Fashion Q&A: Acrylick Clothing Founder


People express their feelings through hip-hop, relate to hip-hop and before they know it, they make it their lifestyle. They start to talk, walk and breathe hip-hop. At this point, expressing oneself through music isn’t enough anymore; the world must see which crew or block they represent without opening their mouths. That’s the part where it’s get interesting for fashion designers.

Clothing companies and rappers have effectively taken advantage of the capitalistic side of hip-hop. Ludacris’ red Puma’s will help you keep up a fashionable reputation, and it’ll cost you a pretty penny to become part of Pharrell’s Billionaire Boys Club line. And oh, you burned your G-Unit outfit when you found out who Curtis Jackson really was? No worries, The Game will lace you with a G-UNOT shirt. While tourists knock about the streets of New York in the famous “I Love NY” shirt, rappers go a step further by flashing “I Run NY” shirts. Heads announce their dissension on the current state of the genre through shirts saying “hip-hop was fun” or show their love by wearing an “I am hip-hop” shirt.

Although the past has shown that products sell better when celebrities are involved, there are lots of middle and small design companies that are much more creative, adventurous and talented than Nelly’s Apple Bottoms or Roc-A-Fella’s Rocawear. Los Angeles-based Acrylick Clothing Company is one of them. This crew of devoted hip-hop heads does more than designing original clothing lines to help you get through all four seasons or help express yourself. They release mixtapes through a wide network of DJs and musicians and were one of the sponsors that supported the Rock The Bells Festival among others. One of the founders, Van Truong, sat down with Ballerstatus and enlightened us about their come-up, love for music and how Acrylick Clothing Company strives to be positioned in the fashion industry. Tell me more about how Acrylick was founded and who the people behind the brand are.

Van Truong: Acrylick came to life in 2003. I, Van Truong, and my partner Michael Valenzuela knew each other in school through art/design classes. We came up with the plan to start a clothing line a year after graduating school. We saw that the majority of clothing lines out were not doing anything worth talking about, yet alone worth wearing. Our goal was, to start a line that is meaningful and worth more to ones eyes then being just a shirt with a brand name on it. People shouldn’t be used as billboards for other companies; they should be advertisement for themselves. They should advertise their own personality and being within, by what they wear rather then doing it for the brand, and that is what we began doing.

We became known as the clothing company that makes fashion with a positive message. We put meanings behind every shirt/work/design we created. We believe that things should be some what universal. We don’t believe in conformity of any sort. Each individual embodies their own originative spirit and should share it with others. What we are trying to accomplish is to have our clothing line to be universal. We want our clothing to be worn by everyone no matter what race, creed, gender, or status they are. The core founders of Acrylick Clothing Company consist of me and my co-partner Michael Valenzuela, also Acrylick’s creative director. With contributions and sacrifices we grew as a company, as well as our creative drive to express the true essence of individuality. Where does the name Acrylick come from?

Van Truong: The name originated from the acrylic, as in acrylic paint. We wanted a name that would emphasize our work as being an art form, even though many see our work basically as t-shirts. The name Acrylic fit perfectly in our eyes, and we based our line around the concept we saw in that name. Acrylic paints are used in art. No matter what they are used on, they are seen, whether it may be paper, canvas, cloth, or wood. The paint will make its impact and the artist is able to make his or her impression no matter what their given. So Acrylick was derived from the medium acrylic paint. We use it to symbolize expression. We named our line Acrylick so people would see our clothing as more then something to keep you warm, it’s a medium of expression, a tool to express ones own individualistic spirit, just like artists use paint. We added the “K” at the end to symbolize individuality. Why do we paint our cars different colors? A car is a car, but with that certain color it distinguishes one from others. No matter how you read or pronounce “acrylic” or “Acrylick” it sounds the same to you ears, but the addition of the K instantly adds a new uniqueness and non conformity, making “Acrylick” ours. Cities like New York and Los Angeles are known for their endless artistic possibilities and exhibitions. How has working in Los Angeles contributed to Acrylick’s development?

Van Truong: Los Angeles has a certain vibe no other place has. It’s known as a cultural melting pot, and we use that trait to our advantage. We were born and raised in Los Angeles, and till this day, it melds who we are and who we will become. What better city to grow artistically and mentally than Los Angeles. Having the influences of so many different races and creeds, we consider ourselves open minded and that shows in our designs. Los Angeles isn’t what the majority of the world thinks. Of course it is known for its Hollywood celebrities and so on, but it is so much more to us. Los Angeles makes it possible for a person to start any business, not just a clothing line. The city has so many resources that if you want to start something hard enough, you can, not like certain places where it seems like you’re in a caste system. How would you define Acrylick’s signature style and unique selling points, in what way do you differ from other designers?

