First let me give you the meaning to “Loyal.” Loyal is a direct concept of Loyalty. The definition of loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person or cause. Loyal KNG represents just that. Not too many brand founders are only a Twitter message away from giving you advice or responding to feedback like Trung does. He has built the clothing brand from the ground up in the great state of Texas, one customer at a time. Since the beginning of the Loyal K.N.G., they’ve always sneaked in random items, toys, and objects, to surprise their supporters. From guitar strings, Dalmatian dog figures, toy race cars, comics, magazines, posters, hand-warmers, battery, cologne, and every other random thing they find funny enough to include in the order, they make it a point to give their supporters a memorable experience when they make a purchase. I sit down the the mastermind behind it all to get the scoop on his creativity, his vision, and what is in store in 2012. Read below for the full interview…
How did you decide that you eventually wanted to become a designer?
Trung: I’ve always found a strong passion in art. From as early as I can recall, I’ve always had a pencil doodling random things on random surfaces. My love for art stemmed from my love for dinosaurs, video games, and cartoon shows. So it’s easy to see how that would shape me into a designer later in my life. However being a designer wasn’t always a career path I considered to chase. Growing up, my parents always pushed me to pursue careers in becoming a doctor or a lawyer. I followed through my parents wishes and went to college to work on becoming a doctor. This lasted up until my junior year where I took a long extended break, or you could call it dropping out, to pursue my passion in life, which just happened to be a designer for an independent brand, Loyal K.N.G. This sudden shift in career changes came from an immense unfulfilled desire to do something with more soul than grinding for a career path that I wasn’t even happy about. And to be honest, the feeling of becoming a doctor was too limiting and depressing for me… I had a calling for something bigger and I prayed about what I should do ultimately. And I’m happy to note that my prayers were answered.
The majority of larger independent labels originated on the East Coast, do you ever feel like you’re competing with other brands? Or is it just a daily competition with yourself?
Trung: It’s true that independent labels started and originated first from the west coast, like California, and the east coast, like New York, but for us, we’re right in the beginning of the independent label movement in the south with Texas spear-heading the way through. Although there are many larger labels doing great things, the daily competition for me is usually topping our own projects, seasons, and releases. I am always looking for ways and researching ideas for a better future for our own label, Loyal K.N.G. I have a pretty big vision for our future projects, and it’s definitely not in a small scale of visions. With that being said, I’m just going to hold on tight to the vision and just make all the small steps toward that direction until the full vision comes into fruition. It’s easy to get discouraged when trying to make big things, but going at it and chipping at it methodically and consistently have always worked in bringing a vision to life, no matter how big or small. So, since I’ve started the brand, I’ve set out core values for the brand to follow through as we grow in size. So as we reach out and do different creative things within the brand, we never compromise what we originally set out to do in the first place. This is my way of keeping everything genuine and pure from the get-go.
Loyal KNG covers music, culture, film, and special events in addition to great clothes. What else do you hope to conquer?
Trung: I’m in love with everything life has to offer, so with Loyal K.N.G. being a reflection of who I am and my interests, including our team members, it’s easy to notice all the variety things we cover. Music, culture, film, events, are a given, since the beginning of our brand’s upbringing. But for some of the genres we’re being more proactive with being involved with are things like car, drifting, skateboarding, vinyl toy, and various other things such as that! As we continue to grow on our journey, our interests in new things just naturally grow along with it. In fact, one of our core values have always been about not prisoning our culture into a genre, but by proactively chasing every genre and discovering that culture is truly the cumulative of all things and interests. With this being one of the values we keep in mind, it helps us with building innovative ideas, and staying fresh when creating projects. It’s good for me to have my passion engulfed in everything life has to offer to enrich the things I work into the brand’s future and growth. I’m more excited with the next cycle of passionate endeavors we fall in love. I already have a solid plan for what we currently have our eyes on, but life always throws in something new and fresh, and the excitement for our projects rekindle all over again.
How do you put your chosen colors together?
Trung: If you mean the color of t-shirts that we choose for our designs, I usually try to pick out 3 base-colored t-shirt per design. Now as to what those colors maybe will always stem from whether the based-color t-shirt goes along and compliments the design well on the shirt. I always use a black shirt as a default (there’ll be time where I’ll make an exception on this), and then I go through a template of different base-colored shirts to see how well it’ll match with the design. After a few minutes of choosing a list of color tees to work with, I narrow it down to 2 for our official release. The reason we provide different colored shirts per design is for more variety of matching opportunities for our supporters. I am a black t-shirt guy, but you may be a navy or a teal t-shirt person, we have those colors so you have those options to choose from.
I actually have ‘Loyalty’ tattooed on my arm. So it goes without saying that we both value this characteristic. In regards to instilling this quality within your brand, do you feel this is the most valuable quality to success?
