Grow out of the mud and keep your colour with Minor Formula
The Birmingham brand are encouraging you not to get bogged down by the pitfalls of modern life. They're a brand second and a family first, championing the spirit of collaboration.
If you live in the United Kingdom, no matter the size of the town or city you live in, chances are someone in your vicinity has started a brand. One of the fabulous things about internet DIY culture is that is has democratised who gets to have their art showcased to a wide audience. Across the board we see this from sites like Soundcloud which have launched the careers of some of modern raps biggest names to platforms like Tumblr and Instagram which have made it easier for image makers to have their work showcased. Shopify and Big Cartel have even made online payment so streamlined that having a physical store is no longer a barrier for someone with a product to push. Few brands encapsulate this spirit better than Birmingham based brand Minor Formula. Their lotus logo and proverbial slogans evoke a feeling of spirituality often absent in the trend based flavour of the month nature of modern streetwear. For all the positives of newfound accessibility to creative endeavours, the downside is over saturation. In the same vein of likelihood that someone in your town has started a brand, it is also likely that it was a run of Gildan t-shirts with a random word emblazoned on it. Typically paired with uninspiring imagery. Minor Formula are different and very much here for the long haul. We sit down with one of their co-founders Dquan to talk shop on everything you need to know about the brand.
We see from your site Minor Formula is intended to be a brand that transcends fashion. Why was it important to you to champion creative expression and consciousness?
We’re glad you picked up on that. For us it was never just about the garms, it was to create a vibe. It is about the whole creative and collaborative experience. None of us come from privileged backgrounds and our eyes are open to the struggles which face our generation. On our journey we have met many talented but wasted youth held back and stifled through the lack of hope and opportunity. The capitalist society we live in traditionally prevents growth and restricts consciousness and we recognised that there are many like minded, capable people out there who needed a way to express themselves and a collective that believes in them. Through having supportive and positive forces in our lives we have been fortunate enough to realise that through hard work and self belief you can go a lot further than we have been led to believe and although we haven’t got it all figured out, we wanted to pass this message on. The light is within us all and we are all about encouraging others to recognise this and supporting them in becoming the best version of themselves.
When you're designing clothes, how do you implement psychological concepts in to garment design?
Clothing was the obvious vehicle to carry our message. Through our brand we are drawing attention to what we believe is important. Growing up on tonnes of kung fu and then anime, we stumbled upon this Chinese idiom concerning the lotus, its growth and ability to create absolute beauty throughout difficult circumstances. This resonated with us deeply. The power of nature and its incessant struggle to survive is truly inspirational. We think of the pressure that creates diamonds and the pain that brings life. Positivity is a compelling force and witnessing another soul thrive in difficult circumstances can inspire the resolve to resist and the hope to proceed. So we wanted to set a meaningful example. It’s a known fact that the lotus thrives in muddy environments in which most other plants would capitulate. For us this was a strong message and we hoped that it would be the same for our likeminded comrades. The Chinese slogan you’ll see on some of our designs translates to ‘grow out of the mud and keep your colour’ which is exactly what we are encouraging people to do. This concept is imbedded in everything we do and by basing our designs around larger concepts like the lotus and this idea we aim to remind people of their true potential to prevail and prosper.
We notice from your Instagram you refer to your models as "souls". Why is that?
Modelling is of course typically based around what somebody looks like, how photogenic they are, how they compare to traditional standards of beauty and in this society the more ‘good looking’ you are considered, the more you are celebrated. We do not agree. The souls we work with are wearing Minor Formula because they stand for so much more than what they look like. What we often perceive as beauty if just the outer shell, but we like to acknowledge the soul shining through as they are not just an aesthetic. By identifying our comrades as souls we are looking past their height, gender, colour, race, religion and/or anything else that seeks to define but only divides us.
The casting for your lookbooks and imagery in general is quite eclectic. What do you look for in your models and image makers?
