Hethel Innovation Case Study: Dread Decks

Just Keep Swimming With Local Fashion

We passed some questions onto Dom from Dread Decks to reflect on his business and the work we’ve been fortunate enough to be part of, check out his answers below!

Talk us through Dread Decks, what is your story and what do you do?

Dread Decks is an independent fashion and lifestyle brand that I started in 2015 and I have been running it alongside of university and part time jobs ever since. The idea for Dread Decks began with hand painted old skateboards adorned with tattoo inspired art. I painted the skateboard decks in my parents garage the summer before starting my studies of Fashion Design at Norwich University of the Arts.

I have had a fascination with traditional tattoo style art as well as fine art for as long as I can remember. I thought the boards made for beautiful shaped canvases. Repainting them was a good way to breath a new lease of life into battered and broken old decks that would otherwise just lie around unused. The koi fish became one of my favourite motifs to paint, I love the flowing lines of the fish’s body, the curved scales and more than anything the story of determination and triumph that comes with the Legend of the Koi. I then proceeded to paint multiple commissioned decks for a variety of different customers – barbers, tattooers and individuals.

I began my first year of University, having made some sales and the artwork seeming to gain traction and popularity online I decided I could turn Dread Decks into a brand. I wanted to combine my passions of tattoo art, skateboarding, streetwear and tailoring into an all inclusive brand. I was perhaps naive about what it would take to do this, in both time, resources and skill but I am ever learning and keen to make it work. Running a company is a full time education process, where I am consistently making mistakes, learning from them and adjusting. Despite the struggles some people follow the brand very closely and love the positive messages I try to push. One of my proudest moments was when a follower, who I had never met, sent a message reminding me of the mottos and idea’s that I have always plugged through the brand.  “Keep Swimming!” and “Don’t Let The B*stards Get You Down!”

To turn the brand from individual painter to lifestyle company I started to produce more products and imagine my work in different contexts.  I started hand printing t-shirts using Lino as well designing and producing limited runs of hoodies, jumpers, prints and printed skateboards. I ran solo exhibitions, pop up shops and events in the hope of selling my wares and growing the brand. I created films, collaborated with artists, photographers, skaters and models to try and build a strong brand identity.

 Running Dread Decks alongside of University and work has resulted in a slightly hap-hazzard, stop start approach to the company, this is something I always seek to improve. I constantly research and try develop practices that will allow the brand to run in a much smoother manner.  Through my Fashion studies my idea’s and interests matured and in turn as did my goals fro Dread Decks. In my third and final year of university I used the the time and the skills I had developed in garment construction and textiles design to create the first full cut and sew collection for Dread Decks. I found third year quite difficult, I was pulled in multiple different directions and took some time to settle on the collection that I created. There were many things I would change the next time I make a collection but the experience was invaluable and I was able to test run designing and constructing a collection of clothes that combined my passions. Illustration, tailoring and streetwear inspired by historical, nautical tailoring presented in a contemporary way. The feedback I received regarding the collection was incredible and very inspiring, I learnt a lot of lessons about planning and execution that I will seek to implement when making my next collection that will actually be up for sale. One of the crowning moments with my third year work was that a few months later I was approached by the people from NAMESldn and asked if I would like to show my work at Somerset House during London Fashion Week as a part of their Fashion Showcase.

Currently, I am working on producing new artworks, products and garments that will be releasing in the coming months. I am also working on a series of short films that will explore what Dread Decks is about and what we believe in. I am working on new collaborations and looking to grow and develop the community that surrounds the brand. Follow us on instagram @dreaddecks or head to the website www.dreaddecks.com

 

How have you been working with the Business Development Team at Hethel Innovation?

I was introduced to Andy from Hethel Innovation whilst doing an internship setting up a podcast for the NUA Ideas Factory after graduating. Will NUA’s Business Development Officer recommended that I have a meeting with Andy to get an external opinion on everything that I am working on. It can be quite overwhelming working on your own so it was brilliant to get some support and advice from someone who has experience working with startup businesses. I was quite surprised at how helpful it was simply to talk through my idea and business plan with someone who wasn’t aware of what I was doing. It helped firm up some of my ideas and consolidate my plans. I came away from the meeting with pages of notes of resources to look up and tips to try out. 

Since that first meeting Andy and I have had meetings at regular intervals to discuss how things are moving forwards. The accountability of knowing you have a progress meeting coming up has been invaluable to help me keep the pressure on and ensure things keep steadily progressing. I think my artist’s mind is quite sporadic, I like to paint and sew that comes naturally, the business side does not. Therefore having Andy to discuss what I have researched and how I should implement my plans is a great help. Each time the brand moves forward and I find a new problem to face or a situation I am unsure about, I can pick Andy’s brains on how he would approach things. Both personally and professionally I have seen myself and my business grow and develop since beginning to work with Hethel Innovation.

Everyone starting out or even far in business could benefit from having an Andy to bounce ideas off and he didn’t pay me to say that!!!    

 

What do you see in your business’ future, do you have any goals right now?

As mentioned earlier I plan on growing and developing the community around Dread Decks. I hope to build a platform that really connects and engages with the brand’s customers and followers. I want to this by offering high quality content, products and inspiration for the people who follow the brand. I am currently working to develop a new collection of one off pieces as well as limited runs of high quality clothing and artwork. One of my biggest goals is to get this collection stocked locally and nationally as well as getting it featured in magazines and online.

I am currently looking to develop and grow the blog on the website to offer insight into brand values and offer readers a different perspective on relevant issues. I am in communication with a selection of different writers to also work on the blog and help grow the community. I plan on releasing a video series that explores similar topics in a visually beautiful way and also gives sneak peaks behind the scenes.

I have also always have had a dream of releasing a longer film that includes many great skateboarders ripping about and wearing Dread Decks, behind the scenes of creating the art and clothing and day to day activities of running the brand. This film is more for the future though 2021 is my aim. Another goal more for the future is to be commissioned to do more Mural work but this is perhaps more of a personal goal than one for the brand.

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