• How we started a T-shirt brand by accident

    La Mort Clothing Rivers of Blood tattoo T-shirt

    Well, 2015 came and went and I was so busy that I barely even noticed. This was not what I had in mind for life as an adult.

    When I was 15, I left school confidently declaring that I was going to paint pictures of tanks for a living. Well, it turns out that’s not actually a job, and it’s certainly not what I have spent the last four years doing. Similarly, Faye has not spent the last four years being a witch. Luckily her seven-year-old self will never find out.

    As I sit here surrounded by paperwork, designs in progress, and half-full sketchbooks, I realise that we seem to have started a death art clothing brand by accident. Strange that.

    Why Death Art?

    As our brand grows, we often get asked how it all began. The about section of our website explains who we are and gives a little insight into how we operate, but it doesn’t quite capture the whole truth, which is that La Mort Clothing is the result of a long line of coincidences and unlikely opportunities.

    La Mort Camden Market Death Skull

    We never sat down and decided to draw death art and neither of us planned to make skull t-shirts. It has been a long process that has lead up to this, and we’ve had insane amounts of fun along the way. Really, we’re just getting started

    A Psychedelic Start: Schooling in Design

    Faye and I met at art school and at the time we had wildly different styles and interests. We were never really involved in each other’s projects. I had started 2005 painting on large canvases and she was involved with performance art and bizarre little drawings. We both lacked direction, but also felt like something was brewing and that an amazing idea was just around the corner.

    The real beginnings of La Mort started on the day I found an old sketchbook of mine with a pen and ink drawing in it. Until that point I had completely forgotten about the strong graphic style I used to love, and the mind blowing psychedelic poster artists that I used to try and copy.   

    After giving up on painting, I decided that art school wasn’t for me and spent the rest of the year designing free posters for bands, while my lecturers despaired. It was while drawing these posters that I learned traditional drafting skills, and how to ink my drawings the right way.

    Skulls in Ink: Learning to Print

    Our time at art school came to an end and while I spent more and more time designing posters at home, Faye went to University and, through a chance encounter with another student, was introduced to print-making. Within a few weeks, her macabre little drawings were being transformed into oily-black death prints.

    la mort clothing screen printing gothic posters

    It was around this time, in 2007, that I started visiting the London Print Club in Dalston, to learn how to screen print. It seemed the next logical step if I was to take over the world with my posters. This printing process, which is still used to make all our clothing, cemented my drawing style and allowed me to focus on line work and solid black. It also became the foundation of everything we made for La Mort.

    We began living with each in September 2007 and, though our drawing styles were still very different, we began to exchange ideas and swap sketches. I drifted away from the psychedelic art I had been drawing and became interested in gothic art and the posters of the Viennese Secession.

    An Unlikely Collaboration

    By 2009, Faye and I had rid our artwork of nearly all colour, and were almost always drawing in black and white. It would still be another year of working separately before we would come together and decide to curate a group art show. We named our partnership The Mourning Press and began producing limited runs of death prints.

    Faye Winslade at La Mort Clothing etching death prints

    Our first show, Memento Mori, opened in September 2010 and featured the work of artists whose pieces dealt, in some way, with death, decay and loss. It was the first time either of us had sold our work and it became a starting point for what was to come next. I stopped creating posters and we both settled on the idea of becoming fine art printmakers. It seemed simple enough at the time.   

    Our second show, The Affliction, opened in June 2011 and it was these few days that changed everything. After the opening night, we spent the rest of the week sitting at the back of the gallery drinking all the leftover wine and wondering about the public’s lack of interest in Death art. Something had to change.

    While we were planning our next move, a guy walked into the gallery and started looking at our prints. He said ‘You should put these pictures on T-shirts’, and then he left.

    That was the answer we were waiting for. We continued drinking wine.

    Days in the cold

    Our next step? Camden. For those of you that haven’t been there, Camden Market attracts some of the best (and worst) alternative and hand made art and fashion. It seemed like the best place to start. We needed a name and after many days of discussion, Faye suggested “La Mort Market”. It may have been the same day that we both decided to adopt the name for our new T-shirt label. La Mort Clothing was born. We spent several months printing posters and greetings cards and, for the first time, headed to Dalston to screen print our first run of T-shirts.

    La Mort printing skull t-shirts in the studio

    The first design we printed was called Narcosis 3 and of the 20 or 25 we printed, I think I got about 16 right. In total, we took around 40 shirts to Market on our first day and it seemed like a huge amount at the time.

    La Mort Clothing at Camden Market

    What followed was three years of our weekend market stall, where we began by selling all types of paper art and T-shirts. It was another year before we ditched the posters (they used to get wet in the rain!) and switched to clothing. A lot of you know us from Camden, and it was the most amazing start we could have wished for. We made friends and learned how to sell our work in the rain and the snow. This contact with the public really paid off when we started trading at tattoo shows.     

    But that’s for next time...

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  • Comments on this post (8 comments)

    • David says...

      Hi Falko. Thanks for your comment. I am so happy to hear that we were the best bit of your London visit. What an honour!

      It’s great hearing from Camden customers, because it reminds me of standing outside chatting to people and showing everyone what we do. I kind of miss doing it, except on rainy days!

      Thanks again. ;)

      On January 18, 2016

    • Falko says...

      Thinking back now I’d say discovering your stall at camden market was the most valuable thing to take with me from London.
      The two shirt I bought later (thanks to your online shop & international shipping) are my favourites and I thank you for these pieces of art.

      Best of Luck!

      On January 17, 2016

    • David says...

      Hi Carina. I am pretty sure that if I saw your face, I’d remember you. We had a lot of great times at Camden and I seem to recognise people even years later when they show up at tattoo conventions for a chat.

      Really happy that you like what we do, and that we have kept it up. Our Camden customers are really what started this whole thing, so you can thank yourself too for being part of this.

      Hopefully you’ll like what we do next. It will involve witches!

      On January 15, 2016

    • David says...

      Hi Bryce, thanks for your message.

      I am always so happy to hear from people who we’ve met at Camden. As I mentioned in the post, we kind of started our stall by accident, and it turned out to be one of the best things we ever did. I’m glad you found us and liked our shirts!

      Thanks for telling your mates about us. La Mort spreads mostly through word of mouth and people we know through Camden, so I really appreciate it.

      We have some awesome stuff coming out in the next collection (no modesty here!), so hopefully you won’t be disappointed. :)

      On January 15, 2016

    • Carina says...

      You probably don’t remember me, but I feel so honoured to have briefly met you when I discovered your Camden stall. They were my favourite t-shirts then and they’re my favourite t-shirts now. I still wear the first ones I bought pretty regularly and they still look like new. And I’ll always look forward to new designs!

      On January 15, 2016

    • Bryce Viskovich says...

      In 2013 I left Perth, Australia on a trip by myself though Europe and the UK.
      Came across your stall in Camden and had a chat with Faye for a bit about the designs on display and some of the prints. Faye gave me a card directing me to the website. Picked up 2 shirts that day, the only ones I liked after walking around the markets all day were from your stall.
      Since then ive directed several mates to the website and purchased 3 more shirts.
      Keep up the good work guys.

      On January 15, 2016

    • David says...

      Thanks for your comment Bob. We have a load of new designs in progress, and have plans in the future to release limited edition posters again. We’ll keep you updated!

      On January 08, 2016

    • Bob says...

      I’m glad I got one of the posters while they were around! I always look forward to seeing your new designs, and hope there are many more to come.

      On January 06, 2016

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