In conversation with | Alex Dawber

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Creating a clothes brand from scratch is no easy business, but with determination, the right idea and the vast amount of opportunities available in one of the world’s most creative capitals, anything is possible.

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Alex Dawber Creator of 4BYSIX [David Rothwell]

Originally from Golborne, a small town in Manchester, Alex Dawber moved to London in 2008. After doing a Foundation degree in 3D Sculpting and Graphic Design, Alex studied Graphic Product Innovation at London College of Communication.

In his final year he created the street wear brand 4BYSIX and graduated with a 2:1 in 2012. He currently works at a record label – creating their artwork, whilst directing the everyday business of 4BYSIX. I caught up with Alex to discuss his journey and future plans for 4BYSIX.

What does 4BYSIX stand for and how is that represented in the logo?

There are four letters in my first name Alex and six letters in my surname, Dawber. I wanted a logo that related to me which could also be a theme throughout the different designs.

“Every design has an element of four and six embedded into it, for example the skull logo has four upper jaw teeth and six lower teeth, to the left there is the number four within the shield and six bands around the neck.”

What inspired 4BYSIX?

“I’ve always had an interest in fashion and graphics. From a young age, living in a small village, my friends and I used to hang out on rooftops or in abandoned warehouses so our clothing was important, being out all day, we would wear really robust and comfortable clothing, such as North Face or Berghaus.

“Hanging out in warehouses you notice graphics on the walls illustrating dangers or hazards; this introduced me to signage within graphic design. Linking the clothing, the warehouses and coming to LCC, really established my interest in graphic design and I thought about how to put this all together.

“Even if I hadn’t come to London I believe I still would have created 4BYSIX but I doubt it would have been of the same standard and passion. I find in London you are surrounded by so many inspiring and passionate people. Coming here is a big part of 4BYSIX, and I’m a firm believer that if you come out of your comfort zone you will excel.”

“I find in London you are surrounded by so many inspiring and passionate people.”

What is the difference between a street wear brand and a fashion brand?

For me, street wear is about quality, comfort and picking up that piece no one else has. When I’m looking to buy a new jacket I look at it as a product, a piece of equipment that will assist me when I’m out and about – like a good mate.

“With higher fashion it’s more about visuals – this has less meaning for me, kind of like a girl you meet who’s beautiful but just doesn’t have a personality.”

What designers, graffiti artist and people in general influence and inspire you?

“I went to an event at the Village Underground on Shoreditch High Street and there were a lot of graffiti artists there, one by the name of Tristan Eaton who was talking about doing a project with Shepard Fairey, who I am a massive fan of.

“I introduced myself to him and asked if he needed any help, and he was open to the idea. I worked with Tristan and that was confirmation on what I wanted to do.

“We would get up around 9am and go home around 3am, it was really full on and I was told to get some sleep but I always wanted to stay. It was really cool and was my first real experience of being in those circles. There was a graffiti crew called MSK, who were there at the time. I didn’t meet Shepard Fairey because he was dealing with a court case with the Obama image.

“I would also have to say my dad – I lost him last year to cancer. He was always so positive and determined, his attitude was amazing.”

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Medusa Mural created by graffiti artist Tristan Eaton for POW! WOW! Hawaii and Versace [Jasper Wong]

You collaborated with a graffiti artist by the name of Flekz – what did the final collaboration consist of?

“I saw Flekz on a blog, he’s a tape artist from Los Angeles, he finds massive walls under subways and creates designs based on shapes from blue tape. A lot of the time the shapes are mirrored images which I thought was really cool.

“We were working on a few designs together which I interpreted from an illustration perspective. At the moment we are sorting out the licensing but be on the lookout for the collaboration!”

What’s your favourite product by 4BYSIX?

“The Mission T featuring the huge skull on the back. It’s a celebration having the logo cemented and it’s what the brand stands for – it’s very mission orientated and bold. We were going from warehouse to warehouse as kids, so for me that is the stand out design.”

What struggles have you faced creating and maintaining 4BYSIX?

“The main struggle was getting my hands on good-quality plain garments and finding good printers. Most printers require a minimum of 25 to 50 shirts, so if you take a risk with a new printer you may be in a dilemma if the quality isn’t up to scratch.

“But this is all part of the learning process. The most frustrating thing is definitely getting a good quality product. At the start I was printing with a really poor company and that was a big wake-up call.”

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    Model in 4BYSIX shirt 'Mission T'

Running your own business can be stressful at times. What do you find therapeutic?

“I find drawing to be very therapeutic – put on some classical music and just zoning out and doodling. Often they turn into designs, so although I’m chilling it’s still semi-productive. I love to create album artwork for artists that don’t exist, if that makes sense.”

“Find your style, find a story and reach out to your peers and get as much feedback as you can.”

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a clothing brand?

“Have a theme in mind it’s okay putting out a few T-shirts but long term you have to create something that is present at the beginning and all the way through. Find your style, find a story and reach out to your peers and get as much feedback as you can.

“Reach out to people who are already doing it because the time you save will be incredible. I reached out to a few printers when I started and they can point you in the right direction, they are happy to help because they have been in your shoes before. Collaboration is the key.

Where do you see yourself and 4BYSIX in the future?

“What I’m doing now is getting a team together, I found myself trying to do everything before. This is a long process, almost like starting again but will be sustainable once in place.

“Involved so far is a PR guy who’s previously worked at Armani and Adidas, plus two friends who deal in manufacturing and logistics specifically from China – so we’ve started to get samples manufactured over there.

“Eventually we want to get a collection together and the dream is to have a store in London. I’m currently in talks about collaborating with a few people at the moment. The future is looking bright and I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Images by: Alex Dawber