An Interview with Patrick Branigan of Bafe

bafe clothing

Wearabl: Tell us about Bafe — what does it bring to the table as an indy brand?

Patrick: Like many other independent brands Bafe truly is a labor of love. It’s a brand that produces wearable products inspired by electronic dance music. It was built with the understanding that graphic apparel, especially t-shirts, can be a saturated arena. Furthermore, it exists as an avenue for artistic reaction and expression regarding electronic dance music (EDM), an already uber artistic culture. In other words Bafe isn’t meant to make a buck or appeal to everyone and anyone involved in EDM culture. Instead it’s a brand that takes its time, focuses on creating design-driven products and is meant to emphasize the EDM’s creative nature that I feel is increasingly overlooked as the genre becomes more and more popular.

Wearabl: Was there a specific trend or theme that inspired you to start Bafe?

Patrick: Absolutely! Having been to so many EDM-specific performances, festivals, events, etc. over the years I’ve had the pleasure of seeing EDM grow at an extraordinary rate, especially in the United States. As I’m in these crowds and venues I began to take notice to the fact that more and more people began wearing apparel that was aesthetically repetitive. Every guy began wearing tank tops. Every girl began ripping their tops. More and more apparel showcased the stereotypes of drugs, sex, etc. Everyone wears their plastic shades. Everyone wears their kandi. I understand where it’s coming from, how these visual choices enhance the stimulation and collective unity that one yearns for during these experiences. I love the music as much as the next fan but the popular apparel just wasn’t me. I could not stand the poor designs and I could not believe people were actually paying money to wear them. I’ve always been one to wear standard athletic apparel when involved in live EDM experiences for two reasons. First, because it’s comfortable. That’s not to say tank tops, for example, aren’t because they are. But secondly because of what I already mentioned: I simply didn’t care to wear a shirt that says “Keep Calm and Rave On”, designed with atrocious typography and blotched over questionable color choices. Or perhaps it’s because I’m a designer and I know what goes into making a profit off peoples’ gravitation towards popularity.The bottom line is I realized I never really found a brand of apparel that related to EDM that I was attracted to. I wanted apparel that spoke electronic dance music to me, that I could wear in any environment and in any situation. I wanted something that I would love wear both inside and outside these venues. I guess it was a selfish venture at first. You could say Bafe was started in part due to frustration! So I decided if I couldn’t find what I was looking for I might as well create it.

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Wearabl: Describe your process — from conceptual design to shipping.

Patrick: It begins with inspiration. A song, sound, artist or experience will speak to me and I’ll want to react to it or represent it in a visual format because that’s just something I enjoy. This is something you can’t rush. Patience is extremely important. Each design begins with plenty of sketches until an idea is roughly formed that I feel comfortable pursuing. I’ll then scan the idea into my computer or simply recreate it digitally. I generally use Adobe CS for all my creative needs after the idea is formed with pencil and paper. Illustrator is the obvious choice for this medium and is my primary tool thus far. I’ll have my hand at designing, revising and tweaking the design until I’m happy with it. What I’ll often do is “finish” the design and let it sit. I won’t open it or look at it for days, weeks, even months. When I do finally view it again it needs to strike me with the same satisfaction that it did when I first created it. If it doesn’t I’ll iterate and repeat. Once I have the design finalized I’ll have some fellow creative minds take a look and I’ll build on their feedback if necessary. Once I’m utterly happy with the outcome it’s time for print preparation.

I don’t print the apparel myself. I leave that to the professionals. I’ve used a couple shops over the first eight months. Currently I work with Clockwise Tees. They were recommended to me by fellow designer Jay Fanelli who you might know from United Pixelworkers or The Cotton Bureau. Anyway I can’t speak highly enough about Clockwise Tees. I also do have to mention I previously have had a good relationship (still do) with Bandwagon Merch. So I prep the design files for these guys and choose the fabric I want to print on. I give them a size and quantity request for them to quote depending upon the anticipated demand for a design. These guys then print the shirts and ship them directly to me. This same process is done for the hem tags or any other materials that I cannot produce on my own (stickers and other swag – shout out too Moo, Stickermule and Laven).

bafe hem tag

Once I receive the shirts, I inventory them, seal them and package them for shipment. Each shirt is individually checked, folded, packaged and sprinkled with love by yours truly. Needless to say the post office knows me by name now. I package orders individually and ship them out generally within 3-5 business days. Mind you all the extra swag (thank you notes, extra gifts, etc.) are designed by myself and tedious tasks such as stamping, shipping labels and more all have to be done. I’m not at a point yet where I need to seriously consider streamlining these processes any further however I’m always looking to improve.

