Locally-based Monark Clothing & Apparel, founded in 2010 by Jordan Muench, David Iwane and Kevin Griffith, has recently skyrocketed in popularity among Denver’s local skate and underground music culture. After forming their own skate team, an appearance of one of their shirts in a Mac Lethal Drunken Rant video, and a new summer 2013 line, their success continues to grow – and Grimey Gatsby was lucky enough to sit down with Jordan, Kevin and David for a few minutes to ask a few questions!
– Can you introduce yourself to our audience, tell us a little bit about yourself, and your clothing line?
I’m Jordan, 24 years young and a native to Colorado. I am the owner as well as the head printer and marketer of Monark Clothing. I am accompanied by my partner David Iwanne (head graphic designer, marketer, Photographer) and friend Kevin Griffith (designer, labor.) Monark is an Acronym for Modern Organic Neurons Are Re-invigorating Knowledge ; an idea that stemmed from my personal and extreme fascination with graffiti and art in general. “Graffiti really was the gateway to exploring my own creativity. It opened my eyes to a different way of communicating with the world around me.” I used to watch adult swim religiously and was a gigantic fan of a show, The Venture Bros; specifically the Monarch character. In my perception, ‘The Monarch’ was a villain and wanted to be respected as such, without hurting anybody. He would chronically kidnap the children of his arch nemesis and hold them captive meanwhile showering them with junk food and perfect care. “ I was craving that same method but art related; I wanted to be known as a graffiti artist without hurting my community or my future. The more I thought about graffiti, the more I wanted it, needed it, dreamt of it.” I had been writing names like GHOST, MS, Reap, and REEL. One night while up late, I just splashed out Monarch and kind of liked how the letters moved with one another. Throughout the next week or so, I wrote it over and over and over. Beginning to love the alias, I concluded that it needed meaning. The internet had engulfed me in documentaries about artists like Iz The Wiz and Invader , Shepard Fairey and Banksy. The other artists were really a push to make monarch mean more than just a name. Playing with the letters, I tried acronym after acronym with no luck. Slowly over the following weeks, certain words would come up through trial and sounded good, strong; worthy. Upon arriving on the concluded wording, I began working towards a design. Nothing less then a perfect representation of the meaning would suffice, especially after all of the paper and time used to arrive at that moment (haha.) I wrote the meaning of MONARK down on my pad, and started describing the meaning to really think the design process through. Arriving on the M, it first was bent to fit into a circle, the earthly symbol for wholes and cycles. Then given a star; The star represents the 5 factions of the acronym not represented by the letter M. Really quite simple for such a long complicated process.
– What was your motivation to get this off the ground? How has the line developed since it first launched? Do you undertake all of the work yourself?
A friend at the time would come over after work some nights to relax and could only help but to take interest in what I was so infatuated with, I wasn’t even watching tv some nights. From roughly 10 pm until 5 am, I would work on designs, and photos, and drawings. One night, I created a stencil of a moth and had remembered seeing a commercial for a custom T shirt shop online. I plugged the logo in and was hooked after seeing it on a shirt! “ I remember the idea hitting me like a bolt of lightning… Shirts. Shirts are mobile, personable, and offer an individual that can represent me, that can annunciate a dialogue, one thing I felt shirts did better than a wall could.” I bought the first shirt, and had it rush delivered. It was awesome, I was ecstatic upon the arrival it. After that it turned to two, then 3 then 5. By then my friends were beginning to take notice of these new and odd shirts with a logo most had never seen before. Out of sheer curiosity, they were all starting to create a mini buzz about what I was doing. Soon surfacing, A friend had some extra money and wanted two custom shirts. Upon delivery, he wasn’t 100% happy with his order. Unfortunately, I had hit the printing limitations of this facility and with a client and friends personal order none the less. It was then I realized that like in anything, if you want it done right, you must do it yourself. Thus beginning the tedious process of researching how , how would it.. Could it be possible? When I felt like I had a firm grasp on the ideas, I decided that a heat press and plotter would suit us best for making 1 off, artistic type prints and stickers with the Beyond limited budget a 21 kid is endowed to while working part time at a sushi restaurant. Up until this point, I had been a huge car nut and had working a project VW golf. To afford my new clothing gadgets, I had to sell my project car. It was the hardest leap I had ever made, selling out one hobby for another. Adding extra sting, I still couldn’t afford the heat press to get the logo onto the shirts. I took the plunge and got the plotter anyway, as I figured 2nd to cars, I have been a sticker junky my whole life as well. Kevin primarily comes into the picture now and helps me start to digitize my logos to use with a plotter. Out of my natural curiosity and lack of kevin’s time, training began with Kevin who to this day is still my go to Adobe Illustrator Guru. Pouring all this love into stickers wasn’t going un-noticed as friends were beginning to ask for these M Star stickers. This led my close friend Pawel to eventually loan me the cash to purchase our heat press. “ Being that my friends had led me to starting monark, I wanted to get going and make them proud”
Learning how to use, let alone master a complex device such a plotter, heat press or a t shirt canvas was no simple overnight task. Many shirts went to waste, donations, trash, and still the hands of individuals dying for a taste of this up and coming unknown brand. As the designs progressed, the fan base grew. Around this time, David became really involved in the company and was inputting designs, concepts and ideals. His work ethic was what I personally felt to be a match to me and was exactly the type of person I clicked with bouncing ideas off of and having a beer too; I felt like after david joined the fight, We had this new life. I was proud to say I was doing it all yet slowly starting to see that david could bring my ideas to life via design leaving me time to market, print, and ship. It really allowed me the chance to master my other lacking traits, The shirts.
