Wednesday, August 16, 2006

the Dog House Feature: Interview with VENOM YUM

A few days ago I've posted something about a brand from Denmark called Venom Yum. Actually Venom Yum is not just a t-shirt brand, it was originally an art project collective that did loads of graphical things on print media, web, and also wearable stuff. They have unique characters and drawing styles.So anyway, Anders from Venom Yum stopped by our Dog House and we had a chat over afternoon tea and biscuits:

DOG: "V-E-N-O-M Y-U-M"? What's it all about? How did it come to be, and how did it develop into what it is today?
VY: Well, about the name: Venom is the poison found in nature (mushrooms, snakes etc) and Yum is the sound you make when something is too delicious...So, Venom Yum. I thought it sounded kinda like a glam rock band David Bowie would play in during the seventies...haha Originally it started as a freelance project in Tokyo. Working on different assignments with no connection in between, I wanted to be able to fathom it all under one name. As I didn´t want to use my own name, and as I worked a lot with different people, I decided to start a company that would collect different styles and approches - yet still try to work in a specific field. These days VY mostly does character design and the things surrounding that. - Prints, websites and illustration - all with a view on other worlds and bright shapes. And hopefully something that can take itself less serious. Too serious and selfconscious design is just boring.

DOG: How many people make up Venom Yum?
VY: It´s mainly myself, and then other people who fit the project. Sometimes it´s a musician or a programmer, other times friends collaborate and input. Most of my friends are designers, musicians and animators, and I think it´s very important to surround yourself with inspiring people in order to become inspired yourself. Having people around you - not all the time, but sometimes - help you reflect better on your stuff. Isolation is good for producing very pure stuff, - no interuptions help you focus - but I´ve learned that having friends or collegues to discuss a project with definitely has an impact on the result, because "pure" doesn´t always mean "good". Just by talking about it, your mind shifts and realises things you didn´t know before.

DOG: Do you guys have an office or just work from home?
VY:Actually right now, we are building our offices in my newly aquired apartment. There´s a music studio, a silk screen printing lab, sewing tables and loads of computers. I am a strong believer of running things from your own home. When work is your life, and your work is your hobby and interest - then why not keep it all at home? Keeping it relaxed and laid back also helps me remember to have fun while working - and to hang with friends and collaboraters on a more personal basis.

DOG: Is Venom Yum a side-job or is it your life's project?
VY: It´s a life project, a company and a job. And it pays the rent and the lapdances at the stripclubs ;-)Actually I used to work as a designer in the youth department of the National Danish TV channel, doing loads of projects for teens, tweens and children.But at the end of 2004 I wanted to try something new, so I quit my job, left Denmark and moved to Tokyo for a year. Living there, studying Japanese every day and working together with Japanese designers made a huge impact on me. The sounds, the smell and the insane, hysterical mess of the Tokyo streets is something you either love or get scared by - especially for a Scandinavian like me. Denmark is a country where there are hardly any people on the streets and there´s fresh air and cityplanning everywhere. But I´ll never forget the freedom you feel, when standing there on Shinjuku street with your suitcase and an open future in front of you. No ties, no plans, no day job, no nothing. I recommend everyone to do that in some point of their life. It forces you to think about the priorities in your life. That feeling is what´s made me try to start my own company in order to still maintain control of time, freedom and the future.

Now let's take a focus on the wearable things
DOG: i love the characters. Is there a story behind the characters on the wearable stuff?
VY: Well, last year I started collaborating with a new shop in Copenhagen called 1206. They wanted a visual branding, and also some designs for an internal T-shirt line. I was still in Tokyo, so we decided to do some collections inspired by the meeting between the classy Copenhagen and the clashy, colourful Tokyo. Keep a simple, clean approach from the Scandinavian design tradition, yet still work with bright colours and in-your-face grafx. The black guy without eyes from 1206 is called KURO (which mean black in Japanese). He has a headless dog called Brian (because in the shop, there´s a crazy little dog called Brian running around), and lots of friends from parallel dimensions. Mostly the 1206 universe is a bit melancholic and dark. It´s mens wear, so we try to keep it toned down a bit. We´ve just released the 3rd collection, and working on the 4th now as we speak. Then this year we decided to start another company to fill the need for happier shirts and also something for girls. It´s called WovenFlesh and features more basic, brighter and more affordable prints. We are working on the second collection right now.

DOG: How many items do you make for one design in one production?
VY: It depends. For 1206, a very limited amount of shirts is produced. They are often quite expensive to make, so about 200 shirts of each design are made. The 1206 line is only sold in selected shops around the world ,- we try to keep it exclusive. WovenFlesh is different, it has a wider distribution and is more accessible. The item number grows for each collection.

DOG: What's your main selling strategy? How about your distribution strategy (i.e. providing your products in lots of different countries)?
VY:Our main strategy is definitely word of mouth. Of course we are doing some small ads here and there in underground mags like Vice, but mainly people hear about us from other people, or see someone wearing our shirts on the street and then asking where they got it. During the recent Copenhagen Fashion Week, we´ve had a showroom with buyers coming in, which has resulted in great response - and orders from a cool shop Sweden and other shops outside Denmark.The first collection from WovenFlesh called "Hunter&Prey" is out in the shops now, but almost gone already. A shop in Copenhagen recieved their shirts in the morning and at closing time they were sold out - which is the first time that has ever happened in the 14 year history of the shop. And the best thing is, when you walk down the street and suddenly see someone in your shirt, you get really happy, - you know they are wearing it because they think it speaks to them and makes them feel comfortable.

DOG: well we've heard all about the good things, so now can u tell us about the struggles that u guys have gone through?
VY:There are always struggles connected with this business. I think the worst is broken promises, delayed production dates and bad quality work.We are now working with the fifth printing factory, all the others either went bankrupt or made crappy prints. It´s a jungle out there, and it takes so much time to find the right people to trust and work with. And you spend so much energy doing stuff that is not creative but has to be done if you want this company to do ok.Luckily we are two people instead of one, and that makes things so much easier, because you can load off on each other, discuss things and divide responsibilities between us.

DOG: Are there any particular artists/designers that you'd especially want to work with?
VY: Oh yeah. I went to the Pictoplasma Festival in Berlin in 2004 and it was just so inspiring and jaw breaking. Some of the speakers are people with an incredibly huge talent, I can´t even begin to argue why such people ought to have more celebrity stardom instead of football players or bicycle riders. They are fun, well read, superbly creative, intelligent and really good human beings. I spoke to Rilla from Rinzen, she´s such a nice girl and very down to earth. Her work always makes me laugh. But I´m sure half the planet wants to work with Rilla. Then of course, it would be fun to do collaborations with Meomi, APAK Studio and that crowd. I would also like to become the apprentice of Julian House(Ghostbox, Broadcast) from Intro, he is a design and musical genius.It would also be a blast to do more projects on 1206 & WovenFlesh along with other companies from the business.

DOG: Last but not least, tell us about your next project!
VY: Well, right now I´m doing a 30 sek TV trailer for Danish National TV which features a girl bee and her flower garden. The post-programming of a complete redesign of her online webportal on the National Tv site for kids is nearly done as well.There´s some fabric banners in Tokyo that are still in production. New collections for 1206 & WovenFlesh. - And some accessories as well. Also our own printing lab is starting up soon. I´m planning on doing some very limited shirts with fun details and less commercial sale value.All in all a busy but fun autumn lies ahead :-)

Cheers, Venom Yum! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. Please stop by the Dog House again! Woof woof!

more info: VENOM YUM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice interview u got here!!!!

2:34 AM  

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