Of course with the release of a product you have to keep up with Bafe’s online presence. Generally new graphic imagery is designed and displayed. I’ll design all graphics, advertisements and other visual collateral for the website. Lastly it’s important to have good photography. I’m lucky enough to have a full photography studio at my disposal at Overit, the creative agency I work for by day. Once all supplemental imagery and photography is done, and all web updates are prepped I’ll focus on social media. Updating primary platforms with relevant content has been super beneficial. I cannot tell you how powerful Twitter has been in communicating with people of interest. Facebook has also been great for publicity. It does take dedication though to be the man behind all of these processes. Almost everything regarding Bafe is done between the hours of 8pm and 3am.

bafe logo

Wearabl: What’s the most challenging aspect of running a clothing company?

Patrick: I’ve found the most challenging part of running a clothing company is dedicating the time it takes to actually run the company. I’m fortunate enough (or crazy enough) to be able to manage a full time gig and do Bafe on the side. It’s really hard work. Understanding that there are so many more aspects to it than just design seems to be the biggest challenge I’ve had to continue to work at. Keeping up with every facet of the experience is tough particularly when it’s just you acting as all the gears behind everything. Because I’m a designer I’ve found the product is the easier part. It’s the business side of things that I’ve had to grow accustom to that has proven most difficult at times, but that’s expected I think and I’m always improving.

Wearabl: Do you use any apps for productivity, marketing, or shipping?

Patrick: I am constantly using new apps. I don’t solely rely on any particular app but there are some staples that have proven beneficial for the company. For productivity, I most use iCal, Clear, Skala View and Google Drive almost every single day. As for marketing, Twitter has honestly been Bafe’s best friend. It’s not that followers are the goal but rather it’s the easiest way for me to keep involved and up to date with information that I find relevant to Bafe’s philosophy. When it comes to shipping, I generally am not overwhelmed with shipments so right now Stamps has been a big help, however I plan on finding a more streamlined and intuitive application to aid in tedious shipping tasks in the future. Beyond that, Adobe Creative Suite is what’s used every day for an infinite amount of tasks regarding the brand and its product.

Wearabl: How did you come up with the Bafe logo?

creating the bafe logocolorful bafe logos

Patrick: The logo is actually a result of experimenting with ligature work involving the letterforms in the name Bafe. In one way or another I was able to shape a single form that suggests characteristics of the letters b, a, f and e. If you look closely you might be able to make out these letters in the mark. I wanted a mark that was abstract enough that it would not resonate or suggest an existing brand nor fall under any existing trend related to EDM. I wanted it to be smooth and sharp all at once and to retain a visual interest that would last over time. EDM is an art form that’s constantly evolving and I wanted a mark that could represent that, one that could be engaged in more ways than one over an unknown period of time.

Wearabl: What’s your favorite Bafe tee?

Patrick: That’s a tough one because I really do enjoy them all. I’d have to say “Trance“. It’s a really simple concept that plays on perspective. Its color is vibrant and its shape is sharp and raw. Look at it from the right angle and you’re able to read the word “trance” in custom type.

bafe trance tee

Wearabl: Are you working on any new Bafe designs at the moment?

Patrick: I recently completed a custom lettered piece for myself that was inspired by Above & Beyond’s “You Got To Go” however I’m unable to sell it due to it’s potential copyright infringement. In fact Anjunabeats contacted me asking me specifically to not sell it in Bafe’s store. They were very pleasant and a joy to communicate with. It’s not a disappointment as really it’s just a shirt I wanted to make for myself to wear to their shows and I’m okay with not being able to sell it. After all, I don’t care so much about profit as I do satisfaction. I still have the art to myself.

However, this inspired me to work more with custom lettering. I’m in the midst of two new tee concepts both involving type and custom lettering. I hope to have these released come spring. Beyond apparel, Bafe has actually begun funding another small project my web developer and I have been wanting to prototype for some time. It involves user-created apparel. Think CafePress but with a much more intuitive interface and built around generative algorithms that speak to audio files. I’ll leave it at that for now, you’ll just have to stay tuned! We’re taking our time with that so I couldn’t tell you when you could expect to see some work in progress…

Wearabl: What material are you printing on?

