ins-and-outs of running a store, or are unable to keep up with demands. We’re currently working on a similar arrangement to the one we have with the artists. You can expect some exciting announcements about this in early-mid 2019.
My ComeUp Story
- How did your journey as a visual artist get started? I took so many art classes in my childhood that it’s hard to pinpoint just one instance where my journey as a visual artists got started. As a child, I always knew I wanted to be a zookeeper or an artist. That was the choice in my mind. I even volunteered at a local zoo for a stint during my teenage years. Not long after that I realized I didn’t have the stomach to watch animals die and In 2004-05 I entered into a commercial art class at my local vo-tech school in Norristown, PA. After a year learning hand-drawn advertising techniques, I opted to switch to the digital side of advertising & design. After graduating high school and technical school, I attended Maryland Institute College of Art to study Interactive Art & Design. I worked several jobs in vastly different industries until I decided to return to what I loved and rise to the occasion.
Share about your 3 favorite artists and fashion designers . What do you like most about them? It’s so hard to pick 3 favorite artists.
1. “I walked into Yayoi Kusama’s infinity room “Fireflies on the Water” in the Whitney Museum in 2002 and I think that really set the stage for my love of Infinity.
2. “Peter Max is definitely another large inspiration of my own artwork as his rainbow illustrations for The Beatles have a nostalgic link to my early childhood and really developed my love for psychedelic art. and
3. “Chris Dyer was really one of the artists who first caught my eye in the visionary art movement. I love his influence from skateboarding culture, reading about experiences with psychedelics and finding his own peace, and his colorful and illustrative style. I had a magical experience at Alex Grey’s COSM where I took a skateboard painting class taught by Chris and spent a few days learning from him.”
My 3 favorite fashion designers would be:
- Gianni Versace for constantly bringing a constant wave of ingenuity and vivid color to haute couture.
- Much like Versace, Jeremy Scott is a major fashion inspiration and like Andy Warhol did to the art world, Scott has played a monumental role in reshaping the fashion industry. From his time at Adidas to his own high fashion brand, Moschino, I admire Jeremy Scott for bringing pop culture to the runway in a creative and tasteful way when it was once looked at as being kitsch.
- This last one is a serious toss-up between to vastly different candidates:
James Jebbia, the owner and designer of Supreme took skateboarding culture from a streetwear brand in a single shop into a billion dollar brand that just launched a collaboration with Luis Vuitton. From streetwear to the runway is a brilliant leap.
AND Nixi Killick, who is a brilliant up-and-coming Australian designer that brings an incredible level of psychedelic colors and futurism to each of her clothing lines. Her photoshoots are also incredibly vivid and fantastic. Definitely a personal favorite.
- How do you view the competitive landscape for Infinite Apparel? How did you start believing in your own work? What made you really to want launch and to carve out a niche for Infinite Apparel? I think the competitive landscape is certainly a bit rough out there. I also know that it’s also going to get a lot easier over the next year for us as we continue to set ourselves apart and carve our place in it. There aren’t a lot of companies selling high-quality on-demand products that are accessible to artists at reasonable rates. Of the websites that give artists their own page or collection, many of them are not these companies don’t need to improve quality or focus on the artists because they are focused on quantity over quality. Thus they give the artists maybe five or ten percent of the profits. Most of these companies all feature the same garments that artists can choose from and many of them are printed onto pre-sewn garments causing white streaks in the prints. These sites aren’t artist-specific and thus will allow any user to upload works to these garments. Very few artists want their works listed alongside novelty shirts or t-shirts with photos of someone’s grandma or pug dog. Although I’m sure grandma is sweet and the pup is cute, It’s not a very high level of creativity. Many artists feel it cheapens the appearance of their products. I think this is what made me want to launch and carve out a niche for Infinite Apparel. Hearing happy artists and customers has always helped me believe in my work. Whether I see someone in person wearing a shirt we’ve produced, receive a fan photo or review, or get positive feedback from a happy artist, it always reaffirms the mission in a deeply positive and gratifying way.
- What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started Infinite Apparel? Infinite Apparel is my first business and I’d have to say that the biggest lesson I’ve learned is related to entrepreneurship. I’ve truly learned that passion needs patience. What I mean by that for the majority of entrepreneurs, the road to achieving dreams is a long one. I used to want instant gratification, or feel like there was some key that would unlock a magical door to success. I think in reality, I needed to learn more and over time and from experience, I feel confident in my work and the brand today. I like to ask myself (and sometimes others) this question about passion-projects: “Can you see yourself doing this in 10 years?”. Let me explain the gravity of “ten years” because it’s an intentional length of time. You can try something once, definitely. You could maybe even do it for a year, or two, or five. Sure. But a full decade? If we’re lucky, that is an eighth to a tenth of our lifespan. If the answer is yes, you can see yourself doing it for ten years, then stay the course. I ask myself that question nearly every day and up until now, the answer has always been yes.
- What is the biggest challenge you have overcome by creating an artists marketplace centred around the artist and not the gallery? How has that impacted the way Infinite Apparel has developed? Planning is key. The biggest challenge in the beginning was having enough new art to market and release and having the releases in time for major seasonal holidays and events. We’re approaching year 5 now and finally overcame this challenge early in year three. So it definitely took time and work to get here.
