Local clothing line Sleazy Apparel isn't actually sleazy, but that's probably a good thing. The tongue-in-cheek title may come with some negative ideas about appearance and attitude, but the line's founder Jordan Hunter would like to see it join the ranks of other slang words like "wicked" or "sick."
"We want [the word] to represent a positive thing -- like, 'Yo, that was sleazy,' meaning 'Yo, that was awesome.'"
With their second batch of casualwear available in their e-store and the success of their autumn/winter line launch party last month, Sleazy Apparel's quest for awesome is approaching its one-year anniversary.
Hunter envisioned a new line with a stronger, more professional team and a new name after the failure of his last clothing company, Diamonds and Guns. Sleazy Apparel took off after Hunter met graphic artist Matt Krawchuk at a local hip-hop show.
Today, the brand is owned primarily by Hunter and Krawchuk, who collaborate on design and marketing decisions. Their inspiration stems from vintage graphic art influences, alternative urban clothing lines like OBEY and The Hundreds and Krawchuk's own detailed and textured designs.
"We want to have the 'double-take' kind of mentality, where you look at it once and you don't see everything, and then you have to look back to notice more details that you wouldn't have noticed the first time," says Hunter of the line's signature visual style.
Krawchuk's work in particular is known for this meticulous approach to graphic art. Under the moniker Fortune Circus he has been designing T-shirts, posters and album covers for many Calgary musicians, including local hip-hop artist Transit, who now doubles as the brand's spokeperson. The video for the Transit single 'I'm So Indie,' wherein the rapper sports a Sleazy hoodie, recently gained airplay on MuchMusic's indie program The Wedge -- a significant mainstream breakout for the brand.
This is no accident -- Hunter and Krawchuk aim for Sleazy to be bigger than just an apparel company, something they have started to do by partnering with local musicians. Krawchuk describes their vision:
"We strive to be more of a culture with art and music and apparel all in bed together . . . I think people relate with that much more, because I can see a shirt and say, 'That's great, but do I want to support their brand?'
"We want to be a culture, and I think people can relate and connect to that much easier."
When it comes to the business side of things (particularly opening a physical store), Krawchuk "like[s] the idea of the 'face-to-face.' You can go into a store, and that teller might have [had] a bad day or whatever and treat you like shit, and then you have a bad experience buying a Sleazy product. That shouldn't be the case.
"I firmly believe we are an independent brand, and we are just going to do it our way -- for now, at least."
They're doing something right, as their launch parties have a local feel -- they're at once a chance to meet the creative duo, experience the bands who sport the Sleazy name and become part of their community.
Earlier this year, Sleazy Apparel released a mixtape featuring local artists such as Transit, Makeshift Innocence and For the Weekend. Indie pop-rockers The Braves were also featured on this mixtape, and lead singer Joy Hansen claims that the whole band is behind the brand, with at least one of them wearing a Sleazy shirt at every show.
"I think [Sleazy Apparel] represents what is happening in Calgary, and that the culture here . . . is growing and having success."
That's the point of the mixtape, Hunter explains -- to use the concept of Sleazy Apparel to help local artists grow and expand Calgary's music scene.
"We keep everything quite local, and we want to grow with the local sponsors we've selected. So instead of latching ourselves on to something big, we want to latch ourselves on to something from Calgary, something local, something-up and-coming that we can grow with."
Sleazy Apparel may not be sleazy in the common sense, but it is definitely everything that is local -- and that's something Calgary can be proud of.