Meet Amit Kanfi, creator of LAMA?, a skate and surf inspired streetwear brand based in Tel Aviv, Israel, that isn’t afraid to ask the question “why?” or, in Hebrew, “LAMA?” During his time serving in Israel’s army, Amit took to drawing to cope with his PTSD.
Whenever he had a chance, he would draw. At first, his illustrations weren’t meant for clothing, they were simply a way to say what he felt without speaking, and what he felt was the question “why?” “Why did this have to happen to me?”
Every time Amit drew, he developed his message - the message that would become his company’s brand. Soon, his friends caught onto the message and encouraged him to turn his illustrations into clothing. So, three years ago, Amit made his first t-shirt. He sold his first fifty in no time. His friends were asking for more, so he put another design on one hundred more t-shirts and sold those just as quickly. People who weren’t his friends started talking about his shirts and that’s when he finally thought to himself, “maybe I have something in my hands hear, that I’m not aware of.”
That’s when he had his first popup shop at “some weird bar.” Of the thirty people there, half purchased Amit’s clothes (that’s really good). So, he took it up a notch and started putting on more sales events, while really working on his Instagram account. Soon he began to produce his own t-shirts, instead of printing on blanks, increasing the quality and level of customization.
In addition to popup shops and Instagram, Amit uses a surprising form of guerrilla marking: street art. Over the years, he has transformed the meaning of “lama” from “why me?” to “why hate?” One of his designs in particular uses the three prominent languages in that region: Hebrew, Arabic, and English to ask “why hate?” It’s a message that resonates with people on both sides of the battle line. Those who have been hurt by the conflict. Amit uses his art to ask this very question all over the streets of Tel Aviv.
People who see his design on the streets, then find it in their favorite boutique along with his other clothes. Since its start, Amit has been able to place his clothes in a number of local streetwear retailers and is excited to continue to grow as his message grows with him.
Best part of all this is: Amit is just getting started. He recently found an investor who’s going to help with budgeting, finding a shop, offices, and warehouses. This means a lot more space and a lot more resources to create new products - things that he couldn’t have even thought about beforehand.
Most importantly, Amit added, more money for public relations. That means better events and a stronger online presence.
We all know this to be true, but often times this principle can be what makes or breaks a new business. Don’t let fear get in the way of a much needed investment to jumpstart your business. Alright, we’ve basically entered the realm of advice, so let’s do that.
Here’s something I’ve never thought of before:
It’s something I was aware of - I want as many people wearing my clothes as possible so that people DO see my brand on the streets, but Amit reframed the concept for me. An ad is only as good as its presentation. The same goes for your clothing. Before people see your clothing, before they give your message a chance, they’re going to make a judgment on the person wearing your clothing. If they reject that person, they’ve already rejected your message. Obviously you can’t control who ends up buying your clothes, but you can control who you target beforehand. This is one of the may reasons why marketing is so important, and not only marketing, but putting in the thought necessary beforehand to figure out WHO you want wearing your clothes.
Before you even delve into the process of creating your clothing, though, Amit emphasizes the importance of brainstorming.
Brainstorm, not only designs, but concepts and ideas. Some clothing companies, like LAMA?, start with an message, but not all of them. If you’re starting a clothing company without a central idea, or message, or lifestyle in mind, this is when brainstorming is the most important because without a vision there is no direction.
This next piece of advice will sound familiar if you listened to our last episode with Christina and David from Lost Cruces Clothing Co.
You need another person with you when there’s a lot going on all at once. Two people means, not only double the budget, but double the brainpower when it comes to brainstorming. It means someone’s there to lend a critical eye to your designs and visa versa. It’s important to note that this second person needs to be someone you can fully trust - someone who will tell you the truth even when it hurts because they know it’s what’s best.
Amit then talked about how important trade shows are for emerging, somewhat more established brands. Beyond social media, trade shows is what gets your clothing into other countries. Ideally, he explains, you’ll have look books with samples two seasons in advanced to show at trade shows. If a buyer likes your product, they’ll pay up front for their order and all you need to do is deliver. This is Amit's ultimate goal for LAMA? He's already overcome so much and is spreading his message of peace and love all over his city and the world. I'm excited to see him continue to do so as he pursues his goals.
Podcast SANS END theme music: Church by BenJamin Banger. Find him @ http://smarturl.it/hjfi20