Happy birthday Killers & Kings! You are officially three years old today!!
Well technically, it’s in a couple of days ago but I'm writing about it today, 'cause I don’t want to do it on a Sunday.
Hey guys, Robb here:
The-double-K is finally back in the game with a fresh new drop for summer, and an all-new store up and running that looks sick! We just launched it, so if you find any weird glitches, or things that are just plain wrong, shoot us an email!
We took the first half of the year off to recuperate from Black Friday and also focus on the latest Machine Head record, that combined with the fact that Jan-thru-April is the absolute slowest time of the year for us, didn’t exactly inspire me to get new stuff out. In fact, I’m probably too late for a summer drop, since it’s the end of July now, but I figured it was cool to coincide with the 3 year anniversary, so fuck it!
Since the last anniversary, we launched several new designs including new Trust In Few graphics, we did a Thrash-collab with 3 of my favorite thrash bands Sacred Reich, Forbidden, and Destruction, created a plethora of “destroyed’ Established and sent those down the pike, and even introduced a limited drop for “BIG DUDES” (3X to 5X), which we will continue to do but only in very limited quantities.
We also had quite a few Love Death items including a hooded coaches jacket and a popular pullover hoodie, plus Love Death shorts which were a HUGE hit.
I’m still trying to figure out what to do with Love Death, it sells really well, it consistently moves, I have a stand-alone Love Death website lovedeathco.com, but I haven’t used it in a while because it became so convenient to have it all under Killers & Kings… though that's weird to me as they are 2 different lines… and I’m paying for anther site… and I generally release Love Death around Fall / Winter as it’s more appropriate, plus it's more high-end.…
I don’t know... anyone have any thoughts on this? Keep it all together? Make stand-alone?
Regardless, all-in-all we’ve had over 30 different designs/color variations come out over the last 3 years, and thats pretty darn cool to me, never thought we’d get this far. We’ve come a long way since I started scribbling designs down in my dining room back in April 2015.
So since it’s the 3rd anniversary I thought it might be fun(ny) to share some of those initial scribblings (which looking back) are kinda hilarious and ended up looking nothing like the initial ideas I had. That said, I’ve learned that when it comes to creative endeavors, where you start and where you end, are very often two very different places.
The first chicken scratches I did were on April 1, 2015
No idea where the chicken legs/eagle talons came from, thank fuck that idea went away! 2-faces are eventual Manson-Jesus shirt
I initially reached to Bloodstone & Diamonds artist Marcello Vasco to make some quick mock ups, he came back with the below. I love Marcelo, and he killed it for me with the album art, but it just wasn’t the vibe I was going for.
So I took reached out to a few artists buddies of mine, but specifically to Jonathan Buske at Buske Design who’d I’d been recommended by Doug Weber (Doug worked at the streetwear brand Rebel Eight at-the-time, and played guitar in the hardcore band Terror). I first got to know Doug back in 2006 when Machine Head tour along side his band. He along with Jonathan were the guitarist and bassist and while I didn’t hang with Jonathan much, Dougie I raged hard on the Sounds Of The Underground tour.
Jonathan came back with something that was almost nothing like my initial idea, but way, WAY stronger than anything I came up with. It looked like a brand. His first mock was this, plus a couple of alt designs
We went back and forth a few times before finals settling on the what became know as the Established design.
Alt logo I liked a used for neck labels
I talked with the guys in my band about starting a streetwear, and truth be told, they were a little apprehensive about it, hell, I was little apprehensive about it! They were reassured when I made it clear that it would ultimately benefit Machine Head.
Machine Head had been planning on keeping our merch rights when our deal ran out, and would be launching our own webstore. I wanted to learn the in-and-outs of the online merch world as the Machine Head online sales were dismal. The way I looked at it, I could test a bunch of stuff with K&K, fingers-crossed make a little extra money a month, and most importanly, learn! In the end, it was ok if Killers & Kings failed, but when it came time for Machine Head and our online store, that could NOT fail.
Seemed to make sense.
3 years and 6 seasons later, the ‘ol make-some-extra-money-a-month has yet to kick in. This year will likely be the first year that changes that, as I am finally just now out of my start-up debt.
Even at this point though, I still was unsure if I wanted to do it. It seemed like a lot to take on, it was new territory for me, I didn’t want to fail publicly, and let’s face it… another band dude with a clothing line… L-A-M-E!! I kept asking myself, why even bother?
I reached out to my friend Brandon Schiepetti, ex-Bleeding Through singer, who (at-the-time) had semi-retired from music and started his own very successful fitness company down in Orange County called Rise Above Fitness and who were absolutely KILLING IT with ridiculously good fitness inspired apparel.
