Earlier this year, DJ and designer Cameron Varnish finally set to work on his latest brand. Hurricane Apparel, which aims for uniqueness and bespoke in equal measure…
Before turning his head to fashion design, Cameron Varnish enjoyed a career as a DJ, stemming from his university days. The pandemic obviously cut his events business short, but gave him time to focus on something else. A unique fashion brand he christened Hurricane Apparel. The main point of conversation when we met up with him recently…
WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY? WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO BOURNEMOUTH?
I am originally from Watford, and I moved down here when I was about 15. Smack-bang in the middle of GCSEs, which I wouldn’t recommend. But it was a hell of a move – it’s like a permanent holiday here.
PRIOR TO HURRICANE APPAREL, YOU HAD A CAREER AS A DJ. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THAT…
Obviously the DJ thing has been on pause since lockdown. It’s quite gutting, really, as I had around five shows booked in across the country before and during lockdown. I started when I was around 17 or 18. The age where I was starting to go to nightclubs, and realise that I didn’t like nightclub music. I didn’t like walking in and not being able to change the music. So, I decided, “I’d like to give it a crack”. Just play the music that I like. I went for Drum & Bass, and it progressed from there. Started playing at house parties at uni and at nightclubs.
And it’s gone really well! It got to the stage where I was struggling to get secure bookings, so I thought the best way would be to start my own music events company. Siphon Events, which I ran from 2019 until… well… the present. But before lockdown, we were selling out.
WHAT SPARKED THE IDEA TO START HURRICANE APPAREL? WAS IT ALWAYS ON THE BACK BURNER, OR A MORE RECENT IDEA?
The idea itself stems from university. I did Graphic Communications and Typography at Plymouth. And when I was doing that, I learnt that to get those few extra marks, I would have to go in for merchandise design. I quite enjoyed getting practical – I come from a product design background. Making the clothes, putting my logo on there. And I loved doing that at uni… got really good marks for it as no one else was doing it.
But I didn’t really think anything of it until the events company came along. We were trying to get some branded merchandise together. Just for giveaways and to wear at our events – to give us an edge over everyone else. Went to a guy in Winton – Otto House – fantastic printer – who does screen printing. When you do a screen, you have to do a lot. Like a minimum order of 20, and they all have to be the same. Great quality, but I was there thinking, “I want every one to be different. If there was a way of doing it differently, I would do it”.
So I did some research into it. My girlfriend showed me Alfie Deyes’ vlogs. For his Future Self brand, he makes all his clothes. And I looked into it and I thought, “Do you know what? I could do that. I can get my head around that, give it a go, and start making things that are a bit more unique!”
DO YOU DRAW ON ANY THEMES OR IDEAS WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR DESIGNS?
My friend Liam Prothero (@iamfolio) did all the branding. I got him to design me something that would look cool as clothing. So, Hurricane draws from the branding that Liam did, with a mixture of things that come from others. Like my brother, for example, had a really good design recently – we have some noughts-and-crosses designs coming out soon. My parents, my girlfriend… they’ve all come together to chip in. But mainly stemming from this trident design that I have, which was inspired by Hobo Jack, High Dive Apparel — this tattoo-inspired clothing. I really like that and I plan to make more of that in future.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO A FASHION LINE’S SURVIVAL AFTER SOMETHING LIKE THE PANDEMIC WE’RE STILL FACING NOW?
Mainly adapting to current needs. The plans for Hurricane Apparel were started a little bit before lockdown — it was to help event companies get the branded stuff that they wanted. The pandemic kicked in, and suddenly these companies don’t need anything for a long time.
So it sparked the question, “What’s the next thing?” People are on furlough, they need something to pick them up… let’s do some cool T-shirts! But also face coverings – these are a big one. Before they were mandatory, I felt it was already heading that way, so I thought I had better get some face coverings in and start printing on them. So that people don’t have to have these very mundane and standard ones. They can personalise them. And I sold out immediately, and I couldn’t get any in for ages after because everyone else had thought of that. We’re back doing them now, thank goodness.
That would be my advice — look at the climate around you. The climate at the moment is, people are wearing face coverings and they don’t have a lot of money. And there are a lot of small businesses starting, and I’m more than happy to be able to help them. If you’re starting a small business, something that makes you looks really professional is branded attire. But it’s so expensive, so I love to be that cheap person who does a good job. We can put a logo wherever you want it; doesn’t have to be on the breast or the back. It can be on the sleeve, the collar – I don’t mind!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS THINKING OF STARTING A FASHION LINE? OR, BY EXTENSION, A BUSINESS OF ANY SORT?
Go for it! There is no such thing as failure if you’re brave enough to try something new. I had Siphon Events, and now I have Hurricane Apparel. There were a couple of other ventures before that I tried that didn’t work out, but I don’t regret a single one! I know I would regret it more if I never did it.
WHAT ARE THE IMMEDIATE NEXT STEPS FOR YOU AND HURRICANE APPAREL? AND THE DREAM OR END GOAL?
I have big predictions, I would say. Because I’ve seen the potential, based on how it went with Siphon. Siphon started out very small, and then grew and grew. This time, that’s what I want. I’m really prepared, and I just want to keep getting bigger and better. Offer more things so that people can come to me for anything they want printed at all, and I’ll have it covered.
The ultimate goal would be to get a bigger premises, more machinery, and more people working for me. I have a lot of help from different ‘contractors’. @efypics, for example, does all my photography. Liam Prothero helps me out a lot too, as I mentioned. Lots of little companies help me. But ultimately, I would like to have my own team and an in-house designer. Because, at the moment, I’m the in-house designer.
It would also be fantastic to get to a stage where people want to placements with me. You want people to think, “Wow! You’re doing well!” And just become the first name people think of when they say, “I want my own custom printing,” … “Have you heard of Hurricane Apparel?” That’s what I want. Who doesn’t dream of their company being huge? But at the same time, I need to stick to the morals that I have set. I don’t want to lose touch of what I am and what I set out to do.
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