From start to finish, Monark is an inside job. David and I will have a brainstorming session or two, followed by him returning a design of great caliber. I then will plot layout, cut, assist in weeding and print the shirts. Recently adding sewing to the repertoire, I have been trying to really bump up the image of our clothing with tags and custom liners. “Sometimes, I’ll even personally deliver an order that is within a reasonable mileage of my house. If I’m lucky enough to bump into the person, it’s nice to show them we are still a small niche group and appreciate the order.” – Jordan
– How would you say your education and experiences in school and beyond lead you to the role in which you are working today, if at all?
Formal Education has played a much larger part in the lives of David and Kevin. Both have taken many art and design classes. Thus far, I have the least amount of formalized classroom time, but I learned most of my knowledge from either internet videos, forums and websites, or trying! As a whole, we have shared our different educational backgrounds. Once joining forces, Monark as a whole began to have a local presence unlike anything we had yet experienced. People would recognize us at the skate parks, bars and even once in the drive through at taco bell early one morning. “In complete honesty, I feel as though we (Monark) could be further along had we relinquished more education, but that is a side effect of the unknow and easy to speculate. Coming back to reality, I feel as though we have fared much better than most other local companies directly competing with us(Me too.) I ran out of fingers to count how many others I have seen start up and fizzle out just as quickly. A lot of people come out to our shows and see us selling shirts, smiling, laughing and having a great time. Little do they see or understand that thousands of dollars, endless hours of personal time and just that ‘grind’ that running a small company carries with it. Not to mention all of us (Kevin, dave and Jordan) working full time side gigs and it kind of begins to sound like a miracle that we have even made it this long! It takes a whole hell of a lot of work to have a small and semi successful company. Don’t expect it to just fall in your lap, no matter how good of an idea or design.With the hardwork of us three, the fan loyalty of our friends and the hard earned paychecks invested it could really be anything we are doing; Clothing just was the fit for the time being. ” – Jordan , David
– What have been your most succesful designs? Why do you think that is?
By far, enjoy Colorado is our most successful design. People that own the shirt are constantly telling me about how many individuals give kudos for the shirt/hat! I belive that design is most successful because of not only it’s actual message, but because of the delivery with the navy blue shirt and Colorado colors, and the options of others to buy the shirt and represent the same idea. Colorado is a state of individuals trying to enjoy, weather that be outdoors hunting, skateboarding, walking, making music, anything! People from Colorado and quite a few visitors just can’t get enough of Colorado, and this shirt says that ideally. Hands down, anything Colorado has sold like hot cakes. People love our state weather they live here or are just on vacation. When it was first released, we did a giveaway for 5 shirts; details roughly were typical of a facebook giveaway, like and follow for a chance to win. Just a day later, we had 135 photo likes and roughly 100 new followers. This was already the most viral anything we had done up to the present day. By the end of the week when the giveaway concluded, we had over 1100 likes and 300 new fans. Considering it had taken us almost a year to reach 100 likes, and another year to reach 400, the jumping to 700 in a week was cause for serious celebration. Roughly a year has passed and that design has double the views of anything else in our store, and about sells better than our number 2 shirt by 1700 % haha. That design has really been a beacon drawing people to us, starting conversations and gaining loyal fans who want to support!
– If you can, describe your creative process for fabrication?
