Tag For Change: Our Interview With Nick Martin Of Lost And Loveless

This has got to be one of the most heartwarming interviews I've done this year! Just in time to get me in the holiday spirit, I sat down to talk with Nick Martin, co-founder of the new clothing line Lost & Loveless, and guitarist for the band D.R.U.G.S. We spoke about teddy bears, the impact of positive change, Long Duk Dong, and of course, we had to throw some music in there, too.

Hi Nick! How are you doing today?
I'm doing really good. How's your day going?

Pretty good. So tell me how Lost & Loveless got started.
Well, I had a clothing company maybe three, four years ago that I started, and at the time realized I didn't have the time to put into it. So I kind of took a couple year break on it and I realized I did miss it and I wanted to get back into, hopefully, doing something with clothing again. And a good friend approached me and said he was starting a company so it kind of just spawned off from that. I kind of wanted to gear towards, you know, keeping what we're doing really positive and also having a charitable aspect to it. With the previous clothing line that I had at the time I was raising money for a little fire relief fund here in San Diego when there were all those... we had a ton of fires one summer. And I started a clothing company solely based on just raising money to help families kind of rebuild and restructure their lives. So I wanted to take that same kind of approach and mentality with Lost & Loveless this time around. We're not solely focused on just one charitable organization, we kind of want to have a broad spectrum of trying to, you know, raise awareness or help raise money for various charities so that's what the company is kind of founded on.

That's very inspirational. I know you just ran a Toys for Tots campaign in October. Do you have any immediate plans for more fundraisers?
Um yeah. You know... we have a million ideas and it's just a matter of trying to hone in on what the best ideas are and what the most feasible ideas are. Like I said, we want to keep a broad spectrum of different charities and different organizations that we want to help, but I kind of feel like it's gearing towards more helping kids as much as possible. I know for me personally I've got such a soft spot for kids; you know wanting kids to have an amazing life growing up and anything I can do to help to facilitate kids being able to achieve whatever they want. And I think a lot of our charities are really going to be geared towards kids. We want to get into the kids clothing world if we could and make shirts for kids and tie a charitable aspect toward that of you know, if a child wears one of our shirts then we'll donate another shirt to a child, and kind of instill [doing] charitable acts with kids at a young age. If they feel like they're making a change instead of just adults doing it, I want kids to feel like they're also doing something positive for the world. That's kind of the future of what we want to do charity-wise. And we want to make bears at some point next year, and do the same thing where if you buy a bear, another bear gets donated to a kid in need. So there's a million ideas of where we want to go with the charity aspect but I think it's going to be geared more towards helping like disadvantaged youth, I guess.

That sounds great! I was looking at the line and my son would go nuts for your logo; I haven't even shown it to him yet because I know he'll want a shirt.
That's awesome.

So do you have plans for when you are coming out with a kid's line?
Yes, it's essential to what we'd like to do. It'd be at some point next year probably that we'd go into that field. It's definitely something that I don't know much about yet. Like I don't know what kids think are cool you know, so I guess we'd have to keep it really basic and simple and talk to my friends and family who have kids and kind of see what they wear. It's kind of like I feel I have to do my own market research on what kids really like. Going into it, we wanted to make the company as non age-specific as possible. You know, we want kids to be able to wear it and we want grownups to be able to wear it, at any age. So yeah next year at some point if we could get kids clothes I'd be beyond stoked. It's definitely in the works.

The Lost & Loveless bear is named Tag, right? Why did you pick a teddy bear as your logo?
When we started the company we wanted to be make sure that we branded ourselves with an object that captured the eye but also pertained to what the company stood for. When I was talking to a buddy of mine who designed the logo I said I liked the idea of some sort of ragged teddy bear or kind of toy that was tossed aside and was kind of like lost and loveless, you know? So he sent these different concepts, these different teddy bears he was designing, but I really liked just the simple face of it [the teddy bear] you know, because it represents a bunch of different emotions, I guess. At the same time he looks like really sad, and he looks kind of beat up, at the same time he looks really tough from it, too. So it kind of has its double meaning behind it where he is "lost and loveless," but at the same time he's also really tough and wants to help and he wants to get back on his feet. So it has the double meaning behind it and it just worked. It was one of those things where he sent maybe ten different logo options and as soon as I saw that one I realized that that was kind of it, you know. And then when my business partner saw it he realized that was it as well. I was kind of one of those things where you just want to go off your first instinct of what really attracts your attention and what draws you in and it was definitely the face of the bear.

Did you have a teddy bear when you were a kid?
I did. Actually I still have the teddy bear, too. I keep it at my parents' house; it's pretty beat up and falling apart and all the cotton inside is all like coming out of it but I still have it. I think, subconsciously, those kind of objects are what I've kind of brought into all this as well. You know it's being nostalgic and not forgetting where you came from and what comforted you and what helped you through tough times. You know, it's those, subconsciously, kind of loving inanimate objects that you grew up with. So yeah, I still have a bear there. I don't even think it has a name but I do have a bear at home that I grew up with and that I will never part with, for sure.