- When you launched Infinite Apparel, what “big” problem did you set out to solve? We sort of touched on this one a bit. But definitely the ethics of on-demand sublimation in regards to artist-payments and intellectual property was the first “big” problem we aimed to solve.
- Breaking into the fashion & arts industry isn’t an easy feat. What advice would you give young people looking to form their own companies? Marketing tips? If you’re venturing into e-commerce, definitely look into Shopify as it has a theme store for helping choose the layout of your store, an app store for almost any additional component you’d like to add to your store (without paying a web developer), and some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced in my life. If you’re simply entering into arts & fashion in another capacity, make sure it’s something you have the passion and patience for, and smile often. As for marketing tips, treat fans as friends and create engaging content that isn’t pushy about selling. A great product and even better customer service will create a long-term customer which is much more valuable. Also, have a plan and learn how to test it. There is a wealth of information available for free on the internet. Hubspot.com is a wonderful company and a great place to start.
My Daily Behind the Scenes
- Where do you find your inspiration? Music festivals, fashion shows, and local art galleries are great ways I’ve found inspiration. As well as the Shopify Masters Podcast which I listen to frequently for more business or web-related inspiration. I’ve also really fine-tuned our social media following on facebook and instagram to only show us artists and fashion designers we feel inspire us and to best keep up with the amazing creatives who motivate us.
- What is your role in the company now? And how involved are you in the day-to-day and overall operations? I am still currently a workhorse for Infinite Apparel running many jobs at once. Whether it’s artist relations, order management, marketing, customer service, production management, garment design, web design, or even accounting, I’m wearing that hat most of the time still. I have several teammates who off-and-on assist with operations, and wonderful relationships with artists and American manufacturers who deserve a lot of credit. This is something that will hopefully change over the next year as I pass off many of these roles to other qualified candidates.
- What is one thing you do when you’re feeling stuck creatively? The wonderful thing about being an artist and a business owner is the ability to shift gears between each of them. When hitting a creative block with my artwork, I just go back to work for the business. When I’ve had enough of work, I’ll often make art in my studio or on my laptop. It’s a cycle i’ve become accustomed to and thoroughly enjoy. For relaxation, I occasionally enjoy ice skating or playing hockey, going to comedy shows, or going to festivals with friends.
- Is it fair to assume that Infinite Apparel works with just “top” artists & fashion designers with large acceptance ? What happens when newly established outfits approach Infinite Apparel? Do you turn them away?
We truly look for a balance. We definitely way the following and accolades of artists in our consideration process or adding new artists. However, it’s not the only factor that we look at. This is truthfully a topic we talk about at least once a month even when considering our social media schedule. We try to maintain a mix of “top” artists and emerging artists. When selecting emerging artists we look for artists with a large portfolio of which most truly fits our brand style. We look to see that these artists are positive and active in their community, and have a true dedication to their craft. We do only accept a small amount of artists annually that get full collections, and thus we inevitably do have to turn some people away. We do also have buy-in packages for artists who want to have products made to sell themselves (whether or not those products will be featured on our online store). When we turn artists away, we’re really only saying that we can’t commit to buying-in for them yet. Sometimes we will be open to charging a small set-up fee and running a smaller number of artworks and garments from the newly established artists. This is with the hopes of them steadily growing in sales and rising through the ranks. This has happened a good handful of times over the years.
- Aside from Infinite Apparel, of course, who else do you think is doing good things in your industry right now? There are a lot of people out there doing great things. Vision Labs and Threyda are both companies who, like Infinite Apparel, pay their artists fairly and manufacture their products in America. Tyler Wallach is a wonderful artist and business owner running his own brand and doing some fantastic things in fashion, and Grassroots California have always done fair by their artists even though their hats are now made in China.
- What misconceptions about the “visual art” market do you aim to change with the help of Apparel ? Two main ones come to mind immediately. We want to change the old-fashioned stigma that commercialization is commodification, and hopefully chip away at the age-old “starving artist” trope. Instead we aim to merge the worlds of fashion and art with a platform to truly benefit these creators.
- What would you like to achieve before the end of 2018? My goals for the end of 2018 are to successfully launch 150+ brand new additions to the web-store and market them to our truly fabulous fans. Also to complete the prototyping and design phase of our new 2019 design and begin preparation for the many custom garments to come in 2019.
- What is Infinite Apparel’s long-term goal and what’s in the pipeline? Our long-term goal is to create a platform for a curated roster of artists, giving them the ability to design their own athletic wear, street wear, and rack clothing, and then earn the ability to collaborate with fashion designers to create never-before-seen garments that bring their art to life. Our biggest launch of artist -fashion designer collaborations to date will be happening in 2019.
- What’s one dream you’ve achieved that you’re most proud of and why? Truthfully the best dream of all is getting this business off the ground. I would also have to say that having my garments featured on runways has been an incredible honor, as well as working with over 100 different visual artists who I’ve admired and look up to in so many ways.
- If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your teenage self? Focus less on other people’s opinions, don’t stress the small stuff, and tell your family you love them more.