Whether or not you’ve heard of Ink Monstr, we can guarantee you’ve seen art by the custom print shop around Denver. If you’ve eaten at Paramount Cafe downtown and passed by a Greetings from Denver brick wrap in the alleyway, been awed by the custom illustration murals outside Stoney’s Bar & Grill, noticed the vehicle wrap when stepping inside the Denver Fashion Truck then you are standing in front of work produced by the artist collective that makes up Ink Monstr. Not a business to have a dull moment, they also have extensive experience in fleet branding (including wrapping a helicopter for Red Bull), installation of large scale graphics, displays, signs, banners, and custom vinyl graphics. And now Ink Monstr has taken on a new venture: apparel. The new line includes prints and graphics made by local artists and focuses on quality. Reed Silberman, the company’s founder, discusses what prompted them to pursue fashion and how it’s the next step in the brand’s creative evolution.
303: Who makes up the apparel design team?
Reed Silberman: Everybody who works here is an artist, whether a graphic designer or involved in production, everyone here is a designer in some way. The art department creates the line templates, the entire staff creates the image of the brand. Finding a quality sewing team took the longest but we finally have a talented team assembled. The fabrics are really high quality and we’ve tested them: they washed well, the colors are vibrant, the sew quality is top notch. Everything is 100% made in the US, and everything is printed, cut and sewn in house at Ink Monstr. A big thing for us is supporting local community, local business, and fueling the economy in Denver. We could have sourced to China to cut costs but it’s not the path we wanted to go. It costs more money to do everything in house but it’s eventually going to pay off.
303: What pushed the decision for Ink Monstr to produce apparel?
RS: People were asking us. Ink Monstr as a business is really unique because we’re one of the first to create an artistic lifestyle brand in our industry and a culture has been created with it. We always give free stuff for promotion at parties, art shows, concerts, and over the years people would ask us, “how can we get this?” So we saw a demand for it. We’re always looking to continue to do more of what we love, to be passionate about what we create and design so it was a natural progression for Ink Monstr to create a lifestyle brand. We’ve been doing design for other brands and have all these great resources at hand and it was time to work on our vision. Preparation has been going on for a year and a half now.
303: Ink Monstr is recognized around Denver for its bold graphic design, how did it get started?
RS: I grew up in New York and I worked in the financial district, I was a stockbroker for five years (and a snowboarder before that) and I had an instinct that finance wasn’t for me. So I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Colorado and pursued my dream of being a pro snowboarder. I didn’t go pro but I made a living out of it. I was also head coach at Windell’s snowboard camp. They needed help doing graphic design and I discovered a new passion. It was really fun and I enjoyed the opportunity to be creative, I’d never had the opportunity to be creative before. After a year of doing it as a hobby I started Ink monstr in 2004, mostly graphic installation and printing but as the company evolved there was more artistic and creative design. The first year I solicited work, I was living in my van in Aspen. Aspen was really expensive and I needed money to buy equipment, so I bought a van and lived in it for a year. Fast forward all these years, I moved to Denver from the mountains in 2008 and I’ve been trying to be a staple ever since. It was a really good time to be in Denver, a lot of creative energy going on. I always try to have a positive attitude and my staff has a positive work environment. We try to show that positive energy through our designs and image of the company.
303: Ink Monstr apparel will allows artists to submit their own designs, do you have any local artists planning to use this feature?
RS: We will be. We’re going to be working with a lot of local and nationwide artists. We’ve put on Sticky Situation sticker art show for six years in three locations: Colorado, New York and Miami. Sticky Situation has given us to opportunity to work with a lot of nationwide artists as well as a local artist network, including big names and up-and-comers, which is the point of the show. We’ll have artist agreements to put their designs up on our site, and we’ll sell their work online, but that’s going to be the next stage. We will continue to support local artists but also want some traction first, right now we want the world to know that we’re doing something new and fresh.
303: What’s the story behind the brand name?
RS: A name is everything and image is everything. When I started the company I went through a few different names and logos but they didn’t speak to my personality. A friend of mine had the name “Ink Monster” for a screenprint company but wasn’t doing anything with it and I thought “This is a great name! It’s exactly who I am, and my designers are artists and it encompasses who we are and what we do.” I’m also a huge fan of horror movies, monster movies, and anything scary. The people behind these movies design the costumes, the makeup, and it’s an artform in itself. This name is also a double meaning because we hoped the company would get to certain level, to be the monster, to be the big and the best. I knew the name was going to be exactly what I wanted to be. My friends out of Boulder, Todd Berger & Rucian Fohr, designed the logo.
303: Any fashion influencers you look to for inspiration?
RS: My inspiration comes from everywhere. I believe inspiration can come from anything, I don’t think it should come from just one place. Inspiration can come from food, from furniture, interior design, things that speak to us. You see something and it makes you feel a certain way, it makes you feel energetic, it makes you want to smile and be happy, that’s something inspiring. Being from New york, I was always in fashion to begin with. I would go to fashion trade shows and actually had a job in the garment district at one point. Seeing that inspired me as well. I take a bit from here, a bit from there, stir the pot and come up with our version of what’s fun and creative.
Check out Ink Monstr’s new clothing line and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for their next work of art that pops up around the streets of Denver.
Photos courtesy of John Miller and Katie Leigh Photography