INTERVIEW: Eric Johnson, Creative Director, Undercult

In a city that is ripe for more curated events and products, Undercult stands talk among the rest. The Men’s Fashion and Lifestyle collective is the creation of DMV native Eric Johnson, and in the past year they have created a buzz in the DC area with events featuring everyone from Mayer Hawthorne to Black Milk.

But it’s more than events. Their upcoming apparel lineup sees them working with such worldwide brands as France’s Collette and New York’s Broolyn Tailors. On top of that, the collecitve is working with shaving company The Grooming Lounge and putting the finishing touches on a feature length Detroit documentary which premieres this year.

We talked with Creative Director Eric Johnson as they set to launch their 1 year anniversary and pop up shop on U Street tonight with Elzhi, and on Wednesday with House Shoes, Karim Riggins, Guilty Simpson, and DTMD.

You were working a day job before you decided to quit and start
Undercult. What was your motivation to start your own clothing brand?

The motivtion for me to to start Undercult was pretty simple, I knew that i wanted to create and I knew that working full time somewhere other than for myself would hinder that. So after thinking on it for a while I decided to throw myself into it 100%, because of the ideas and concepts that I wanted to excecute.

What is the meaning of the name Undercult?
Technically Undercult is a joining of the words Undereground Culture. Over time though I’ve also used the name to describe what it is we do. Our branding allows us for the most part to be under the radar and to work in close knit groups with other brands, people, etc. So it could mean a few things depending on what you take it as, I just want it to be known as something that is able to filter creativity.

It seems that the brand has evolved right around the time where men’s
fashion began to shift. It went from bright colors to more tailored
and upscale. Can you talk about this change?

Well for me and my team personally we try not to get so caught up in trends. I really fell that everything works different based on the brand and indiviual. I a very basic guy, if I could I would wear black everyday and I think that shows in my work. However, we also dont like to take ourselves to serious, that would snatch the life out of what we do. So we
pull influences from both sides to give the brand a refined but raw feel.

One of the things I admire about the brand is the heavily curated
ascetic. Can you talk about the philosophy behind the brand and the

Aesthetics are definitely my #1 priority when it comes to the brand. Its all about pushing the envelope a bit further when I work so I make sure that when people see anything we do you know that it was Undercult. I feel like there is a ton of creativity in this world but not enough people pushing to innovate or take it places that many haven’t seen. A lot of people felt like the way I branded and marketed Undercult wouldn’t work the way that the that it did. Its not often that you see the mixing of some things that we have done. So to answer your question I think that my philosophy is that anything is possible as long as its both visually captivating and thought provoking.

You have a number of collaborations. With Collette, Brooklyn Tailors, Moscot, etc. How did those collabos come into being?

Just a mutual respect for each other and a organic desire to create. Whether it’s a feature, clothing, or anything else that we do with other brands I always like to make sure that its not forced. So usually its a last min thing where either us or the other brands have a urge to do something that translates well to our audiences.

Some people don’t know this, but you guys are from the DMV. What do you think about the emerging fashion trend in this area?

I still think that we lack that element in the area, its not like we try either though. We’ve had alot of different brands here that tried but I think that us as a city is so ADD that its very hard to stay consistent. Not to say that its impossible just a little more difficult than the larger cities like NY or LA.

Beyond the clothing, there is the website, mixes, and a documentary.
Care to speak on what you guys have in store in 2011, especially the

The website is where it all stems from. Everything from the mixes to the clothing are an extention of what we do on the website. We have have a few things going on in 2011, some of which I can say and some of which I can’t. What i will say is that we will be opening our first store in the spring of next year and the other is that we are working on a documentary “Rock City”. “Rock City” is a documentary that I am directing on Detroit Rap that comes out hopefully by next March. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great people there so I think people well enjoy it once we’re able to say it’s finished.