We see beautiful people everywhere, but the people we talk to and collaborate with are on the same wave and that’s why we work with them. We seek out people who we believe can bring our clothing and message to life in a genuine way. To us its more than the look, it’s about the energy you emanate and the ability to transcribe this feeling across, the same goes for the crew behind the scenes. We didn’t want the people we work with to not believe in our mission and see a shoot with us as just another job, it’s imperative that they become part of the family. All of the people we work with, including our models and photographers, honestly wear Minor Formula clothing out of choice and everything we shoot is styled exactly how that model or one of us would wear it. It’s important that the images on our social media pages, on our website reflect what you would see from any one of us just walking down the street. This manifests itself in something that is quite eclectic because everybody has their own way they want to wear the clothes and we trust the people we work with to do their own thing. Our garms are for everybody and we wanted to try to portray this with our imagery.
Does anyone on your team come from a background studying fashion? If not do you feel this is a positive or negative?
None of us have studied fashion or have any educational background relating to fashion and our degrees are arguably unrelated, but we all have indelible experience working within a fashion retail environment which has been so valuable for us since starting off on this road. Working in retail has helped us to meet and work alongside some really cool people, we learnt so many transferable skills working on the ground and we’re lucky that this now helps us when it comes to business development and working with a diverse range of people. Obviously everyone has their own sense of style and being in tune with our generation we hoped to add our own flavour to the scene. Due to us having no professional qualifications in fashion we work predominantly off our instincts. Just about everything we know about fashion and running a business including design, print, photography, marketing, web design, social media etc. is all self-taught, which has been incredibly difficult, but it also makes it all the more rewarding when that hard work pays off and we see people enjoying our work. When it comes to who we work with were not worried about their academics, we feel it’s much nicer to work with someone for their vision, talent and potential whether it comes from university or life experience.
Where do you see Minor Formula within the current streetwear landscape?
To tell the truth, we are not really watching the streetwear scene or the fashion scene in general, we’re so immersed in Minor Formula that its’s hard to keep up with what is going on around us. We understand the market and what is traditionally expected from brands within the fashion industry, but our direction is not determined by market forces, it is determined by our values. If we want to drop something we’re not necessarily waiting for the fashion industries timeline, we’re dropping it when we want and on our terms. We are just starting out and this early on in our journey, It would be unhealthy to compare ourselves to others and try to be overly competitive, we’re just hoping that by being ourselves and doing our own thing we’ll find our space within the industry. We have created our own story and our own vision, it is nowhere near complete but we are on the way.
The Resonate page on your site which features artists you're interested in is a really nice touch and showcases your commitment to a holistic approach to creativity. How do you source the artists you want to feature?
Light is attracted to light. Similarly, to the way we find our models, film-makers etc we are just attracted to their energy, their potential, and their talents. Sometimes we reach out to artists but sometimes they reach out to us too, it’s that mutual recognition which brings us together. We’re incredibly supportive of home-grown talent. We have to be out here to lift each other up and give each other opportunities to prosper. The main thing for us is we don’t want to represent or be represented by anyone that is not sending a positive message. We’re sharing the music and artists that we’re listening to in the office or in the car or in the shower because we actually feel their vibe on a personal level. By sharing that person’s creative gift with other listeners, you are casting such positivity out into the universe, which will create ripples and waves, and that’s what having a platform is all about. We are working hard to build this platform and it’s not just to benefit ourselves but to shine a light on others in a way which can hopefully benefit them too.
What do you feel are the next steps you'd like to take in order to expand the brand? To that end, where do you see the brand being this time next year?
We are a small independent movement in no rush. We prefer for our growth to be steady and organic. We have a lot of stuff in the pipeline and big plans for next year but we have to be selective about how we choose to expand because we want to keep our quality consistent. Definitely more blogs, events, short films, pop up shops and collaborations with many more talented souls. Longer term we would love to bring out a solid sustainable range of clothing and be able to support other independent businesses and the community a lot more. We have been working on establishing ourselves more within Birmingham (our home town) and are planning to reach out to foreign lands and spread the love. What is to be will be. We thrive to survive and really that’s all we know. We are real people and we really do believe that there is more to this façade and we just want to show people that we are all very special and can change the world if only we realised the power that we have been vested with. Hopefully if we keep at it the ideas will manifest into some sort of truth. We’re just blessed to be able to use our time here to learn and then teach, we listen and we tell, ‘cause if we share we will grow.
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