About a month ago, I caught up with Control Sector at their SoHo office and kicked it with them for a day. I got a chance to sit down and talk with them about their recent fashion show in February, what’s been going on since then, and how its been for them since they started three years ago. I tagged along with Max, the Designer/Creative Director, roaming the garment district for fabric inspiration, capturing some of the day-to-day grind at the studio, the designing of their next collection, and having a dope conversation about fashion. Check the video out and read the full interview below, as well as a few photos from their latest collection. Enjoy!
Go ahead and tell the world who you are.
Maxwell Amedeus: My name is Max, and I’m the Creative Director/Designer for Control Sector.
Adam Thomison: My name is Adam, and I’m the Director of Operations for Control Sector.
When did you get into fashion?
MA: I was a competitive snowboarder, and part of snowboarding is style, and I was just kind of always into clothing. I used to compete a lot and injured myself a lot and ended up having to give up snowboarding. The only other thing that I liked was fashion and clothing. So I applied to Central Saint Martins for a short course where I got accepted and went over to London for three months, which was pretty cool. I learned all about sketching, illustrations, and how to put together small collections, no sewing experience whatsoever. From there, I applied to FIT’s Menswear program. Somehow got accepted into that, went in again with no sewing experience, and learned how to do everything.
AT: I was living in San Diego during the recession in 2008, and things got really tight out there, and me and my brother decided to make up some t-shirts. We were spray-painting t-shirts and selling them on the beach, had some printed out, and they were horrible and it got me thinking how do you actually make stuff for real. I came out and visited New York, found FIT and thought it would be intriguing to come to New York, go to fashion school and start a company.
How did you guys come up with the name “Control Sector”?
AT: So our other founder Luke came up with the name. It was actually the name of a school project that he did.
MA: Yeah, me and Luke went to school together. We were in the menswear program together, and we did all the homework together. We probably spent more time together than we probably should’ve, the menswear program was really hard, and we ended up doing work all the time. [Laughs] It was really cool though, I ended up transferring to the production program where I met Adam and these guys (Adam and Luke) had the idea of starting a streetwear company for a long time, and they had the name ‘Control Sector,’ and they invited me on board! And now the rest is history!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
MA: There isn’t a single source of inspiration that I’m always relying on. I’m not the type of person that likes to go with a solid concept before I do a collection. Clothing to me is just ideas, like processes, how to make things wearable and cool, but different and original at the same time. And then sometimes, I don’t even really think I care about cool and different either. I just want to make clothes that I like. I just want to make cool clothes.
AT: I don’t have inspiration ever. I let Max do that part. [Laughs]
What do you dislike most about fashion/the business end?
AT: The things we dislike probably come from different places. On the business end, I think one of the biggest disconnects is between the buyers and the fans and having to be the middleman. You know when we design stuff, it has to check in market and even though our fans like it, a lot of the buyers are kind of old school and for them it’s a risk, even though its probably not a risk. That’s not against all buyers, I just feel that it is such an antiquated industry, and that it has not really caught up with the times yet and that’s really, really frustrating. I think another issue that I see a lot is how everyone thinks they’re an influencer and they’re not. You’d be amazed at how many people hit us up that want to get sponsored, and they have 240 followers on Instagram.
MA: [Laughs] Any direct names to call out?
AT: No, no, [laughs] all of you who are doing that know who you are. For us to work with anybody, it has to be beneficial.
MA: Knockoffs suck! [Laughs] I don’t know, that’s a tough question to answer. I don’t really hate anything about fashion. Yes, the business is tough. You have to create a brand, and get a loyal following, and introduce yourself to all these stores and different buyers. You have to put in work before these people trust your ideas, or believe in your company. You just have to keep on going until it goes. Obviously, if you already know people in the industry, that helps.
On the flip side, what do you like most about fashion?
MA: Just the clothing, it’s the clothes. We’re sponsoring a dance contest next week in LA called the K.O.D. (Keep on dancing) World Cup. That’s a huge thing for me, because I used to dance as a kid, and I still do on occasion. I still get it in. [Laughs] It’s really cool to be involved in an event like that, and that’s through our clothing.
