The London List: Interview With John Williamson, No Fit State ClothingThe London List

Posted in London, London List, Style
By James Massoud on 20 Mar 2013

John Williamson started designing tea related tees in late 2010 in his hometown of Birmingham. It was nothing serious, and by his own admission it was done just for a laugh. John’s choice for a brand name was an easy yet apt one, Cuppa Tee, and it was then he at last go to try these designs out through screen printing, a technique that uses stencils to apply ink to materials. As the popularity of Cuppa Tee grew John was able to sell some of the tees, which got him thinking about making a real go of it as a clothing range. Deep down seeing Cuppa Tee as something of a novelty brand, something he was so sure about moving forward, and putting ht experiment to one side, so saw the birth of his real interest, creating a streetwear brand. And with No Fit State, the rest is history.

James Massoud sat down with John Williamson to talk exclusively about his clothing range, the No Fit State family, and Steven the seahorse.

How would you summarise No Fit State to anyone unfamiliar with the brand?
Alternative unisex quirky graphic tees somewhere between creepy and cute.

What’s the thinking behind the brand name?
Not a lot of thought went into it to be honest. I was listening to Hot Chip’s album The Warning and one of my favourite tracks was No Fit State. There is a point in the song where they repeat “I’m in no fit state” and I thought it’d work we’ll as a brand name. I also liked the play on words as if you are wearing No Fit State gear you are “in no fit state”.

Who’s responsible for the illustrations and designs?
I started off designing the tees myself as I am a freelance designer, but as the brand grew I found myself enjoy controlling the direction and overall design of the brand rather than the design of individual tees, particularly because I come from more of a branding background rather than illustration. Also, working by myself was pretty lonely so it was great to be able to work with other designers. Our most recent tee (Join The Kult) comes from Tom Gilmour, a fantastic illustrator based in London. I’ve been a fan of his work for a while so it was great to have him involved with the brand.

What’s the idea behind the sea horse logo?
I like seahorses. Who doesn’t? I thought it would be great to have a kind of mascot animal as a logo to make it individual and easily recognisable. The Atticus dead bird and the La Coste crocodile are great examples of how an animal logo can help make a brand stand out. Nobody really has a seahorse as a logo. It was also at the time where sea imagery was popular like anchors, ship steering wheels etc. I do try to use the seahorse, who is called Steven by the way (I have no idea why) in small amounts as I want the brand to be versatile and not rely on it too much.

Is the limitation in colour (black, white, burgundy) done on purpose?
It’s from experience really. We’ve sold various colours in the past and safe colours like black and white always sell better than brighter colours. Also, burgundy is incredibly popular at the moment. I guess it also comes from my own preference as I’m not a fan of bright clothing. It’s nice to keep the brand a bit dark for an alternative feel. It’s been tempting to go down the route of bright tie-dye tees because of their popularity at the moment but I really dislike the tie-dye trend and think it would be going against the No Fit State brand.

Which product in particular has proven to be most popular?
I’d say our ‘Cat Crew’ tees have been the most popular. We have sold a load of them this year, particularly the camo ones. Our ‘Intergalactic Owl’ tee is very popular at the moment too. Beanies always sell well, particularly our script ones. We’re constantly having to restock.

Do you have a particular favourite?
Although it doesn’t sell as we’ll as other tees, our burgundy ‘Light of Darkness’ tee is easily my favourite design. It was designed by an awesome Canadian based Illustrator called Butch The Butcher.

You’ve got some respectable names in the No Fit State family – Scroobius Pip and DZ Deathrays among others. Anyone else you’d like to have join?
The No Fit State family is a mix of smaller bands, who I know through friends or from doing previous design work for and want to promote them as much as they are promoting NFS (Romans, Sexwolf! etc.) and larger bands who I have contacted as I’m a fan (Scroobius Pip, DZ Deathrays). It’s great to see the likes of Pip rocking a No Fit State tee. There are so many other artists I’d love to wear our stuff. I recently tweeted Cancer Bats (BIG FAN) but I’m yet to hear back from them.

Can we expect to see any fresh products soon?
Of course. We’re always looking into new stuff as the brand grows.

John has John has been kind enough to offer FAN THE FIRE readers a 10% discount on all purchases, just quote coupon code “NFSXFTF” at the checkout. You can find the No Fit State online store here:

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