Starting a Brand: An Interview With Windfall Clothing

Thomas Hobohm
Feb 20, 2018 · 11 min read
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Josh, Windfall Clothing’s Founder(left)

I had the opportunity to Interview Josh, the creator of up-and-coming streetwear brand Windfall Clothing (which is based in my hometown, Dallas, Texas). I love Windfall’s designs and positive message, and the amount of organic growth and hype they’ve been getting recently, especially on style forums like /r/streetwear, has been really exciting. We sat down at a boba shop to talk about fashion, streetwear, and life in general:

Why’d you start Windfall?

I came up with the idea in high school, and then I actually started it in college. It’s really weird to think about now; I guess I started it conceptually in 2012, and really launched it in 2014. And when I first started it, I just saw that there was a lack of streetwear that had some sort of message or substance to it. So, at the time, when I first got into streetwear, the big brands were, like, Diamond Supply, Crooks & Castles, and Obey. And it was all about, you know, “fuck bitches” and “drugs” and “gangs,” and it just felt really, you know, fake. Like, do people really believe in this? I just felt like people were getting into these brands because they were just the popular brands, and that was just how it was. And all the brands that did have positive messages were just really corny; they didn’t have any dope designs. I just wanted to make a good brand that had a good message behind it and still was cool.

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Windfall’s Fleece Jacket from Their Umoja Capsule Collection

When you got started, what problems did you have? If you could go back to 2012 and give yourself advice, what would you say?

Well, first I would say: “Don’t make so many damn shirts on your first runs.” I made way too many shirts — I still have shirts left over from my first run. I just, I made a lot of shirts, and that lead into another issue: I would tell myself not to take advice on the internet so concrete. By advice I mean guidelines about how things are “supposed” to be. For example, when I first got into the industry, I read that your markup has to be 4x so you can get into retailers, and I blew all my money to get my quantity up, and I couldn’t move it all.

I remember in high school I tried to start my own brand, and I used the “iron-on” fabric transfer paper and blanks to make each shirt to order. That doesn’t work or last, obviously, but I thought it was the best way to do it. Did you start with screenprinting?

Yeah, I was really lucky because one of my good friends worked at a screenprinter in college. I still work really closely with that shop. When I started, I didn’t really know anything; I was just another kid who wanted to start a brand. They taught me everything about how screenprinting works; you know, you have to design your graphics a certain way for it to translate well to screenprinting, and I’ve been learning how to do that from them.

You said you had a bunch of extra shirts. How did you start selling them on your first run? Because when you start a brand no one is really willing to pay for them, because it’s “not hype,” right?

When I started I really had 0 online presence, for a couple years. Back then, on /r/streetwear, it was a much smaller community — it was still pretty underground at the time. They just had this set idea about what streetwear was and what it was going to be, and I just could not get in. I was like alright, whatever, so I just tried strictly through friends and stuff. When I started the brand in college, I had a lot of friends in the community there, and my friends were sort of like “look, Josh started a brand, let me get a shirt,” because when you have friends in the community people want to support what you’re doing.

Where did you go to school?

I went to UNT. I love that place.

Me too

Yeah, UNT is sort of an artsy-kind of school, and with stuff like that, people really support what you’re doing.

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A Local Dallas Musician, Rikki Blu, Wearing a Windfall Hoodie

I saw on your Instagram there was this local rapper who was wearing one of your hoodies. How important do you think it is to be a part of the local music community, and the local arts community. How important do you think that is to have people who define what is cool, like musicians and dancers, for example, to be invested in your brand?

It’s kind of complicated, but I can confidently say it’s not nearly as important as it used to be. You know, I’m not that old, but I’ve done a lot of research about how streetwear has evolved into what it is today. And with the proliferation of the internet, you don’t need a local community anymore. You can find that community online. I mean, look, we met online — proximity isn’t much of a thing anymore. The reason why I got into the local music community is because I really like the artists. I really support their vision and their art. I didn’t see it as, “okay, this is the next step to grow.”

Look at a brand like ASSC. For a while it was really cool, and now people just despise them. But they still sell out, every release. I mean, they still make bank, right? So if you had to choose between being super known and selling out, but having this super negative connotation, like what ASSC does, and being really unknown, what would you go for?

I think there’s a difference between being a hype brand and being ASSC. ASSC is really different from every other brand. Personally, I’m really not a fan of them at all. I mean, how do I describe this; it’s like the epitome of everything that’s wrong with streetwear, but they did it all so well, that it worked. It just doesn’t adhere to what I consider streetwear to be, but I mean, who am I, you know? So, to answer your question, I would like my brand to grow outside of the “underground.” And that’s something that I struggled with at first, because there’s a certain lack of control that comes with growth. That’s inevitable — as you start to get more people into your vision, and as you start to grow, you have to let your vision expand past what you initially thought it was. And at first that really scared me, because every artist — you have this idea of how you want your vision to be executed. But at the same time, I want to eat, you know — I want to have a paycheck. I work a full time job, on top of this brand, and at some point, if you want to expand, you need to give up some control. Recently I’ve been really obsessed with this idea of “balance.” I think there’s this healthy balance in between ASSC and being really underground that you can find, where you still sell-out, but you’re still not super hype. You’re just a “cool brand.”

