when i’m not listening to techno, reviewing house or arguing over bass music, i like to wear clothes. i like to try and wear ones not every other douche has on, and ones that aren’t just emblazoned with random bull shit quotes and meaningless numbers. one place i go when searching out such attire is to the excellent million hands website. reasonably priced, comparatively limited, sexily designed and often tied in with some top underground labels, it’s one of the best sites around for chic clothing. so, as i often do, i began wondering about how it all came about. fast forward a few weeks and you have this interview with tom, the brains behind it all. the shop changes its products on a pretty regular basis, so fan up on facebook and follow them on twitter to keep in the loop.
so have you always been an electronic music fan? what sorts of sounds have given you your kicks over the years?
i’ve always loved music and sharing music with people. kick’s wise: prince was the dude who made me want to pick up a guitar and thus start making music, when i saw purple rain when i was about 10 or 11.
i love the first daft punk album, early basement jaxx – pretty popular stuff, but great nonetheless. good house music always touches me, recent stuff mcde, move d, john talabot album, lone, that moodymann remix of pollyn was a bit special, some of mosca’s stuff is pretty cool in that bumping new/old garage style.
and what’s your own background? are you a fashion designer or entrepreneur or tee shirt lover or…?
i made music for a good few years, and over that time had the good fortune to develop relationships with various labels and musical fruits.
i had had various mcjobs to support my musical income, and the idea for millionhands came to me during a long cold winter when i was living in berlin. i guess i am an entrepreneur now. i wasn’t when i started ☺
club culture and clothing don’t have the best history – what was your plan when you first started the shop? did you know what you did and did not want to do? how so?
judge jules was a big influence…. ho ho ho.
no, i’d always been a bit precious about creative projects. trying to make stuff too perfect, i was lucky enough to have a mentor when i started who just kept pestering me to get started. the goal quickly became ‘sell that first t-shirt’. which we did and it grew from there.
i remember not so long ago when hawtin got seriously dissed for his clothing range – now it all seems ok. what’s changed do you think?
ha. i went to the launch hawtin’s range when i was in berlin. crazy asymetrical bizzle. nothing that i would wear, but fairplay to him for taking it on. saw this graphic the other day, just said ‘haters gonna hate’.
i get the feeling sometimes from ‘the scene’ that it’s bad for people to try new stuff, different styles of music, different flavours, but as a creative individual i think that that’s what keeps you sane… innovation comes from experiments, not from doing the same stuff you’ve always done. the interesting shit happens when you get out of your comfort zone, so personally i take my hat off to him.
is it all single-handed? have you sourced all the tees etc yourself? what are the things you look for in the products you sell? quality, materials, eco-friendliness etc
my wife molly has helped a lot, she keep things moving behind the scenes as does my good friend and talented designer lee murray.
in terms of the products we sell, we are about quality and we tend take the eco option where possible. the idea behind what we do can be summed up as ‘boutique merchandise’. the physical side of this industry has been shrinking for a while. long gone are the days where you could press up a vinyl record and know that if it was half decent you’d sell 3-4k copies. you can see the shift in focus with the records that appear on vinyl, it shows the emphasis is shifting to quality, not quantity.
basically we’re about providing quality design lead garments for the musically erudite…. or simply put, decent t-shirts for folks who like a decent t-shirt and bit of decent music. in a relatively small market one way to set yourself apart is by providing the best that you can possibly can, that’s products, service, interactions & associations.
what’s been the hardest part? have you learnt any lessons?
accounting would be the hardest part – or maybe just the dryest. i’ve learned so many lessons. i try and read business and marketing stuff when i get the chance, not dry textbook style stuff, but people like seth godin (for anyone thinking about starting a business his book ‘purple cow‘ is a must)
…there’s a phrase that’s stuck with me, i forget where it’s from, but it says ‘you learn by doing’. i’ve done a fair bit of that; from visiting factories in turkey, to having labels sewn on the wrong way up on 150 t-shirts. done ticked off the list and learned from.
and do you do the in-house designs yourself or…? what’s the inspiration for them?
back to my main man lee murray again for a large proportion of the work, though i like to keep my hand in with 3 or 4 new things a year.
and re the hook ups you’ve had – are they just brands/labels you like yourself? are people keen to get involved? i guess an extra revenue stream…
the idea is to work with people that i like. it’s more fun that way. we’re getting approached by more and more labels now, which is really cool. it feels good to be recognised for doing something well.
anyone turned you down/anyone you’d really like to tie in? let’s hope they’re reading…
not so far!
would you like the label to continue growing or will you preserve the boutique nature? i must say it’s that which appeals quite a bit to me – being able to wear clothes not every fucker on the high street has/knows about…
both, i think we can grow, but we’re still looking to preserve the boutique nature of what we do. we’ll keep it niche.
any big plans for 2012?
millionhands music will be launching, which is supremely exciting plus we’ll be starting a weekly radioshow which will be podcast via ituens and available on soundlcoud with guest mixes from various collaborators and friends.
anything else you like to say/big-up/brag about?
can i big up all bagshot crew?
you just did.