Patrick: All Bafe products (thus far) are printed on American Apparel material. The preliminary four products are made of 100% cotton, however the next couple are anticipated to be on 50/50 blends. I’ve found American Apparel pieces are great fitting and always comfortable. So for now Bafe is sticking with AA cotton and blends.

bafe tag

Wearabl: The primary colored tees really bring the designs together — was there any special motivation behind this decision?

Patrick: Colors play a tremendous role in an electronic dance music experience. From the set production and visual effects to the apparel and accessories displayed by individuals, color is simply a foundation for stimulation. It’s no secret that neon and bright coloration has often accompanied electronic dance music culture. With Bafe I didn’t want to steer completely clear of traditional aspects such as color. I feel that it is important to be vibrant but not necessarily bright. I want Bafe products to be eye catching and aesthetically appealing but not solely dependent on color. I aim to create combinations that emphasize the design, not the fabric, by putting a focus on aspects such as contrast. Together they seem to fit as a series as they all utilize color to draw attention to the art. Furthermore I want these pieces to fit into everyday environments and situations. I’m much more likely to wear a blue shirt with a white design out to lunch with a coworker rather than a neon yellow shirt with lime green and metallic-gold typography…

primary color bafe

Wearabl: What’s your secret to building a following on Facebook?

Patrick: I’d be lying if I said paid advertisement wasn’t helping with my Facebook following. I dedicate $1 a day to Facebook advertisement and outreach. I’ll track analytics on the website and then take that data and specify my paid outreach on Facebook. Beyond that there are really two things that I’ve noticed have helped. Word of mouth is always beneficial. If you inform the right people they’ll inevitably share your stuff with others. It’s not about trying to gain attention from everyone but instead about honing in on getting the attention of specific demographics you want to reach. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best yet at doing this however I’m quickly learning just how beneficial this is. Secondly, interaction with people who are interested will always pay off. I’ll do my best to message, post and converse with those who I see are showing interest on Facebook. Lastly, giveaways seem to get people involved for one reason or another. I will say however that Twitter still is proven to be more beneficial for Bafe.

Wearabl: What’s the biggest advantage of hosting giveaways?

Patrick: It has the ability to solidify customer satisfaction. Everyone loves free stuff. Chances are people will generally pay more attention if they have the potential to receive something free or advertised as a giveaway. Again, it helps tremendously with creating anticipation, hype and then also allows for your product to show face more often. Think about it … If a customer has one shirt, they might wear it once a week. Now if a customer has two shirts because they received a free one in a contest or giveaway, and they love that shirt as well, they’re probably going to be wearing your brand more than once a week. That’s double the exposure. It sounds absurdly simple but I think it makes sense.

Wearabl: What was the hardest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Patrick: The hardest lesson was learned early on: Not everyone is going to like your product and that’s okay. Failure, in so many ways, is beneficial and worth experiencing. If you’re open-minded and in it because you love it, you’ll find a way to get over yourself pretty fast! Beyond that, you have to be willing to sacrifice. There’s plenty more to it than just having a design printed on a t-shirt and put up for sale. You need to be willing to give some things up, and most importantly you have to learn to become patient if you aren’t already.

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Wearabl: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

Patrick: I would have started selling products as limited pieces to anyone and everyone before worrying about a brand, a website, a store or any sort of digital marketing. It’s really only because I’m a web designer that I felt the need to immediately consume myself with branding, web design, development, a place to live online and a full launch of the product without any prior knowledge into how people would respond. Luckily it has worked out for me but I wouldn’t recommend biting off more than you can chew early on. This kind of small business requires more investment than people anticipate. I saved a ton of money and time by simply being in the industry that I’m in so I had the luxury of building more earlier on. I slightly regret not getting a feel for how people respond to the product prior to really launching it. Do whatever you can to simply get your product in front of people right out of the gate. You’ll be able to worry about everything else later on.

Wearabl: Was there a particular album, artist, or year that inspired you to pursue a creative career?

Patrick: In 2004 I was taking the very few computer arts classes offered to me in my sophmore year of high school and loving every second of it. I built computers and gamed heavily during that time (still do). It led me to experimenting with computer art and creating my own t-shirts. Instead of buying t-shirts I’d design my own with spray paint, iron on prints or bootleg copies of software. I suppose you could say it was my first experience with branding and I had no idea at the time. At this exact same time I was a couple years into involving myself with electronic dance music. It was a genre I’d listen to if I was in a specific mood.