Brandon gave me the inspirational speech of a lifetime, and when I hung up, I was ready to climb Mt Everest, conquer the world, and start a streetwear company (funnily enough, I was at my gym talking to him when we spoke!).
So I started proceeding down the printer path, reached out to a few printers and settled on local boys Ben and Carlos at We Need Merch in the East Bay near me. I knew Ben from his old band All Shall Perish (who I worshipped), and became friends with he and Carlos. They printed our first round of Established designs, and also printed the latest round of Established designs. I have 5 different printers in the US, and have about 14 people worldwide that make K&K operate.
3 years later and many, many, many, MANY ups and down later I’m still here, and kinda surprised every time I say that.
As I detailed 2 years ago, my 3rd season was a disaster of mind-boggling proportions (this was picked by many news outlets). It was bad. I never thought I’d get out of the debt of that ended up in after that, and basically admitted publicly that I was throwing in the towel. 2 years later, I can look back and say man... I’m glad I stuck with it.
YOU GUYS, helped me stick with it.
And while I have questioned many, many times since then, why the hell I even bother with this… I usually come back to this.
As stupid as it sounds, clothes are important to me, they always have been.
As a kid who grew up fat, and still struggles with my weight even now, clothes can make me look way better than I actually look, or, have exact opposite effect and make me look way fatter/worse than the shape I’m in. I relate to everyone who struggles with it. I wasn’t born with a great body by any stretch, and even though I excercise/workout a ton, it's still difficult to get a handle on my weight. Call it shallow, but the truth is, people fucking judge, and I like to look fucking good. So from an early age I realized, certain clothes helped that.
I try on every blank that we use to see how it hangs, where it’s tight, where its loose, how the material feels. Do my nipples show? (I hate that). Is it sturdy feeling enough? Is it scratchy or soft? I always go for the premium ring-spun cotton, not the cheaper, scratchy cotton. In Japan, the way they look at denim is not how it looks new, but how well it ages. I love that philosophy, and I apply it to K&K. How does it age? I wash everything many times to see if it shrinks weird, or fades to a weird color, or to an awesome color.
This applies to the ladies line as well, ( though I have girls try it on obviously!)
And I can tell you this, with my shit body, if it looks good on me, I know it’s gonna look great on you!
I sample every print to make sure the quality is epic, and I’ve hired and fired countless printers cause their work was just not up to snuff.
Streetwear is a rough business, (I doubt I’ll ever say fashion), but some brands I do admire for their style and consistency as well as their outlook on life would be Rebel 8, Liquor Brand, Upper Playground, Brooklyn Projects, Omertà/Old Fashioned Gentlemen, Drop Dead, Johnny Cupcakes, Diesel, Doc Martin, Obey, and Blackcraft.
Over the last three years we have amassed an unbelievably incredible base of customers/fans/supporters/die hards (not sure what to call you?). There's more than a few of you that have pretty much bought everything single thing K&K released, and don't think it's gone unnoticed.
By industry standards K&K is in the top 4% when it comes to online-only stores launched in the same time (which is pretty fucking amazing!) and I've got double the industry standard in repeat customers which makes you some bad ass motherfuckers!
I'm gonna take a minute now to get a special shout out to my Top 20 customers of the year. These guys and gals RULE, and Killers & Kings / Love Death would be a lot less without them.
Last year I called my top 5 customers to thank them personally, and I want to do it again this year. Top 5 people give me your phone numbers at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll talk!!
Thanks for reading, til next year!
EXTRA, MASSIVE, GINORMOUS SHOUT OUTS TO:
JULY 2017 TO JULY 2018 - TOP 20
1) Mihnea Cotet
2) Jeremy O'Brien
3) Sean Begay
4) Michael Boodagh II
5) Lok Speekman
6) Jeremy Maloney
7) Thomas Wilson
8) Shannon Hemingway
9) John Lawlor
10) Kim Kyhen
11) Charles Ledezma
12) Robin Kalinowski
13) Dawid Zwirecki
14) Floyd Barber
15) Andreas Andreadis
16) Cameron Nicholls
17) Jan Stöthke
18) KISUKI TAKASHI
19) Brian Rancuret
20) Andreas Veselinovic
ALL-TIME TOP 20
1) Jeremy O'Brien
2) Mihnea Cotet
3) Sean Begay
4) Dave Leszczynski
5) Robin Kalinowski
6) Lok Speekman
7) Michael Boodagh II
8) Rhonda Price
9) Andreas Andreadis
10) Dawid Zwirecki
11) Thomas Wilson
12) Toyoharu Imamura
13) Kim Kyhen
14) Brian Rancuret
15) Daniel Fletcher
16) Matthew Kellett
17) Eric Castillo
18) Jeremy Maloney
19) Floyd Barber
20) John Lawlor