Jen McMillan of Bandit Brand
Bandit Brand is one of our favourite labels we stock in store. Why? I originally loved the inspiration the brand takes from vintage American rock 'n roll culture and biker chicks. However now, it's also of the ethos behind the brand and the owner/designer is one super rad girl (who by the way owns my dream wheels). We were stoked that Jen McMillan behind Bandit Brand has taken the time to tell us a bit more about her label, from the beginning to where it is now..
How would you define Bandit Brand? Ethically made (in the USA) Nostalgic T Shirts for rebels and super neat people. It still doesn't feel like a 'brand' to me even though I named it that, haha.. I just keep making stuff and squealing 'cause I love it and then making some more. I don't go by any 'rules' like seasons or trends, I just keep piling stuff on.
What made you decide to create Bandit Brand and when did you launch? I had a vintage shop and wanted to sell new stuff too (but made ethically by creative people) but could only find a couple of t shirt brands I liked that fit the aesthetic of my shop. It has always been a little rock and roll and full of denim jackets and cowboy boots and there just wasn't anything out there, so I started making my own. I run around a lot and would take it into other shops to see if they wanted it, and thats how I started wholesaling it to other people.
Did you have any previous experience or people of inspiration to help you with your decision to start? I am mostly inspired by rock and roll bands, concert shirts, old harley shirts etc. I am a total t shirt maniac and have been obsessed with t shirts since like the 6th grade. I have photos of me in middle school 25+ years ago in harley and heavy metal shirts that everyone is wearing now. I learned about the t shirt business though when I worked as Jesse James personal assistant at West Coast Choppers for several years, about 10 years ago. Everyone thinks he made money off of the bikes, but it was really t shirts : )
What are the differences back then to now? How has the label grown? It is growing now more than ever because I think the trends of motorcycle stuff, native american, western etc and that is what I have always been attracted to from growing up in a small town in Colorado, so I feel like I can convey that look well. I am screwed when the trend goes away cause I will still be doing this ha. Customer demographic is all over the place, I sell to all kinds of shops and all kinds of people seem to like the tees. I think they are really nostalgic and a good alternative to major brands, with the brand name printed all over it. Categories are pretty much the same as they ever were, but Western Wear type shops are loosening up and ordering, they used to say they loved my stuff but it was a little too 'risque' and now they are into it. Staff has grown by one person, I don't print the tees myself anymore, haha. My whole house used to be water based t shirts drying that I printed in my kitchen cause I couldn't afford a dryer. I would get sheets from the thrift store and lay them everywhere and dry the t shirts on top. I pretty much do everything.. I am learning to delegate though... it's getting a lil crazy and I am fairly scatterbrained. I don't want my life to change so it has been interesting trying to grow while trying not to grow... I love my freedom and don't want to be glued to a phone or computer or have employees and spend my days bossing people. I have friends who own big clothing brands, and they are stuck in offices and yes they have lots of money but no time to spend it or travel etc. That life is not for me. I am simple. I just need rent $, burrito's and gas money to get to the next town.
Where do you get your inspiration to create from? Everywhere. Everyday. Music, vintage advertising, bands, old t shirts, shitty tattoos, biker magazines, record sleeves...
Are there any people that are also are a main source of inspiration to you? I am SUPER excited about how many people are making things by hand these days. I have SO MANY talented friends that I am so proud of and inspired by. I see so much creativity on Etsy and Instagram etc and am happy to see people are able to make a few bucks doing what they love.
What’s the best fun about what you do? I think that it's just doing what I love. There isn't really a separation between my real life and my work life. I get super excited about photo shoots or traveling to vend at shows etc. It just is who I am and I am lucky to have created a life where I do whatever the fuck I want. I am still a total broke ass but I am happy no matter what.
What are you excited about that is upcoming for the brand? I am partnering up with and handing over production to my factory. He has supported me and put up with my shitty little orders and never having $ and he has helped me grow and I will run this business into the ground if I don't partner with him ha. I am super good at the creative part but totally blowing the business end so now I will be able to focus more on designing and photos etc. I spend all day printing shipping labels and pulling and packing shirts and I feel like I have paid my dues.. Plus I think all of my customers will be happy soon when they get their goods in a timely manner and without chicken shit or animal hair on them haha.