The Duo Behind a-side® Clothing
On the landing page of the A.SIDE site, in an unlisted video named “Garden,” streamer Basil Cabanes stands alone in the desert next to a saguaro cactus three times his size. He’s still as we approach, holding a rock. Is he ignoring us? Is he planning an attack? Or is he, in a way, welcoming us to join him next to the gigantic succulent?
We don’t get an answer. Instead, it cuts to black.
what is a.side?
According to the official Instagram bio, A.SIDE® Clothing “saturates the foundation of music, retro, and pop arts into designs.” All of these pieces are limited quantity, handmade and handsewn, usually by co-founder Devon Kwon himself. The purple shirt that Cabanes wears isn’t even available for purchase on the site, which is normal.
One-of-a-kind A.SIDE designs are often seen in passing—like celebrities walking in the background of a selfie in Hollywood, the colorful A.SIDE logo comes and goes like a polaroid flash.
Kwon video calls me from Chicago. His apartment gives him a great view of the Chicago River, and the blue-tinged sunlight from the windows provides a slight halo for his face. He has one of those cool demeanors that make you second guess his emotions, and the low deadpan voice doesn’t help.
When he agrees, he nods. When he’s excited, sometimes he flashes a smile. It’s hard to tell either way, so if he says he’s happy, I’ll just have to take his word for it. Flicking through the A.SIDE instagram, he cites Andy Warhol as inspiration, as well as an array of music from the 60s through late 90s.
“There’s a retro vibe to my designs,” says Kwon. It’s not hard for him to pinpoint where and when his style was influenced. In fact, it’s almost neonatal: After immigrating to the US from Korea at age five, Kwon’s mother would often take him to designer toy store Kid Robot in Santa Monica.
She was an animator who worked on nostalgic staples like The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Alvin and the Chipmunks, and their household was no stranger to colorful cartoony character designs, naturally leading to Kwon’s affinity for the works of Nara Yoshimoto and Takashi Murakami.
Seamus McPeake, co-founder of A.SIDE, handles the creative direction of the brand and is behind the official site, photo and film production. A longtime friend of Kwon, avid guitar player, and model signed with The Agency Arizona, he’s days away from wrapping up an undergraduate degree in psychology at the time of this interview.
He recalls sitting next to Kwon in an A.P. US History class in high school. Fond of punk culture and the fashion that stemmed from it, McPeake followed Maison Margelia and Rick Owens and bonded with Kwon over clothes. The idea of creating a brand started off as a joke, says McPeake. “I drew some little doodle on a piece of paper and I was like, ‘hey we should make a brand.’”
It wasn’t A.SIDE from the beginning, but another concept, one that McPeake cringes at in hindsight. But that initial project and its challenges—designing, printing, materials—gave them more experience that helped them as they transitioned from the first brand to what would later become A.SIDE around 2015.
The First Launch
“It took off in 2016, 2017, that’s when we started working really hard on it,” Kwon says. They worked out printers and designs and started on promotion on social media—and in-person.
At concerts, Kwon, McPeake and the rest of the A.SIDE team would make sure that someway, somehow, artists would leave with A.SIDE merch neatly wrapped in plastic. After The Internet held a concert at the Van Buren, bassist Patrick Paige II was photographed wearing an A.SIDE embroidered beanie during a later leg of their 2018 tour.
According to Kwon, he was DM’d with a request for more (though facilitating shipping to them has been quite a challenge). And when asked about dream collaborations, the list of superstars include Tyler the Creator and Kanye West.
“But I think even working with smaller upcoming artists is almost more fulfilling,” McPeake says, adding that they ideally want A.SIDE to be another platform for expression and collaboration—coastal affiliation not required.
The first official launch was October 2020 with the launch of asideclothing.com. Along with positive reception from their personal networks was the support of strangers, some ordering from outside of the state. It’s this kind of support that encourages Kwon and McPeake to continue.
While Kwon is in Chicago, both he and McPeake are preparing for another release. Their operation will continue to be handmade, with heat press and vinyl for the printing process, but a long-term goal is to acquire their own direct to garment printer and the space necessary to work at a larger scale. They plan on working with more local artists, musicians and groups in Arizona.
“But I think even working with smaller upcoming artists is almost more fulfilling.”
A section of the A.SIDE website, named “Lookbook” shows two long columns of scanned polaroids—people wearing A.SIDE in front of cars, in the booths of diners, against the unmistakable glare of convenience store glass. It flows like a timeline.
At the very beginning are McPeake and Kwon, together and apart. Who knows for how long.
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