There’s something awfully exciting about young people making stuff. I find that when young people are creating, when they are moving in the world, it just feels so raw and fresh in a really powerful way. I think the key to this is the potential that young people have to become the heroes of tomorrow. In terms of what they’re creating, it can be anything; an essay, a painting, a poem, a papier-mache sculpture, or even a t-shirt.
Toby Willis is one such guy. He’s an archaeology student in James College. But alongside this course, he’s decided to do something more; he’s decided to create a t-shirt brand called ‘HONEY.’ In explaining why he came to create a brand of his own, he said “I guess I’ve got an interest in fashion, and t-shirts are something that everyone wears.” So the message here is one of mass appeal. Toby feels that producing an authentic t shirt brand is worthwhile because everyone wears them, clearly the kid has money on his mind. He said that being a student, money can be a rough ride and so if he can produce a brand that people enjoy and make some money at the same time, then that’s a win win.
In terms of the brand itself, I think HONEY is a really interesting one. Toby described it as “sweet and colourful. The sound of it is quite soft.” But I think the key to this word choice is its simplicity. We live in an age where clarity and ease of access is everything and so one word catch-all phrases are ideal. Think Apple, think Facebook, and very soon think HONEY.
That’s not to say there’s a kind of deep message behind this creative project. Toby said that at the moment he’s just enjoying the creative process for its own sake, but that in the future it would be good to gain a deeper meaning to the work. “I was trying to think of issues in the world and maybe I can do a protest design.” What I like about Toby is his honesty. He’s not claiming to have stumbled upon enlightenment in the process of making these shirts, just that he’s a guy looking to express himself to the world through this artistic process and that’s cracklackin.
It’s great to see young people thinking hard about the clothes they wear and the extent to which they could do better. That engagement with society is what university is all about, not conforming to the world but reforming it to our own fresh ideals. Toby is doing that in a fresh and dynamic way and it’s great to see. It’s a privilege to meet with these creatives, engaging with the world around them. I think the message that Toby and others bear is that if you see a problem, change it, and make a thing of beauty.
By Peter R Jacobs