A Word With - Jerome Kay | KnurD
Except for a select few (the well-to-do, the bona fide starving artist, or that 20-something still dependent on their parents), the masses are often subjected to the rigorous regime of working white-collar jobs with very little time for play. People often find difficulty in balancing time between work and play, while yet others still believe that there can be no such thing as a balance between work and play!
Then there are the outliers like Jerome Kay and Josh Mosh, two individuals who believe that work can be just as much play as play is to work. Together, the dynamic duo have conceptualised this philosophy in a brand aptly named KnurD. KnurD is a clothing line that seeks to blur the lines between the two lifestyles (if leading lives of debauchery and ‘workaholicism’ can be considered such) by creating apparel that’s suitable for both work and leisure. Having recently launched their first line of products in the form of eight different t-shirts, it will undoubtedly be interesting to see if KnurD can bring something unique to the table in a fashion industry swamped by so many graphic tees.
Recently, we were able to grab one of the founders of KnurD for a quick chat regarding the brand and its essence.
What’s the idea behind the brand KnurD?
As you know, the brand’s name is KnurD, pronounced as nerd. But if you read it from the back, it spells ‘drunk’. The idea of the name KnurD is for it to be a metaphor for work and play, and how it represents the whole idea of the contemporary urban culture. Most of the time, everyone’s leading hectic lives with work and whatnot, and when they’re not working, they’re out playing, and that’s the kind of message we wanted to send with KnurD; essentially a modern representation of society. In terms of our inspiration, we were inspired by tech startups. Personally, I’m a person that dresses very casually, nothing too over the top. In fact, I look at Mark Zuckerberg as an inspiration and how he’s always dressed in that one same outfit. Based on this idea, I created KnurD with the notion of creating apparel that can be worn to either a working environment or a casual outing, if you’d like.
What was the initial spark behind the conception of the brand?
I’m into fashion myself, leaning more towards a very casual style, and after graduating from college I wanted to start a brand but I had no prior knowledge. So, what I did was spend two years of my life learning the ins and outs of creating a brand and all it entails: graphic design, drawing, writing, etc. to name a few things. So after those two years passed, I met my current partner, Josh, a graffiti artist, and we began brainstorming this project. After we met up, we further discussed the direction we wanted to go with the brand and eventually, we launched KnurD on the 1st of May this year. What’s interesting to note is that, we decided to launch the brand on Labour Day to further strengthen the idea of a clothing brand being suitable for both work and play.
You said you took a couple of years to conceptualize the brand, learning the crafts of starting a brand, yes? What was the most challenging aspect of your journey from the start to this current point in time? Especially when there are so many avenues and platforms for brands to be on the come up.
Well, let me answer that from the development phase. I’m actually a geology graduate, so my background had nothing to do with fashion or street wear, and whilst pursuing geology, I was interested in marketing. At that point in time, there were a lot of tech startups being birthed in Silicon Valley, hence the idea for the simple approach in our products. And this paved the way for what would become the phase of developing the idea for KnurD and whatnot.
The hardest part for me, personally, was finding out what I needed to do. So, let’s say I wanted to start a brand. I was set on handling the business side of things, and getting a partner to do the designing for apparel, but as it turns out, things don’t always work that way. So, I just picked up all the necessary skills along the way. Going back to what I said earlier, the two years before the launch of KnurD was actually spent learning the skills to create whatever you see on the website and in our products now. From website coding, material sourcing, and graphics design, I’m happy to say that these were all done in-house. And since we’re still relatively new to the whole clothing brand scene, the more demanding challenges are probably yet to come. Right now, I’d say the hardest thing to do is getting your brand name out there to your desired target audience. So far, I’d say the performance within the first month of the brand’s inception was a healthy one but we can definitely do much better.
Going back to what you said about being into fashion, do you draw inspiration from any existing brands when it comes to designing graphics for your products?
Yes, I’m a fan of simple stuff. Things you can get from H&M or Uniqlo pique my interest, so mostly the basics I’d say. As long as I can get up in the morning and dress nicely from head to toe in a good outfit, then that’s good fashion in my book. But my problem with brands like Uniqlo is that I often think their basic pieces are unjustified in terms of pricing. For example, a plain white t-shirt from Uniqlo will run you RM40. To me, there’s no spice in these brands. [They’re] functional, yes, but nothing more than that in my opinion.
I came across this brand that delivers on the front of functionality and design, Norse Projects. Their retail price was relatively pricey, but in terms of inspiration for designs, I’d have to say that would be the brand that we drew ideas from.
We tried to put our own spin on basic pieces with our logo. If you notice, the logo is actually this face with glasses and X marks on where the eyes would usually be, signifying a drunk "KnurD" if you will.
When it comes to actually designing our products, me and Josh [will] come together and throw ideas at each other until we settle on something we both like. For example, I prefer to go for the more minimalistic approach, and Josh tends to be quirkier or more politically incorrect, so we try to fuse our ideas into the final products you see on the website.
"a metaphor for work and play..."
- Jerome Kay, A Word with Jerome Kay | KnurD
As a relatively new brand, would you say it’s harder to break out nowadays compared to a few years ago? Especially considering that platforms like Instagram helps spread your reach, but at the same time it is diluted with up and coming fashion brands.
I would say it has its pros and cons. Let’s say if you started a brand five years ago, it’d be much easier compared to now since there wouldn’t be as much competition. Take Pestle and Mortar for example: they’ve been relatively strong in the scene due to how the brand was a newfound idea of sorts, and they became successful in terms of capturing their intended market due to how many street wear brands there were at that time.
Overall, I’d say that different times command different problems, and Pestle and Mortar also did have their fair share of problems back then. But what matters most is the amount of effort you put in to overcome said-problems.
Now that you’ve been in operation for a month already, do you have any ideas for a coming ‘collection’, if I may call it that?
I wouldn’t call our products a collection, as our priority right now is to get our name out there. The reason we started with eight t-shirts was because it was the most cost effective for us. However, if our first batch of products [does] relatively well, we’ll definitely be looking more into more functional products like shirts and hoodies with a main focus on casual-wear-centric apparel. I believe that occasionally we’ll be collaborating with other brands, but nothing is concrete as of now.