AT: I think it’s cool to be inspiring to people. Fashion is one of those things that people put on when they want to feel cool. It’s real interesting and we get to kind of inspire that and that’s a cool feeling.
Back in February, during Fashion Week you guys debuted your first womenswear collection. Was that always part of the plan, or something that just kind of happened?
MA: Yeah, I think we were talking about it since the beginning. We still have a lot more plans on top of that. [Laughs] It was only natural for us to get into womenswear. We already had so many girls that were already interested in the clothing. Clothing has become more androgynous as a whole anyway; girls like to wear guys’ clothing and guys like to wear girls’ clothing and I think that’s dope. It’s streetwear, any girl can wear a hoodie, a sweatshirt, or bomber jacket so it was just a natural progression to make clothing that’s just for women.
You guys have been in the game going on three years now. What would you say, in these last three years, is the most important lessons that you’ve learned?
AT: It takes a lot longer, and it is more expensive than you think. For the most part, building a brand is a hard thing to do. There is so much noise out there and so much competition, that being able to stand out takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. I think that’s the biggest thing.
MA: Don’t overdo things. Don’t produce too much clothing and don’t expect that too many great things are going to happen. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
AT: You always think too that if we do this one thing, like that’s it, it’ll take off. All those things help but that’s just not how it works. We always thought, “oh, if we do Mercedes-Benz,” or have this celebrity wear it, or if we’re just on Hypebeast and all those things have happened and they’re great, and they help you move towards that goal, but there’s nothing that’s just going to put you over the edge like that.
MA: At the end of the day, it’s longevity. If you’re looking to get rich over night, don’t do it. Unless you want to knock someone off and make that one hot item and get rich off of it, which is not cool, [laughs] I don’t like that. But you just have to love what you do. For me and Adam, times are hard most of the time, all the time to be honest. To be fair, it’s always tough. But every once in a while, good things happen, and we get all stoked and happy, but at the end of the day, its cool because we come in here and work for ourselves. We work our vision and as long as we can live doing that its great, I’m happy with that.
AT: There’s a start-up term called the ‘trough of sorrows,’ and it’s just when everything starts collapsing around you, and you kind of have to just stick in there and fight your way through it. You just have to get comfortable living in that arena. It’s not all bad, but its tough.
Where do you see Control Sector in five years?
AT: Honestly or hopefully, haha? In five years I think we will definitely being doing better than now. I think we will be a lot more well known and addressing a lot more markets than we currently are. Definitely you will see us more outside the U.S. as well.
What is Control Sector currently working on?
MA: It’s busy season at all times. As soon as fashion week and trade show are over, we’re working our ass off on production, making the next collection, and figuring out how we’re going sell everything we just produced. It’s a constant cycle that just keeps going and going. So now that fashion’s over, we’re just getting ready for the next fashion week and next trade show.
Any closing remarks? What advice would you give to any emerging designers or labels that are trying to do what you guys are doing?
AT: Ya know, stick in it for the long haul. If its what you really want do, go into it with a good mindset. Its going to take you some time. Be ready for the ups and downs. Keep working towards your dream and don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done, because you hear that a lot and maybe they’re right, but maybe they’re not. You have to believe in yourself, ya know. Its funny, a lot of people ask us why don’t we go on Shark Tank and try to pitch the company. If you really look at the way businesses work these days, the stupidest thing you can do is just believe in yourself and your talent. Everyone has to have a catch, and a thing and something going for them. So just believe in yourself I guess, if that’s what you really want to do.
MA: And work really hard, you got to you know what I mean. You can’t just make a collection and be, like, done. You got to put in some work, you got to go after it. You have to network and talk to people, you know what I mean. It’s business at the same time, as is fashion. You got to make sure you introduce yourself to the right people, you know what I mean. You got to grind, you got to hustle.
AT: If nobody buys it, it’s just a hobby. You have to do the work to get it out there and get it sold.
How can people connect with Control Sector?
AT: You can go check us out at Controlsector.com, follow us on social media @Controlsector, and send us an email if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.