In 2004 ATB released the album No Silence which had the track “Ecstasy” on it. I immediately fell in love with it. I started creating art to it. I started dabbling in audio production because of it. Fast forward to 2006 and I was still in high school but was now DJing with a best friend of mine, producing music in my free time and needing to promote myself which is where graphic design got involved. This was when I discovered a love for communication design which I didn’t pay a real notice to until I was in college, hence why I decided to pursue communication design as a career. I often will jokingly tell people that ATB is the reason why I am where I am today, successfully designing and art directing for a creative agency while also running my own side business.

Bafe was essentially just a delayed idea of mine. For years I knew my two passions were EDM and design. I would reminisce on the days in high school where I was creating my own shirts. Those were incredibly joyous days and I would tell myself that I want to actually do that again one day. So I guess I finally decided to bite the bullet!

Wearabl: What company logo or name do you remember noticing for its design as a kid?

Patrick: I’ll give you obvious answers first considering I was a “kid” in the ’90s: Nike and No Fear. These two brands were just so prominent and popular, often times for similar reasons and to promote similar products but with branding and advertising campaigns that sometimes could not be more opposite one another. That was really intriguing to me.

A more expanded answer would be Sega. I wouldn’t say I necessarily remember noticing it for it’s design alone but it did have an impact on me. Their logo was odd in that it blatantly tried to look futuristic. It had speed to it and often would change it’s blue color depending on the game. The white stripes involved in the letterforms always reminded me of tracks which indirectly resonated speed and Sonic the Hedgehog. I highly doubt they intended that to be the common reaction but it sure as hell made for good brand awareness in my mind! Anyway, between it’s futuristic mark, its trademark “Sega” chant that chimed for every game and it’s signature character, Sonic, the Sega brand stuck with me as a kid. It wasn’t until maybe 2006 when I was told Sega was an abbreviation for Service Games. That kind of tarnished everything for me from a branding standpoint but nevertheless my love for Sega lives on today!

Bafe_01_largeWearabl: Do you strive to introduce people to EDM through Bafe?

Patrick: Sure. I hope that Bafe raises awareness. I don’t want Bafe to define electronic dance music for people but I do have hopes that it will help them perceive EDM as an art form in itself. I want Bafe to be a brand that represents EDM as a creative outlet that can be consumed by both fans as well as those foreign to the genre. While I want Bafe to introduce people to EDM, I envision Bafe also being an avenue to remind those already familiar with EDM that it’s not all about commericalization and popularity.

Wearabl: How do you discover new music?

Patrick: I have the luxury of listening to music for 12+ hours a day so I’m constantly discovering new music. I’d say the best way to discover new music is to listen to a variety of genres and artists. Expanding your taste helps in evolving your appreciation for music as an art especially when you’re not actually a musician like myself. Outside of that, listen to podcasts, radio shows and mixtapes religiously. I could name you 20 artists who I tune into for a radio show on a weekly basis. Being that they’re the artists behind the genre they’re inevitably going to be at the forefront for new tunes. Right now, for example, I’m listening to Mat Zo’s “The Mat Zo Mix” religiously for a couple reasons. First it’s bi-weekly so it isn’t as repetitive in nature. Secondly because he’s very much experimental and diverse. He’ll play a wide variety of sounds from all different types of dance arenas. Lastly he’s an Anjunabeats artist. You cannot go wrong with Anjunabeats music! In general, the more music I listen to the more music I discover.

Wearabl: What’s going on at Bafe right now (promos giveaways)?

Patrick: Yes! Currently if you purchase one Bafe tee you’ll receive a complimentary tee of our choosing in your shipment. It’s a two for one deal and the second tee is a surprise! This is great because I have some limited edition prints that I’ve never advertised that you might receive if you’re lucky! I like to surprise people! It’s just another way for me to experiment and get more exposure.

buy one get one bafe

Wearabl: How can people connect with Bafe?

Patrick: Bafe’s store is located here. You can purchase products and keep up with the blog where I’ll be writing about products, events and inspiration regarding Bafe and the EDM scene. You can also connect with us via Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a Google+ person, we’re there too. I can also personally be found ranting about Bafe, EDM and design on Twitter as well. Otherwise, perhaps I’ll see you a show! I’ve been known for sending free swag to people for following Bafe on Twitter and giving it a shout out. Just another gesture to spread the love!

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