Jordan : Funny enough, the jack Johnson mix and mac lethal discography along with some good beer have been my key to ultimate success. They keep me calm and help pass the time! I also have to put myself under a little stress. The lack of time makes me think clearly and stay focused. Most of my creativity comes out in how to “deliver” (for lack of a better work) the design best on whatever garment it’s being printed on. (ex. The headphones hoodie is one of my favorite designs because before I was personally printing in our studio, I took the idea to a screen printer who in essence laughed his ass off when I showed him. He told me it would not be possible, and if it were, it would cost easily $150. Walking back in about 6 months later in my fresh pressed headphone hoodie; seeing his face when I told him I printed it for less than half of what he quoted me; It was worth all the work it took to learn how!)
– How would you describe Denver and Colorado’s fashion scenes?
We haven’t really thought of our company as a fashion forward or conscious company before. We have always just made what we think is cool and what we like to wear and ironically, other people share that passion. Until lately when we could add some more artistic flair, this has helped us grow as a company. Now we are trying to build a bigger following by upping the amount of effort we input to our garments. We don’t think we will break any fashion trends, but the 3 biggest malls in Denver selling knock offs of our enjoy Colorado logo is enough of sign we are definitely on the right track!
– What brands, artists and general fellow creative minds would you say have inspired the Monark brand?
Banksy, Gamma Acosta, Invader, shepard Fairey, dread, mac lethal, atmosphere, Einstein, BMX, Skate, Our FANS have inspired us most in the demands and boundaries they dare us to push to create the next great purchasable masterpiece. From customized designs to color combos, shoes, hats and lack of funds, we have always tried to accommodate the reason(s) why we have people to sell to!
– How would you define being successful in what you do? Money, appreciation, trend recognition, fame, etc?
felt successful the first time I saw a shirt. It felt like something that had felt un purposeful for so much of my life was now paying off. All the years of doodling in the margins, and trying to mimic logos I saw has made re-creating art work now so much easier!Money definitely helps you feel appreciated, and that you have studied your target audience well. It also helps us eat and pay rent people!
I kind of hope to never feel successful; I will just light a camp fire and chill!
– What would you say sets Monark apart from other local brands?
I would say as individuals, we offer a great take on a “company.” We know how to do so many things between layout, print, design, website, labor, social media and just overall creativity; We bring a passion and fire to the table that most people could only expect from individuals twice our age. We also support the locals a lot. From bands, companies and our awesome Team riders, The locals are our support system and we couldn’t do it without them. We know that, we love that, we respect that.
– Do you try to send out a message or theme in your clothing?
Modern Organic Neurons Are Re-invigorating Knowledge is the only message we generally push onto people. Broken down to us, it means
M- exists in current or present age.
O-formulated without chemical or artificial ingredients
N- the primary cell that transmits nerve impulse
R- giving new life to
K – awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
Simply, Currently Existing individuals who live life free of any inorganic actions will recreate what is known as fact or knowledge in the modern world. We will change the world.
This is a little bit of exerpt from a little bit of writing I am assembling called The Monark Manifesto.
” our imminent enemy lies within: the lack of thought and truth exchanged within our society. Even greater an enemy resides with those concealing knowledge which then leads us to the greatest of our enemies: false truths based upon (in some cases) multiple lifetimes of repression through re-navigation, principles, modifications (both mental and mechanical) and finally lack of instinct. Understand that most individuals are surrounded by others who feed into the lifestyle of laze and “adequate.” ‘A revolution cannot begin without a revolutionary thought or idea’ we say. ‘What is at the core of every persons dream? A thought of turning that dream into reality. By acting on that intuition, you have become a Monark and opened a door to endless truths for the seeking.’ Your mind will make this apparent as it begins to start wandering that endless road, full with copious amounts of thoughts and possibility for the taking. “
– What kind of plans and goals do you have for your brand in the future? Any future ideas and exclusives you can share with Grimey Gatsby and their audience?
We really want to create and market some kind of an idea to financially support ourselves in the future. As a company, everything is is well oiled and ready for a long hard winter!
We have some huge plans for the winter. We will be releasing some new and very clean/classy hats. We will also release two more Limited release ladies Garments. These runs will be no more then 10 pcs each. As for the fellas, we are going to be launching a new section in the monark online store called “The Thrift Store” which will allow users to out extremely niche finds from thrift stores that have been fixed and ‘Monarked’ in some way. They will be available for direct sale instead of a usual Bid type so We are super excited to try and drive some more website traffic to Monarkclothing.com
as well as our Social Media Platforms.
We (Kevin, David, Jordan) Would like to thank Grimey Gatsby for the opportunity to tell our story, our families and friends for the copius amounts of support and gratitude for our passion, and to our future fans, we look forward to meeting and sharing some of our love with you.
Did we mention they’ve got a skate team?
MONARK Clothing Presents: Aaron Lee from MONARK Clothing on Vimeo.