How This Little Spark Got Started

Creative ideas are random. You never know when one is going to hit you. Some jump out in front of you and say, “Ta-Da! I’m here” while others sneak in the back door and never announce their arrival; they wait until the middle of the night to smack you up aside your head. Some take years to really come to life.

One of my favorite creative ideas is the design for shirts from my Folsom Collection. They’re artistic and edgy yet simplistic. The materials used consist of a nice button down shirt, something with a cool images (like a t-shirt or a sweater) and found objects like buttons and earrings (maybe some scrap leather or faux fur for arm trim, depending on the approach). Five years ago if you put those materials in a pile in front of me and said do some thing, I’m not sure what I would have created. I am positive it would not have been as cool as what I’m making now. I could not have come up with this idea on my own. I got by with a little help from my friends.

In AUG 2012, a dear friend asked if I could make some shirts for him to wear at Burning Man. He sent me a photo of one that he kind of liked and asked to use it for my inspiration. It was an approach I’d never tried but why not. I love a good challenge and wanted the money. It was a sleeveless shirt that had faux fur around the arm opening.

I didn’t have time to make a shirt from scratch, so I went and found a really cool shirt in great condition in his size at a thrift store and cut off the sleeves. Being a Burner and having worked with faux fur before, it was easy to add. My favorite Picasso quote is, ‘Good artist copy. Great artist steal’ so I had to make it better than the photo. I added details that the other shirt didn’t, such as cool buttons and décor across the back. Truth is, I was really pleased with how it turned out. The fact that I saw him wearing it 3 years later, I would say that he really liked it, too.

I kept playing with this concept. It was hit and miss in the beginning. One sold within seconds of being on the rack. Some didn’t vibe and I ended up gifting them out in hopes they would get worn eventually. I kept at it; I knew there was something here.

I had an ah-ha moment when I came across an orange, striped vintage cotton button down in a thrift store and a San Francisco Giants t-shirt with a vintage logo I found in a pile of free stuff on the side of the street. They both were so cool and had to be together; like peanut butter and jelly. This was the first time I used a t-shirt image to add an element of design. I frickin’ loved it and my gut said run with it.

Not soon after I was asked create a shirt for a talented and very hip DJ, also to take to Burning Man. I was nervous with this one. He was going to wear it in front of oh, I don’t know….a few hundred people, all eyes on him. This shirt HAD to be cool. I talked it out with him as far as his personality and his over-all brand. He wanted it to be stealth and fast as well as pay tribute to his love and respect for nature.

I found a really nice black dress shirt that had some texture that gave it this modern, steal vibe. Stealth and fast; check. How to tie in nature? I found a t-shirt that had a bohemian floral print that looked like a butterfly. Nature: check. When I merged these two even I was impressed. It was thrilling to see him on stage in front of a packed crowd wearing the shirt I made custom for him. This inspired me even more.

I keep making shirts like this and keep getting positive feedback. The more I play around and experiment, the more refined they became and my style became more defined. After four years of bringing this idea to life, I decided to create an entire line devoted just to them. One catch: I still didn’t know what to call them.

I reached out to another friend whose creative thinking is off the chart. We’ve had many conversations about branding, pop culture and perceived value. Long story short, I love the way he thinks. I took a few sample snapshots, explained the audience and where I see people wearing them. Within seconds, and I’m not making that up – seconds, he had a name. The Folsom Collection, inspired by the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. It’s an iconic SF event that’s open to all walks of life who are out to celebrate their individuality and sexuality. Sutter Larkin comes from two streets in San Francisco. Eclectic, expressive, sexy, all about individuality and named after a street. Could not be more perfect.

And that is how a simple little request evolved into an entire line.

More photos of the 2016 Folsom Collection.

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