That reminds me — at some point, in the early 2000s or late 90s, I don’t remember — Supreme and Stüssy were really the same. They had the same business model, same style of clothing. And then what happened is, Stüssy went wholesale. You know, everyone can get Stüssy. My first streetwear purchase, like four years ago, I went to an urban outfitters and bought a stussy crewneck, right. But Stüssy makes so much; way more than supreme, I bet. But Supreme wanted to remain super hard to get and exclusive. Both brands sort of have the same valuations, overall, but Supreme is super hype, and Stüssy, while still hype, is really easy to get and not exclusive. Would you rather be like Supreme or Stüssy?

My gut says to say “balance,” but if I had to pick one, I would say the Supreme route.

That’s what I thought

Just because, you know — it’s not necessarily that I care about Windfall being easily accessible. That’s not my issue with that route. It’s moreso just, like, with that business model — just selling to all these different retailers just to get your quantities up so you can go wholesale — that doesn’t really appeal to me just because it’s another aspect of “losing control.” When I put so much effort and thought into this piece, and then it just becomes a little corner in Zumiez, you know, where I can’t control how the customer perceives my project, it’s just another brand next to the other rack of brands. Whereas with a model like Supreme, for example, you can just really take control of the experience that you give the customer.

Supreme has physical stores. Do you want to have a physical store?

Eventually

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Windfall’s Pop-Up Shop in Dallas

And if you had one, would you put it where you started, in Dallas? Or would you put it in New York City or Hong Kong or some other cultural mecca?

I’d like it to be in Dallas, but, although I’m a creative, I’m a really business oriented person. I put a lot of thought into every decision I make, and it would have to be a really calculated decision. And the Dallas fashion scene, I don’t know if it could really sustain what I’m trying to do.

So, I’m a web developer by trade. When you started a website, what did you use? Did you just like, make a squarespace?

So, I did a lot of research, you know. I looked at all the options — BigCartel, Shopify, Squarespace, Wordpress, etc. — and you know, Bigcartel and Squarespace, they look really clean, and they make it easy to start, but I went with Wordpress; they’re the best option to grow.

Who’s your favorite designer ever, and your favorite designer right now?

It’s tough because to be honest I don’t really follow designers, like a lot of people do. I don’t even really know the names so well. But, I can list two. One brand that I really look up to, and it’s like an older brand, is called PNB Nation. It’s a brand that pretty much executed what my business model is. Social commentary weaved into streetwear designs.

Are they still a thing?

No, they ended up blowing up, and they got into all these department stores, and then they sold the brand and I think Nick Cannon bought it — so, needless to say, they’re not around anymore.

Some girl in the boba shop we’re at screams “aaaahhh”

Sorry, is it too loud?

No, it’s fine, *laughing*, I just wanted to see what happened

Yeah, that’s the thing about boba shops, whenever someone comes into the store, someone has to yell. It doesn’t matter who comes in, if it’s a boba store, someone is gonna scream. The other day, this guy, Nick, came in and the lady working the cashier was just like “AAAAAAHHHHH, Nick,” and I was just like, what’s going on? Does Nick have a gun or something?

both laughing

Okay, the other guy is Hiroki Nakamura, the creator of Visvim.

Is there any high fashion house, like Louis Vuitton or Gucci or something, that you really like? Or do you just steer clear of that part of fashion?

Yeah, that’s not really my lane.

Do you like Jun Takahashi?

I really respect what he’s doing, but it’s not really what I’m trying to do with my brand, you know.

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Undercover Free Burma Shirt

I feel like Undercover, moreso than a lot of other brands, really has messages. You know, Takahashi has a message he wants to convey with each piece. For example, my favorite piece from them, the only piece I personally bought, that I had to buy resell because it’s like 10 years old, is this maroon shirt. It has a picture of Buddhist monks protesting on the front, and it says “Free Burma”, and on the back it says “We are buddhist, too.” When I saw it, I was just like, “What the fuck.” Like, what does that even mean, right? So I went and looked it up. And at the time, in Burma, the Buddhist monks were protesting the actions of the government and the military. Tens of thousands of monks were protesting, and several hundreds were detained for peacefully standing up for their beliefs. Takahashi released the shirt to support the movement in Burma, and I really loved how he was able to integrate such an important political message into his brand. Also, there’s this really famous book, by Dieter Rams, called “Less but Better”. So, he sort of invented minimalism, so to speak. Takahashi has all of these designs that say “less but better” on them in interesting ways, and that concept is a big influence for me. That message, that you should focus on what really matters, and prioritize “less, but better” things in your life, really resonated with me. I think there was this point in my life where I sort of had to cut out people and parts of my life that weren’t really conducive to who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life, and that was when I found the “less but better” designs in the archive of Undercover, and I was like, that’s the mantra I want to live by.

Wow that’s tight. You know honestly I didn’t realize his pieces have that much depth. I’m going to check him out more.

Okay, that was a tangent, but besides designers, is there like a brand you like?

Noah.

Oh, I love Noah. They have the positive message down.

Yeah, Noah is awesome. My homeboy put me on them. I also like what I Love Ugly is doing.

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I Love Ugly x Jansport Backpack

Yeah, I like their backpack with Jansport. It’s more techy but it looks dope.

Yeah. So, I’d say Noah and I Love Ugly are pretty big inspirations for me; for the level I’d like my brand to get to.

That was all the questions I had — we kept talking about fashion, streetwear, and boba, until we headed over to Black Market USA to browse some designer clothing. I learned a lot from interviewing Josh, and if you’re at all interested in fashion or streetwear, you should check out Windfall Clothing here.

If you’d like to stay up to date with my content and musings on fashion, you can follow me on Instagram here. Thanks for reading!

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