Trung: Loyalty is a very strong value we definitely hold strongly too. The values and the message that we share with and through our brand that we’ve set from the start, we work hard to never compromise and remain loyal to it. For me it’s about serving our supporters the best experience through our work, whether it’s through a video we release, a blog write up, an interaction with supporters in person, or even through simple things as staying up to date with our friends and supporters on facebook, twitter and email. Being loyal means supporting a cause, and for us that cause is our supporters and our friends who pushes us forward. We strive to be consistent in delivering to our supporters in all that we do. Whether it’s through our hard work, our passion to stay innovative, our kindness, and our faith for what we believe in, we as a team do whatever is in our best of abilities to move forward and further build an extraordinary experience for all who share our journey. This strong loyalty to this important value of ours has certainly been one of our most crucial qualities of success. People genuinely feel those ideals stay true with us, and it’s a definitely a blessing to have that kind of love from our supporters.
You are one of the few creatives that openly use social media to connect with your audience in a huge way. With the addition of your new Tumblr, your ever growing Twitter, it is very easy to connect with you. How do you feel the role of social media plays into the success of a brand?
Trung: Social media definitely plays a huge role in our connecting with the audience. Whether it’s our crew-mates or me social media outlets such as Tumblr, twitter, facebook, ect., allows us to become more accessible to our audiences’ thoughts, ideas, and words of encouragement. And I’ve definitely gained a lot of friends through these outlets that would have never happened any other way. I feel that each social media network serves a different market for different reasons, so having our hands into it all helps broaden our range and reach to different possible audiences. It’s definitely one of biggest reason why we’re not lost in internet-land obscurities and remain relevant to the few who chooses to support us in our journey and growth. We place a lot of effort in building our different form of social media networks such as our blog, twitter, tumblr, facebook, vimeo, and youtube. It’s a lot of hard work that can eat up an entire day easily, but it’s undoubtedly crucial to be involved with the community as much as possible.
We know you work hard and play even harder, tell us some of your favorite Asian films or Anime!
Trung: Oh! [Laughs] Man, I’ve grown up LOVING Anime and Asian cinema, so it’s easy to say that I was majorly influenced by that culture. Some of my favorite Asian films that I can think up off the top would have to definitely be Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and his other old movies he directed and stared in, John Woo’s Hard Boiled, Chan-wook Park’s Old Boy, The Good The Bad The Weird, Jackie Chan’s old films, Jet Li’s Once Upon A Time in China series, and, man, I can go on and on. The Asian cinema is full of rich and amazing work of arts; it’s hard to really not cover a wide range of favorites. And as far as Anime goes, I would have to say Dragonball Z was the Anime that influenced me the most. However other Anime that I enjoyed when I was younger were shows such as FLCL, Gurren Lagan, Gundam, Speed Racer, Naruto, One Piece, Death Note, Initial D, and ALL of Hayao Miyazaki films. Without a doubt, if it wasn’t for the creative Asian culture, Loyal K.N.G. as a brand would never exist! So I owe a lot to such a great and entertaining culture for infinitely inspiring me.
What’s something you wish someone would have taught you the first year of your business?
Trung: Better work ethic, not to be afraid of moving forward toward the unknown, and assured hope for the future. I mean to be honest; there really isn’t much in mind that I can think of that anybody could actually teach me outside of just having to figure it out and going through the lessons myself. With creating a brand or any other creative art projects, there are definitely a lot of high risks involved and it’s because of this reason that a lot of feeling of hopelessness, doubts, and worries can arise. I don’t think anybody can really teach those feelings away. If I wanted to get anything off the ground and I knew it would only be through tons of hard work, innovative directions, and having a lot of faith in all that I did. Nowadays, I still get those negative feelings often, but when I do I just move the energy from feeding those worries and doubts toward something more productive and move on. To fail in this journey is to fail for a lot of folks who depend on me. So failure is not an option and that’s one of my strongest motivators, the people who I will not and cannot fail for.
Would you be kind enough to give us a sneak peek at any upcoming limited edition threads or upcoming plans?
Trung: We are having major plans for 2012 for the brand. To say the least it will be our most ambitious and riskiest year of having our brand. We’ll be putting a lot of hard work into developing a full apparel line with cut-n-sew pieces such as jackets, button-ups, back packs, toys, and much more. There are a bunch of new products that I have floating in my mind that I want to bring to life, and I am going to work hard with our team to make that happen. I would like to open a Loyal K.N.G. flagship store also, but that’s a big jump for us. However, who’s to say it won’t happen? So that’s a motivation for me to work even harder to get even closer to making that dream a reality. At the end of the day, it’s like day one for me; I’m just going to focus on continually putting in the work and push for progress one step at a time.
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