I have to admit that when we started OCN Culture in 2017, I was not thrilled at all. At the time, I had a job in the mortgage industry (which is often a thankless place to be) but I had finally hit the jack pot when it came to finding rad bosses and a team who really valued me. So I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought of a side hustle. “Why are we throwing this into the mix of our already crazy lives? We have two kids, a mortgage, demanding jobs,” I asked my husband Jeff, and went on with “T-shirts? This is ludicrous.” Jeff looked at me and said, “I need this.” What he meant was that he needed a creative outlet. He has this creative side that needs tapping into, and surf culture has been a part of his life since before he was born as he was bred from a rich history of Hawaiian Culture. I on the other hand, don’t have a creative bone in my body but I’ve always had a hustle mentality. I begrudgingly agreed to help make things happen operationally – as long as it was fun.
We enlisted our two best friends Dan & Sho as Partners and pitched it as a fun thing to do together. As always, they were down for an adventure. Another good friend who is a Brand Strategist & Creative Consultant helped us come up with a couple variations of our logo. We bought T-shirt samples from multiple vendors, tried them on, and through process of elimination we honed it down to the final two which we thought were best fitting. All of this happened over beers and hanging out – four best friends, doing what we always did on weekends, but now also laughing at each other while trying on T-shirts.
Then, we bought and printed on way too many T-shirts. Like…. way too many – a stupid amount of them. Way too many colors of shirts and way too many varying logo placements and colors of print. We laugh at it now, because we still have some of those shirts lying around and it’s actually embarrassing. They aren’t a good representation of our standards now, so they literally just sit there. We don’t even feel comfortable giving them away as freebies. We will figure out something; Jeff recently used one to make a flag to hang outside of our shop.
Going back to those crazy stupid T-shirts – as we were choosing them and trying them on, from my recollection, none of us thought about the fabric or where it was made. It didn’t even cross my mind. For me at the time, if a T-shirt (or jeans or anything else) made me “look good,” I would buy it at any cost. But I was never that person who was turning things inside out to see what it was made of, or where it was made. I was oblivious and I must admit, it was easier that way. After all, it wasn’t my problem to solve, right?
Well, now we know that it’s a problem which we should help solve. This is why we have committed to going 100% organic (or worst case organic + eco-friendly), sustainable, non-toxic dyes, and only work with partners who fairly treat and pay their employees. For now, that means we have all our apparel (which is now more than just T-shirts) made for us locally in California or other states in the USA. And it will be this way until we can do our full, due diligence to see if we even feel comfortable with out-sourcing to any other country.
We’re still a baby in this game. I feel my head being patted “Just wait. You will learn… You will learn of all of the scaling challenges, and you will learn to compromise.” But this is the thing: We are already compromising. Organic + sustainable = higher prices that many customers cannot (or do not want to) pay. Our retail prices really should be higher – we know that, in fact the feel of our shirts have been compared to those of James Perse. But we feel like that’s our problem to solve. It’s not our customers’ problem that we’re growing, trying to do the right thing, creating products that are high quality and stylish too (sometimes organic clothing can get a little “crunchy”), and that scaling is a challenge for us. So as I beg the question “Does Anyone Even Care?” I am also answering that it doesn’t really matter if they do or don’t. We will find a way to make this work. We simply feel that it’s the right thing to do… on so many levels.
P.S. Please, feel free to leave a comment! We would love to hear from you. And if you have any resources that you'd like to share, please do! For those who want to go down the organic cotton-sustainable-nontoxic-fair wages rabbit hole of apparel, please reach out for some resources to get you started.
From left to right: Dan, Sho, Jeff, Carlina (Partners and best friends for life)
From left to right: Jeff’s Grandfather and his friends in Oahu, Hawaii.
Jeff’s flag made out of one of our “crazy stupid” T-shirts