Once Upon A Time, In A Galaxy Far Far Way, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, I Lived Happily Ever After.
"I’ve always had an unmitigated love of t-shirts, and ever since I could hold a pen, I have drawn; so to combine these two passions, to result in a successful business has been more than a dream come true.
I founded Disturbia back in 2003. I had recently graduated from the University of Northumbria with a degree in Fashion Design, and had cut my teeth designing for an alternative clothing label, and basically had grown increasingly frustrated with the t-shirts that were available to me.
One day it suddenly occurred that I could use the sketches and ideas I had accumulated over the previous few years, and put them to good use, on tees! I had a capsule collection of designs, but now it needed a name. I revisited my old university sketchbooks, and remembered about a project in which I had envisaged a ‘street-wear’ brand that I intended to one day create.
Long before the Spielberg movie, and ages before the Rihanna song of the same name; I called it Disturbia. I simple portmanteau of the words disturb and suburbia.
The ideology behind the first collection of shirts, was of angry, anti-corporate sloganeering and imagery, and designs included a coke parody that read ‘Always Commercial to the Core, Humanity will be happy the day the last bureaucrat is hung by the guts of the last capitalist’, a punked-up Mickey skull that said ‘Want Disturbia’, and the death-faced Statue of Liberty that screamed ‘Start Wars’. It was pretty full on.
In the autumn of 2003 I decided to exhibit at London Edge, an alternative clothing trade show in the capital. My girlfriend Helen, and I manned the stand. Within the first half hour on the first day, the brand had been picked up by a guy named Julian, owner of Cult Clothing. The biggest UK streetwear chain; Julian would later go on to become co-owner of Superdry, the UKs biggest streetwear brand! I never looked back.
This validation was amazing. Crazy little ideas that I had come up with were now in stores up and down the country, and we were getting mobbed by more and more wholesale requests. Our new e-commerce site was also up and running, and slowly but surely, Disturbia started to garner an increasing online fan-base.
Each collection since then, my intention has been to better the last, and to continue to crystalise the sentiment of Disturbia. Always different, never mainstream. Our subject matter has always been left of centre, and usually focuses on the dark side of popular culture, subversive iconography, childhood nostalgia, and angry slogans, all made with a strong sense of independence, and a quintessential British punk D.I.Y ethic.
For the first few years, I did all the artwork, marketing, packing, and even most of the printing, so when I was able to start to employ out-sourced designers, that was a huge turning point. Whilst maintaining stringent art direction, I was able to pick the perfect artist for the specific idea, and this has proven to be a winning formula. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with many great artists and eminent illustrators such as Godmachine, Drew Millward, Michele Boscagli, Mike Sutfin, James Callahan, Matt Skiff, Mr Gauky, and many many more.
It has also been a total blessing to be able to employ both family and friends along the way, including my mum and Helen!
Slowly over time, Disturbia has grown to be stocked by over 150 select boutiques, and streetwear chains predominantly across the UK and Europe, but also as far away as Japan and Australia; and a huge online customer base of loyal and dedicated fans to the brand.
Other highlights along with way include being totally thrilled to work with the Prodigy on a capsule collection of limited edition tees in conjunction with their Invaders Must Die album, and to see some of my childhood idols, Slash and Axl Rose, proudly rocking Disturbia. These experiences have been awesome!
More recently I have been stoked to move toward more custom-made, bespoke products. Whilst t-shirts are our bread and butter, my days at university have paid of when it comes to designing other garment types, and putting together tech packs, and size grading et cetera! Each season we increase our cut-and-sew product line and I’m totally blown away at our popular these pieces have been.
At the time of writing we’ve just moved the business from our old Victorian shop property in Gateshead to our shiny new show-room/retail space/office/warehouse in Hoults Yard, Newcastle upon Tyne. Business is booming, and I have so many amazing plans for Disturbia for the future, it’s unreal! Here’s to tomorrow!
Remember: Follow your own path."
Francis J Major
Disturbia Clothing Ltd