That's awesome! I have a stuffed dog and I still have it, too.
Oh really, that's so awesome! Is there a certain toy that your son has now that has already grown up with him through the years, that he's attached to?

He has one cat that he's had since he was about two, and it's already pretty ratty and he carries it around, a lot. And he loves it.
I love it.

Since you're coming from a music background, and it seems like there is a correlation for you between music and fashion, who do you see as your customer?
When we started this we realized that the first market that we knew we could target to would be the music market. Solely because I've been in the industry for maybe ten years now. So I know target markets of music consumers and I know, kind of within my scene at least, what kids personally gravitate towards fashion wise. So starting this I knew that would be the first market that we'd want to try to tap into but at the same time we also didn't want to be genre specific, we didn't want to have our clothing company solely based just around the music culture, either. We want to dive into as many cultures as we can, like the art cultures, or even at some point if we could get into the sports culture. I feel like the dynamic of having everything very charity-driven kind of separates us from any other clothing lines that are just in the music scene, because we want to branch out from all that but we definitely want to tap into that as well. So I feel like just to get our feet off the ground, it was going to be easiest for us to really attack the music market. Because I have a bunch of really amazing friends in other bands that have been more than supportive of really spreading the word about Lost & Loveless and positive change. It's sort of like stepping stones, we'll start here first and then find our different avenues after that, after we tap into the whole music scene.

It sounds like the idea of community is really important to you. Do you think that clothing can make a difference in becoming a part of community?
I think so. It's something that you know, I think people generally gravitate towards. Even if people aren't necessarily into fashion. Like even for me, I wear the same thing like every day, you know? I'm not the type of person who like goes out and goes to malls and shops every month and needs new wardrobes all the time. But I feel like people will stand behind what we do based on, like you said, it's a community effort we want to build. So I think people can see past the fashion aspect of it and realize that when they wear anything Lost & Loveless they know they're representing positive change. Or they know they've directly affected somebody else's life in a positive way. Whether someone is into fashion or not I still feel like they can get behind what we do no matter what. That's why we kind of want to tap into hopefully making toys and making stuffed bears and we want to try to run the gamut and try to keep our product line as broad as possible.

This sounds like it's a real passion for you.
It is. And it's something that I didn't realize I was so passionate about it until we started really diving into what it is that we wanted to do and I realized like, wow, this is something I've always wanted to get behind and really say that is my own. Try to make some sort of difference. I think people try to make a difference all the time and I think people have really great intentions, but then there are those few people who really want to go out of their way as much as possible for the betterment of life. That's what I've always loved about being in a band and playing music... any sort of possible message or positive feedback from kids that you know, you changed their lives or that you just brightened their day. In any small way, shape or form that I can help people then I want to do that. So this is like the perfect company and perfect project for me to like really sink all that kind of passion into and hopefully it pays off with people.

So because you're also with the band D.R.U.G.S., do you think you'll eventually want to give up that passion to run this, or keep doing both?
I do want to keep doing both, I guess. Part of me also, in the back of my mind, realizes that I can't be in a band forever. You know, I'm coming up on being 29, and I'm not saying that's old by any means...

You're not!
...but it's hard for me to tour a lot and be gone all the time, you know, just like my friends and family, being gone from that. When I was 19 and 20-years-old, it was cool and it was fun to get away from home and see the world, and I've been lucky enough to do that and there is not a day goes by that I take [that experience] for granted, but I realize there is a point in life where I'm going to be gone from that. And I still want to stay in the music industry and, you know, work on songwriting and producing and doing all that kind of stuff in the music business. But I would definitely like to be able to spend more time on this current company as well. Right now it doesn't get in the way of my music at all. I've been able to spend an equal amount of time on both projects. But, of course, at some point I'd love to be able to dedicate some sort of full time effort to doing this.

I'm lucky enough that the other people that work within Lost & Loveless are all amazing, driven people, you know? They all have amazing work ethic and I never feel anything is overbearing for me. You know, everyone is really on top of their game and has been awesome there; keeping the company afloat and taking all the necessary roles and whatnot, so it hasn't been stressful yet.

Do you have a personal story or memory that got you interested in helping disadvantaged youth?
I know just growing up in grade school, the school I went to was always involved in various charitable organizations; they were always geared towards helping kids. When I was a kid I was always involved in things at school to help other kids. I can't really pinpoint what it is but I've just always had a soft spot for kids, you know? Seeing how I was raised and how amazing my parents were with raising me - keeping me an extremely humble person and always being grateful for what I have, even if it wasn't a lot - I think has, obviously, carried with me up to now. I always feel that kids are everything. They're going to be the next generation. I want to do whatever I can in my being to make sure that they have a good life, and that they're educated, and they don't have to go through hard times. I mean, everyone goes through hard times but whatever I can do to help prevent that and better someone else's life then I want to do that. So I guess that's why I gear more towards wanting to help children in this.

