It seems like every day you hear about a new streetwear brand. Folks are hashing out money to startup clothing brands on the daily, hoping that their brand becomes the next big thing, and that the people of New York and LA will be rocking their specific styles, solely representing their brand names and brand goals. It’s a fantasy of the masses and it’s extremely doable.
Of course, not a lot of people do it right. But Sean Murphy does. With swift style and heavy influence from the east, Murphy is head of a clothing brand based out of Queens called The Phantom Life, directly inspired by Japan, hip hop, and street art. With the help of LA Kaiku Fam and big dreams, Murphy speaks with us on why he started a clothing brand and its relations with artistic expression.
Mass Appeal: Who are you?
Sean Murphy: My name’s Sean Murphy; I’m from Queens, New York. I currently own a street art, Japanese cartoon, and hip hop inspired clothing line called The Phantom Life.
MA: How long have you been running the clothing company?
SM: Really, since 2010. As soon as I graduated from high school I decided I wanted to attempt to start up a brand again. I had a clothing venture with a friend my sophomore year in high school that went south, mostly because I was putting both the money and work in.
When I graduated from high school, I decided I wanted to try things again, but this time, correctly. I hired a lawyer and filed for two trademarks and waited for those to get approved before I became active with the brand. That whole process literally took over a year. Ever since then though, I’ve been researching, planning and working on new projects.
MA: Why start a clothing company?
SM: I graduated high school back in 2010. While all my friends seemed excited to move on and party, things actually felt real for me for the first time, and I was scared. I was going to go to college, to potentially fall into debt from student loans, get a job, work a 9 to 5 for 30 years, retire, and die. I wanted to do something I thoroughly enjoyed that other people could enjoy too, while also conveying an important message. I wanted to do something that had the potential to be just as meaningful to me, as it could to others.
MA: Why the name of The Phantom Life?
SM: The Phantom Life is a lifestyle that everyone is exposed to, regardless of their culture and the society they live within. The brand name is inspired by a song called “Phantom,” by hip hop artist Mr. Lif. The song explains how we’re all “ghosts” within modern society, living a fake, scripted life. I played the track while I had all these insecurities and fears about the world swirling around inside of me. The outro really got stuck inside of me, and the brand became The Phantom Life.
MA: What inspired you to start a street apparel company?
SM: The culture. I love it. Brands I’m inspired by include Ice Cream Clothing, Bape, The Wild Ones, Famous Stars & Straps, Hari Kari and MaiHiro.
MA: Why start up a company if so many people seem to be doing the same thing?
SM: Why do anything if people are already doing it? Honestly though, I wanted to bring something new to the table. There are so many brands that see something is hot and selling, so they emulate the other brand, and you’re left with a ton of brands that look similar and all sell in the same store.
I want The Phantom Life to be honest. We’re not The Hundreds. We’re not Stussy. We’re none of those brands. I don’t share the same life or influences as any of their owners, so why would my brand look like anything they put out unless I was trying to follow a trend and make quick money, you know?
MA: Who does your graphic work? How do you guys settle on an idea?
SM: I work with two artists; Javier Jiminez of LA Kaiju Fam, and GADE. We really just discuss a concept and throw ideas back and forth until we settle on something we like, then the design gets sketched out on paper and new ideas and concepts evolve from physically seeing it.
In some situations, like our collaboration with Nakanari of MaiHiro, or the compilation album we did artwork for Unsigned Unrest to raised money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital: we’re literally asked to do a certain design in our “signature style,” so that’s easy to come up with.
MA: Why clothing as opposed to anything else?
SM: Clothing is super intimate and houses so many possibilities! Think about all the good and bad experiences you’ve had in the clothes you’re currently wearing, it’s crazy! The way you can touch someone’s life through an article of clothing is ridiculous. Clothing is a way to identify people within a certain culture, to see what people like and how they think or view the world. It’s also a great medium for broadcasting messages. In the end, what you wear says a lot about you, and I really want to be a creator in this field.
MA: What do you think the relation between art and clothing is?
Clothing is just another canvas for artists to display their work on. Whether it be an important message, or straight up artwork influenced by whatever. Not only does the style, message, and design of what you’re wearing reflect upon the brand, it reflects upon you as a person as well. It tells everyone around you about who you are, what you like, and what your interests might be without having to say a word. So in the end, wearing clothing can be just as much about expressing yourself as designing it can be.