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Van Truong: I don’t really know what our signature style is. For this question, I think its best asked toward the masses. All I can say is that we make clothing that we think will serve a purpose besides just keeping you clothed and warm. We want people to think about what is on one of our shirts for more than two seconds. Really the best style is having no certain style. That enables us to adapt to anything that may come our way. What does the process look like of you designing apparel that is appealing to you as well as the target group?

Van Truong: The process begins with a message first. We decide what we want to convey, and work off of that. As for a target group, originally there is no target group. That comes about naturally after the design is complete. To put it simple, if you like what we made, you volunteered to be part of our target group. If you don’t like it, then you are not and we failed in a way I guess. We want everything we put out to be universal, it’s not focused toward one group, and that is what make designing for us harder. There are only enough concepts to work with, but to find one that we think 98 percent of the people would like is hard. We do our best though, and the hard work pays off. What resources do you reply on for inspiration and fresh ideas?

Van Truong: We take our inspiration from the world around us. I know the answer may sound cliché, but that is basically it. We don’t look at anything in particular; we just keep our eyes open. Also, can’t forget about keeping our ears open. Music will always be inspiration, especially hip-hop. Tell me more about your affinity with hip-hop and how it influences your work.

Van Truong: Hip-hop is who we are. Hip-hop is responsible for how we are as individuals. We grew up around the hip-hop culture, and we consider that as a blessing. Hip-hop is really a philosophy as KRS-ONE says. We just like to mesh it with other things. We consider ourselves as philosophy, art, music, and soul. That is also what we see hip-hop as. Do you think it is important to have artists wearing your clothes and promoting your brand?

Van Truong: It’s extremely important. We don’t take it as far as those who believe “any promotion is good promotion, whether good or bad”, even though somewhat true we don’t want to take that route. If we respect the artist we will support to the fullest. We will never give an artist clothes if we don’t like what they do, that would just be hypocritical. If you could dress up any celebrity, who would it be and why?

Van Truong: We never really thought about this, but from the top of our heads we would say Michael Jackson. Not the Michael Jackson now, but the Michael Jackson era 1970-80’s. That would have been a true honor. Michael Jackson during that period was inspiring and showed the world new things never seen before, by really just being himself and doing what he does naturally. I think that was one of his greatest traits. Our clothing is meant as a tool for the individual to emit his or her individuality so I think Michael Jackson ere 1970-80’s would be a great combination. He fell off after the 90’s; I think he’s selling his ranch and giraffes or something. Your gear is mostly sold in California. You’re also represented in Florida, Hawaii and Japan. How difficult was it to market your product in such an extraordinary country as Japan?

Van Truong: Marketing in Japan is different from the US of course, but tastes are similar to the US, so it is not that hard. Hip-hop is big in Japan, and everything hip-hop is regarded highly in Japan as it should be. Our Japanese distributor knew we would do well in Japan just because our brand is hip-hop influenced and somewhat hip-hop inspired. The Japanese culture already is so amazing, just being able to be a part of it is a great honor. Are you considering Europe? Will you introduce your stuff there?

Van Truong: Europe is in our list of goals. Being in Europe would also be a great honor and achievement for our company. But we aren’t just going to stop with Europe; we are aiming for a presence in every continent. We don’t care how big the presence is as long as it’s there. We could be distributed in an area with three million people, but if only five people like us out of that three million, we aren’t really doing much. So to be known in a few areas of different continents where people really dig us is what we prefer, just taking it slow one step at a time satisfying the right audience first. Now that the genre has become so big, hip-hop clothing companies spring up like mushrooms. What advices would you give to companies that are about to enter the fashion industry?

Van Truong: We don’t consider ourselves as the best source to ask for advice since we are still learning ourselves. Some pieces of advice, I guess we could give anyone that wants to enter the fashion industry, is to be you. Don’t try to go only off of emulation, because copying can only get you so far. If that many clothing lines are springing up like mushrooms, you will most definitely get overlooked if you don’t have a trait different from the rest. You must have something to offer that other lines don’t offer. Just ask yourself what you can do that others can’t, and do it at 110 percent. Just continue from there and don’t let anyone hold you down with their comments. Don’t be afraid to learn, and try to take things into your own hands, experience things first hand. If you want to start a clothing line, don’t just learn about design. Actually go put effort in earning how to screen print or sew. Rushing in anything isn’t good, so take your time also. You can’t run if you haven’t learned how to walk yet, right?

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