That's wonderful! Your parents did a good job!
I appreciate that.

What's coming up next for you guys?
I believe we are set to release two new products this week: a crew neck sweater and some snap back hats. What we want to do right now, our goal is to try to release new items every five to six weeks or so. We're kind of straying away from trying to do seasonal releases. Just because I feel like with such a branded company I don't want the name to fall off the map, and I feel to keep in the brain of people's heads that we want to keep releasing things so people don't forget who we are. So we're releasing stuff this week and then in another five to six weeks we're releasing probably some more t-shirts and working on some other items as well. As with the music industry we just kind of want to stray from the path of what's kind of set in stone for most companies, releasing seasonal. For us we want to kind of break the mold a bit and just release stuff when we want to, and also we want to release other things if possible.

So that's the plan right now. We're kind of looking into sponsoring a couple of different tours, some stages at the different festivals. Trying to incorporate some sort of charity aspect to all that, as well, with trying to get kids to bring out like canned goods or blankets or clothes and, you know, they can like cut the line for the show or something like that. We want to try to build this charity aspect within tours so that each city, you know, you can kind of build communities within each city upon a tour, and having people pick a charity locally that they can come out and donate items to. We have all these ideas we want to try to venture into next year, with toys and whatnot, so we'll see what happens.

That's wonderful! You know, speaking as a consumer, I know releasing t-shirts pretty regularly would keep me coming back and checking things out. And then if you tie that with music tours it just keeps the interest going all the time, which is great.
That's exactly it. You know, we don't want people to lose interest. We're not into this to try to make tons of money and be millionaires. For us it's very selfless and, you know, being able to just keep the name out is solely for the reason and the purpose of just trying to spread a message of positive change, and trying to get people on board. I feel like now more than ever, with the state of the world, it's important for people to provide some sort of positive light to everything. So if we can provide that, then it's mission accomplished.

Yeah, it's a really great idea! Now I want to take a quick moment and ask you about music. Who would you say are your musical influences?
Wow! Do you have an extra 20 minutes? For me my favorite artist is Bob Dylan. I'm completely inspired by everything that he ever did early on in his career. I'm actually watching his documentary for about the hundredth time as we speak. Love Bob Dylan. Queen played a big role in my life, I always loved Freddie Mercury. The Beatles, obviously. I live and die by The Beatles. I love Stevie Wonder. I used to love old Motown music in general. So like with the Motown, current R&B stuff, current artists. I love Adele. I loved Amy Winehouse as well. Harder bands: I loved Metallica, I loved Pantera growing up. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. I loved Rolling Stones. I could go on forever. I'm like the most eclectic music listener ever. I love classical, I love Beethoven, I love Bach. I grew up listening to like Luciano Pavarotti a lot. I grew up on mariachi music so I love all that Spanish-infused music as well. Mars Volta, that kind of stuff. I don't know. Like I said, if you had another twenty minutes I could go off about musical inspirations, but those, I guess, are the top of the list.

It's interesting because I've heard your band and it's a post-hardcore sound.
Yeah. That's kind of the scene I've been kind of in for the past ten years. And before that I was in like a really intense hardcore metal band. So it's weird being influenced by all the different types of music that I listen to and that's what I play, but I love that kind of music, too. I could literally play any style of music and love it. I've just always been very open and eclectic to everything I listen to.

Now it's time for our CB3, the three questions we ask on all our interviews. They're 80s related questions.

Which do you prefer: Thriller or Purple Rain?
Oh my gosh, that is such a hard question! I am one of the biggest, most insane Michael Jackson fans ever so I will have to go for Thriller, for sure. And that record changed my life when I was a kid so I'll definitely vote Thriller. But I love Prince so much, too, but I have to give props to Thriller, for sure.

That's awesome, sir! So the next one is Debbie Gibson or Tiffany?
Oh [long groan] man! It would probably be Tiffany. I always felt like Debbie Gibson was too kind of goody-two-shoes and I feel like Tiffany is more edgy, so I'll go with Tiffany.

The final question is Pretty In Pink or Sixteen Candles?
Oh man, another good question! I thought that Sixteen Candles was cheesier but I think I prefer that movie more. And actually I was in Vegas a couple years ago and I was sitting at a blackjack table with my dad and who is... I can't remember his name... but it was the Asian kid from that movie.

Oh! Long Duk Dong!
Yeah! He was playing blackjack at the table. And me and my dad had had a few drinks and we were trying to get his attention, and trying to recite lines from the movie, and he was not having it!

Was that Pretty In Pink or Sixteen Candles?

That was Sixteen Candles.
OK, I will go with Sixteen Candles then.

Lost & Loveless: Official Site | Facebook | Twitter

D.R.U.G.S.: Official Site | Facebook | Twitter

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