A short version of the following interview was originally featured in the printed KrakMag that shipped with the Winter 2017 KrakBox. Want to get your hands on a copy of the next printed KrakMag? Want to receive epic skateboarding product every two months? Check out the KrakBox now!
Well the first time I heard about you, Pitt, it was as ‘Cleptomanicx’ founder, when did you start it?
PF: In the year 1990, which was influenced by the big change in the skateboard scene, back then the young kids put skateboarding out of the pool onto the street, I was jumping on and trying all day the new unknown street tricks. At our schoolyard, we had our own area to skate, some kids—including me—created their own personal brands, starting with paper stickers. So at this moment Cleptomanicx was born. In 1991 I did the first clothes.
You first met Stefan (Marx) through some Clepto, right?
PF: In the year 2000 Cleptomanicx had some changes. My partner back then left the company and Stefan moved to Hamburg. I had just heard about him and by the time I met him, I fell in love with his artwork and his personality. I asked him for a small graphic job and his work was just so good that I couldn’t let him go, so we started a hopefully never ending story.
So Stefan, prior to meeting Pitt, you already launched some fashion stuff with the Lousy Livin Company – what was the inspiration? And I’m curious by the way, where did the name come from?
SM: I started the Lousy Livin Company in 1995 by drawing on t-shirts. I had a crush on a girl and I could easily express it without words, only with a drawing on a t-shirt I wore in school. Beside this I had some favorite t-shirts from some skate brands. I recognized how powerful a well made t-shirt design is. Additional to this comes the fact that I grew up on a small, small village in the German countryside and the next skate shop was super far away and internet didn’t exist for me. It was also the time where the graphic trend in skateboarding moved from real good motives to simple brand logos. I decided to it was better do my own t-shirts then spend money for skate brand t-shirts which are basically saying nothing but the super fresh new company none of my friends knew about and maybe didn’t exist anymore. The language of the skate t-shirts I liked none of my friends understood. I thought it would be nice to express my own thoughts and feelings in drawings on t-shirts, speaking the language my friends can understand. I started doing my t-shirts with textile colors and my airbrush. Real fun. My friends liked them and so I started to print an edition of the design at a local silk-screener. Later I thought it is funny for a 17 year old kid to have a lousy company so I mixed up the name, The Lousy Livin Company.
How do you see yourself? An artist? An entrepreneur? A skateboarder? A bit of everything?
SM: I think a bit of everything. I think art comes first, then entrepreneur. I crossed skateboarder out of my passport since many years now though I love to be surrounded by skaters.
Pitt, at what point did you decide to stop being full time on Clepto and start another brand? And why?
PF: Clepto got to a point where I couldn’t follow up anymore. I recognised that the team around me could do it better without me, alongside the fact that my wife asked me to take care of our kids at least 50% of the time so I had no choice 😉 Right now I am still half a week at home and doing the family job.
The Lousy Livin project is a different story. In 2011 we had a trademark fight which we kind of lost. Since then Clepto and his seagull logo can only operate in 3 European countries. Following this Stefan and I decided to go in with Lousy Livin and make it a worldwide Boxershorts opportunity 🙂
Was meeting Stefan a key factor in your decision? Would you have done it otherwise?
PF: It just can not go without Stefan, his drawings are the soul of the label, alongside our loved cooperations with the other brands which operated similar to us. The main impulse for all of us is to create a product with genuine fun and meaning. If we both didn’t have this view of work the result would be way different or wouldn’t work at all.
What did you do before? Did you wake up one day and be like ‘I wanna launch my own brand’?
PF: I started doing Clepto during school time. Skateboarding actually caught me up from the bottom of my heart. Everything else couldn’t hold up with skateboarding, until today.
How did you get first into skateboarding?
PF: At the time I started skateboarding in 1987 it was very unknown, it was for me and my friends a mystic thing. We watched some dudes doing it and from then on I saved up my money to buy a set up: Bill Danforth by Alva. This was so much fun!
We’re involved in a friend’s project, Lucas Beaufort’s documentary named ‘Devoted’ about skate media; and basically the importance and evolution of the print in our community. Stefan, you printed some fanzines for a while, is it still the case? Can you tell us what does it mean for you? Why are you still looking to print stuff?
SM: The Lousy Livin Zines were the first publications I did back then, showing the newest t-shirts, some work of my friends, photos of my little skateboard team, drawings. My very first zine with drawings only I compiled after a trip to London in 2003. There is a quote of Marcus Oakley on the cover. Since then I publish my drawings regularly with Nieves and Rollo Press, and very often by myself. These zines I sell in our record store Smallville Records in Hamburg or via Printed Matter in NYC. I do collect zines too, yes, that’s a great pleasure.
On the other hand, what’s your relationship with the Internet, social media and all? Are you also in a kind of hate/love/need relationship? (if that even makes sense haha!)
SM: I love Instagram. I love to get in touch with people and like the very direct ways of the digital media. I have a good relationship with it.
I have to say: Lousy Livin is probably one of the brands right now with the strongest identity possible. And I mean, it’s not just about the graphics, it’s like you created your own universe with the lil’ smile-black-&-white box, your vendor machines, all the humor in the ads and so on… I’m impressed. So here’s the question: how long did you take at the beginning to plan all this? And truth be told: did you plan all this since day 1?
PF: Clepto had similarity’s to Lousy, we really could do what we wanted, without looking right and left to see what was currently selling good. This process was blessed and a non stop motivation to keep it going on, but a bigger clothing company is growing and creates it’s own complexity. Looking at Lousy we focused on a handful products and it’s way easier to handle it and keep the universe on a loved level. All our experience flows in the company, our process is always coming from our heart. Moreover we benefit from a good friendship network, everyone is supporting us, same way as we do for them.
As far as I remember I’ve seen your vending machines only in Germany, don’t you want to distribute your products elsewhere?
PF: Actually there is only one vending machine, we did this for the fun of it, but I like the idea to have a huge family of vending machines.
Why did you start with the boxershorts? That’s pretty unusual to be honest.
PF: The product is special. The boxershort is timeless and no fashion rules can change it. And it’s the perfect shape for all kind of designs, no one really cares because the boxershort is mostly in a hidden situation, and it is always fun to make a well designed boxershort with a nice background story.
Do you have any plans to enlarge the collection with more & more products like clothing?
PF: Not really, once in awhile we do products which have a loose relationship to underwear, my latest favourite product was a clothes basket.
For everyone who’s reading this right now and would hesitate to launch her/his own brand, what would be your most crucial pieces of advice?
PF: Believe in it, do not look so much at what other brands are doing because this is not helpful. Keep your personal ideas on top of your mind and always try to involve fun and patience and patience and patience.
Thanks a lot for this Pitt, this is a great advice. Best things in life take time indeed. You can’t imagine how inspiring you guys are. Good luck with everything.