Although it’s still in its early stages, Cultural Blends has been making waves both in Portland and throughout the west coast, most notably for the “Best Coast” t-shirt. WOHM caught up with Troy Douglass, the owner-operator of Cultural Blends, to discuss the origins of his company, designs, getting national exposure, and more.
When did you start Cultural Blends? What is the concept behind it?
Cultural Blends started in Hilo, Hawai’i where I was attending University of Hawai’i Hilo. It started between friends, but quickly fizzled out to one of those ideas that friends come up with, but never actually follow through as planned. I picked it up and ran with it. It started as a brand that the current marketplace in Hawai’i lacked. The streetwear presence on the Big Island was scarce. “Tapout” and other MMA brands were what was popular. Coming from the West Coast I thought that bringing together the ideals of Hawai’i with a West Coast style would be something new for the market. It also started as a way to work while I was in school and not have a boss. Cultural Blends is a bit different today than it was a couple years ago. The motto is “Embrace All Cultures, Come Together, Create Peace.” I’ve grown up as a person with mixed heritage and also someone who has grown up experiencing racism and classism and I believe it’s very important to voice things of this nature. You will find a lot of multicultural elements within CB. It’s also definitely geared more for the west coast now as I’ve moved back home to Portland, Oregon, but there is still very much two separate but coexisting lines (Hawai’i and West Coast).
I’ve always been the creative sort. In elementary I was the kid that was doodling on the back of the worksheets. Cultural Blends was the start of the clothing thing though. My sister is big into fashion and I believe subconsciously was very influential.
Where do you come up with the ideas for your designs?
A lot of the designs I come up with surface within 10 minutes after my first cup of coffee in the morning. Primarily I’ll be on the road driving with my coffee, and lot of creative thoughts come about.
What’s your favorite design and why?
Some of my Hawai’i designs are crazy, I’m really proud of them. However, my favorite design is “The Best Coast” shirt. It cranks necks everywhere it goes. It’s unreal; from young to old I’ve literally seen people break their necks looking at it. I’m proud of that one too.
What are some of the things you have you been doing to promote Cultural Blends?
Trying to keep overhead as low as possible. Social Media Platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I’m not a social media guru, but I have a loyal following. I’m working on having some video footage of things Cultural Blends is doing to help the community this year.
Can you talk about the campaign behind your latest “Fresh” and “1977” hats and the partnerships with The Raphael House and the Oregon Food Bank? What is the significance of partnerships like these in your industry?
The new “Fresh” and “1977” headwear lines are in a way the pioneers for the future of Cultural Blends. I’m going to pair every specific design released with a local charity, organization, benefit, scholarship etc. so that the money goes back to the community. So with the “Fresh” line, I ripped the “Franz” bread logo and turned the wording into “Fresh” for good reason. From every hat or beanie sold, one loaf of FRESH “Franz” bread will be donated to a family in need, via the Oregon Food bank. The “1977” headwear(s) which is a commemorative nod towards The Trail Blazers championship year, also gives back to the community. $1.50 from each purchase goes towards The Raphael House of Portland, which is a multi-faceted domestic violence agency, which has been fighting against domestic violence in Portland since 1977. Both lines have a full circle effect, and I want Cultural Blends to be known as the streetwear brand where every purchase made goes to benefit the community. It’s a re-mix of a “Tom’s Shoes” approach.
What do the national looks (i.e. nationally recognized figures rocking your designs in photos, videos, etc.) mean to you?
It’s cool to see NBA players, celebrity type people, and YouTubers wearing Cultural Blends. I feel like I haven’t put too much out there on the market so it’s very cool when I see an Instagram post and things of that nature. A lot of the time, I was pulling-strings to get product to them, but nonetheless, it still makes me say, “Whoa!” when they wear it.
Where do you see Cultural Blends going from here?
From here I envision a long road for Cultural Blends. The journey really is just starting. I’m beginning to really learn the business side of things, and getting shelf space in retail locations is my next biggest move. I’ve gotten by with online sales, but it’s time to get product out there in the marketplaces. Also, consistent, concise releases that tell a chronological story is something I aim to do. It makes the entire body of work an ongoing album opposed to 4 seasonal mixtapes a year.
What are some challenges of design? What advice can you pass on people who are interested in design?
Design from the soul. Any challenge you face with design can benefit from those four words.
I want Cultural Blends to be known as the streetwear brand that produces quality products and where every purchase goes back to the community in someway shape or form.
To find out more about Cultural Blends, go to culturalblends.bigcartel.com.