2 Heads are better than 1 – An interview with Twin Serpents
Twin Serpents is a company that offers some very detailed graphic art on apparel that focuses primarily on snakes. I’ve come across the company various times and was interested in learning a little bit more. I was able to ask Rob Cardenas some questions on his brand and running one, he opens up sharing what he’s learned, people’s reactions to his tees, and more.
-First and foremost please introduce yourself:
My name is Rob and currently reside in San Jose California with my wife. I love art, I love snakes and taking pictures of landscapes.
What exactly is Twin Serpents and what made you start it?
Twin Serpents is a brand about Serpent mythology and art. I love snakes and most people think I’m Satanic because the snake allegedly tempted Adam and Eve. I’m not so I started doing research about the Serpents and it turned out that snakes are mostly Evil within modern religious people but to some ancient cultures, the serpents were believed to be wise and immortal gods. One head represents the Good and the other head represents the Evil.
I started Twin Serpents along with my brother as a way to occupy our time. We lived in a rural town and it was painfully boring. At first it was only me just designing things for fun and to learn photoshop and after a family member asked for t-shirts, I decided to print a few tees. After getting a quote from my next door neighbor, I felt all the fees sucked and that’s when my brother came in. We bought a press and started printing shirts from the garage. Then the economy tanked and lost the house. No house meant no space for the press and had to sell the press. We would just print 2 or 3 color designs but the newer designs we were getting from artists were too crazy for our skills and that’s when we began hiring professional screen printers. We used the money we got from the press and invested in designs and on new merch.
Twin Serpents works with a variety artists what’s your creative thought process when working with an artist? Do you have an design in mind and search for an artist that will compliment the idea or are you a fan of an artist and try to find a way to work with that person?
It all depends. I have a list of ideas I want to bring to life and I also have a list of artists whose work I like. Sometimes I follow the list and give a detailed brief to an artist that I think would be a perfect fit. Other times I just like an artist so much I just tell them to work their magic.
Every artist has their own style, do you feel it is difficult to have each design cohesive with the brand?
It is difficult at times. I know cohesiveness is what makes most brands successful but I don’t really focus on that. I know I should but I just want the artist(s) to create something they’re proud of. That’s why there’s some stuff on the store that might look out of place. There’s also been a couple of times when a design didn’t make the cut and never got printed. It sucks when that happens but it does happen.
Where do you work the hardest as a brand owner online or offline?
In the past, I put all of my efforts trying to sell online but it came to a point where the market became overly saturated with t-shirt brands. For the past two years I started selling locally at reptile shows and music venues. Selling locally feels good since I get to know the customers but at the same time, it feels awesome sending stuff to countries I might never get to visit.
Do you prefer to market the brand more offline in your local area or online through social media and blogs?
I prefer to market online since it’s easier to reach more people without having to leave your house and without the vendor fees. I can do it on the go or while it’s slow at work.
Twin Serpents released mostly t-shirts, but what other products do you want to go into in the future? Posters? Snapbacks? Belts?
I keep getting told that my art belongs in posters. I think posters will be hitting the store sooner than later. I also have plans to release an art book but for that, I’m gonna have to really do a lot of research. I want it to be perfect! Snapbacks are also on the pipeline and perhaps skate decks.
Are there any plans for expanding Twin Serpents into the retail world?
There’s a couple of stores that carry Twin Serpents gear but I’d really like to have a big name store chain to sell our stuff. I’ve tried reaching a few but I’ve been unsuccessful.
What were some of the tough challenges that you faced coming up and how did you overcome them?
More than anything, having snakes featured on most of the art. A lot of people really hate snakes. I can’t describe the look on some people’s faces when they see snakes even on art. Some like the art but don’t buy the shirts because of their fear. I happen to enjoy their fear.
What is/was one of your most prized Twin Serpents design, past or present?
From the past, I think Aphrodite by Geno75. That was the first shirt that got us Tee of the Day at Emptees (now mintees) and really put our name out there. I think it’s the one where I’ve gotten the most compliments from girls and hate from angry moms. I had to remove it from a reptile show one time and it felt good.
What would you say are the most common mistakes for brands who are established and forget to put in the work to keep a brand going?
The number one mistake for me is just getting lazy. Thinking that because you have a following your fans will buy anything you put out. It’s not the case. People grow and their tastes change and one needs to be aware of that. Another mistake is cutting corners. People love quality and if your stuff is made by amateurs or with inexpensive materials, your brand will suffer.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned while running Twin Serpents?
Never rely 100% on anyone. It’s your business and you have to make sure things happen. Find great companies who are reliable and that do excellent work. Order samples and ask around. That extra time you put into researching can make or break your products.
I’ve had this conversation with some designers and even seen it show on forums, being someone whose brand consists of a graphic tees do you see graphic tees decreasing in popularity or is it still growing?
Honestly, yes. This year has been slower for us than other years. People love shirts that match their shoes (yes, even guys) and sometimes people prefer quirky shirts with quotes or with simple designs.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
If you’re thinking of starting a brand and have any questions, hit me up. If I can help, I’ll be happy to do so.
You check out Twin Serpents at http://store.twinserpents.com/
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