Introduce yourselves and tell us a little about what you do.
Huston is two guys who spent many years working in the design and ad industry on both the client and agency side. When I was on the client side, I was confused about what I was getting in terms of value from the agencies we worked with – it’s complicated to equate the output and expensive. So, I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just me. I’m a bad client!’ So, I decided to go to the agency side instead. I realised then that there are great agencies and loads of talented creatives, but the problem I saw was that the agencies were still living in the old school. There are loads of employees, and you need a lot of moving parts to try and attract the big clients, but then you have to pay all the people during the times when you don’t have those big clients so the people turnover is harsh. Something felt wrong, so I left the big agencies behind me and went out as a freelancer. A friend with a small agency had an opening, so I joined and was there for six years. There, I met a guy called Richard, and we just clicked. We spoke the same creative language. I had all these ideas, he got all those ideas and then realised them perfectly. We started talking about our next step – I tend to think more business often, he thinks more creatively so we began Huston. We each do what we do best and apply that to brands to give them value and be more active, empathetic partners. That’s us! Two guys will soon be three – with a talented girl joining the team, and we are in a really sweet spot. The clients trust us to build their brands, and the work that comes our way is from client references, which is fantastic. Our clients see us as a collaborator, which is a beautiful thing.
And now the merch…
I started my career at H&M as a visual merchandiser. It’s such a great place to work, the culture is super strong. I’ve always been drawn to fashion and communication. Then I moved to a place called Sail Racing, which is where I realised that clothes can be more than just trends – they can be more technical, and performance-focused as well. So, this merch was just because we wanted the agency to be our playground for creativity in all senses. We started Huston on a creative rather than profit level, time and happiness are more valuable to us, and profit comes to us by thinking this way. I said to Richard one day, ‘It would be fun to do this and get it out of my system.’
Richard and I started sketching these old hamburger joint graphics. We didn’t even have a brand identity for our own agency, so we couldn’t do anything brand-related in the beginning. We took a three-day break to Richard’s cabin, and I said that we should have this merch as a physical way to experience our new agency. We mocked it up, more ideas started flowing. We made it wore it to work, people started noticing and asking for them.
Why Creator Studio?
We had the ideas but did not have the capital to lock down the MOQ stock from other places, so we landed at print on demand as a solution. But the first samples from other printers were horrid. The garments and blanks were rubbish, or the print was bad. So, we were pretty depressed for a while after that. We need the stuff to represent the brand and what we stand for. It has to match the levels of quality and expectation that we have when we do something for our clients, it has to be a representation of us.
So the quality is important?
You know immediately if you’ve hit the sweet spot. Seriously – if you’re thinking of doing something like this, invest in good merchandise. If the quality isn’t there, no one will wear it.
When did Creator Studio step into the picture?
I read a Linkedin post by one of the Creator Studio founders and got an account sorted. The tool was good but still beta, but I started engaging with the team and building from two sides. Even then, you could feel that everyone was super engaged and open to the feedback and listened to our needs. We tried it, ordered loads of samples, probably went a bit wild trying everything. But then realised it’s sometimes best to curate carefully and be in control.
Talking about the quality, do you think merch has a stigma attached to it when it comes to quality?
I guess so. It’s hard to make people understand that merch can be good quality. It’s also hard to convey the level of quality to people who are buying our stuff. They need a point of reference so we reference some pretty premium brands so people have a point of context. But it’s safe to say, we’re super happy with the Creator Studio blanks. For me the word ‘merch’ can sound bad, and there are these personal experiences that someone might have had in the apst that have tainted their experiences. But it’s like everything else, if you put the time and love into it, you can break down those experiences.
Launching in a wider scale. We’ve had a slow soft launch, did a shoot down at a local restaurant to keep things nice and local, set up the store, did a quick mention and have an idea of how we will put the word out. At first, you always hope all your mates will buy it, but they just want it for free! Instead, we might go through the back door and do small gift packs for our clients with bespoke artwork. We’re doing this merch to canonise our own creativity. If we love it, then I think someone else will as well.
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