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Not long ago, our friend Emily tipped us off to Small Talk Studio, a one-man clothing operation started by a guy named Nick Williams. His creations are hard to categorize: utilitarian in form but whimsical in content; a jumble of unlikely brand logos, pop iconography and natural motifs; a little bit skater, a little bit hippie. There's no reason that a white dress-shirt decorated with a hand-drawn 1) Felix the Cat, 2) Mellow Corn bourbon bottle, 3) portable AM radio, and d) boxy '80s station wagon should work, but it's fantastic. Ditto these matching pants:
Currently based in NYC, Nick has "almost no formal training in apparel design or garment construction," he tells us (though he's started taking a Sunday class at F.I.T.) "My background is in printmaking and carpentry, and my process is definitely informed by that background: It's all about layering imagery, different media (drawing, screen-printing, embroidery, etc.) and sometimes fabrics. I started Small Talk about 2 years ago after my grandma taught me hand-embroidery."
Check out these Carhartts, hand-drawn and faded just so. We love the fine detail of the EL-KAY paint-can-turned-planter on one leg and the fat, ghostly line of the Michelin Man's (?) arm on the other. These are like a way more muted and dressed-down version of BODE's custom hand-drawn cords.
"I love imagery associated with supermarkets -- that's a recurring theme," Nick notes. "I've always been drawn to the obvious artifice of advertising and how that carries over into the way we view and depict the natural world: I've got binders full of old postcards and found photos; brochures from national parks; firework labels; clippings from classified ads and auto trader catalogs; supermarket coupons and sometimes little bits of trash that catch my eye. A while back, I picked up a used packet of McDonald's grape jelly from the sidewalk outside my house, put it in the scanner, and then it made its way onto a t-shirt I put out a couple months ago."
Another comparison that comes to mind besides BODE is Online Ceramics, whose wildly popular t-shirts live in the same trippy universe as Small Talk's screen-printed "Sleeping Gnome / Toast" tee, below. (Sourcing blank Gildan and Hanes tees, Small Talk favors factory-reject stock to avoid adding more waste to an already-hyper-wasteful industry.)
"Usually, custom one-off pieces range from about $150 to $350 and take me anywhere from 4-6 weeks to complete," Nick says. "The pieces I make in small runs (shirts, pants, sweatshirts) are $20-$100. I'm working on a big collection now that's about 1/3rd one-offs and 2/3rds small-run garments, for a really cool vintage shop/sustainable-fashion operation called The Consistency Project that just opened here in Brooklyn."
Small Talk Studio's Instagram, where you can see and commission his custom designs, is here. His webstore is here.