We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Warren and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I’ve been lucky enough to follow my passion and for it to have played out how it has. Originally from the UK, after graduating from OTIS College of Art and Design, I obtained an ‘artist’ visa which allowed me to continue to live in the States and pursue my artistic career. My visa allows me to make money from my ‘talent’ but not hold a normal job, so I had to figure out a way to make money within the structure and limitations the visa offers. Ultimately these challenges forced me to push myself, and I had to re-evaluate my art practice and tailor it specifically into a career I could make a living from. My art practice has always been influenced by, and referenced American Pop Culture, and I started a new series of drawing which were the origins of my business. Joining my two passions of art and film, my business organically grew into what it is today – I started selling prints at the Melrose Trading Post, then getting a few t-shirt samples done at a customers suggestion, and then taking a risk to push myself to the next level, and investing in my own t-shirt printer which gave me the opportunity to print on demand and enabled me to get my own space. In 2016, I originated my own contemporary clothing line, PAPER 8, which I run out of my recently relocated studio, print shop and retail space in Hollywood. The pandemic forced me to look at the trajectory of my business and evolve accordingly – I moved from my storefront of 2 years in Silverlake to my current location in Los Feliz last June. In order to grow you need to take risks, and I believe my space allows me more options to navigate these current times. I have higher visibility, the open layout allows for more comfortable and low risk shopping, I have a larger work space where I fulfill outside orders, and I plan to utilize the space for community events and movie/ art class evenings, once the pandemic eases.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My apparel features pencil draw illustrations which reference movie poster design and iconic movie characters. There is a sense of nostalgia and familiarity which resonates with people, as they are based on pre-existing material already in the pop culture lexicon. What sets PAPER8 apart from other brands which references the same material, is the unique individualism of the designs. They are all hand drawn by myself, and I have a personal attachment to each of the films, and the specific scenes that I illustrate. You can see the detail of the pencil marks on the shirts, and I think people like the idea of wearing their favorite movie, or scene on a shirt, which also doubles as an art piece where you can see the time and the love that has gone into creating it. Having my own printer and storefront gives me security and a foundation for which to grow, whilst providing the accessibility to customers and the flexibility to create new designs, through trial and error, and see what people respond well to. Another series features badly illustrated, yet instantly iconic, replications of celebrity Instagram posts drawn on post-it notes, which mirror the throwaway nature of celebrity culture. More recently, I’ve developed this style further with pen illustrations of TV characters drawn on post it notes, referencing the more accessible form of entertainment we have in television, and its episodic nature – this style is a natural evolution of the brand, but has it’s own identity. The store is an continuation of my art practice and this series of work – acting as an art installation, VHS players and dismantled TVs are utilized as shelving, and featuring a wall stacked with VHS cases which double as packaging for my shirts, the store captures and gives an insight into my unique take on Hollywood. Walking into it is almost like walking into my private DVD collection, and my childhood, and it’s great to see peoples reactions when they do. It is my studio, my print shop, my retail space – by being inside my shop you really get to understand the process and the concept of how these t-shirts are created. It’s all incredibly personal to me, and people love how unique it is, and hearing the feedback is the most rewarding part of this venture. My storefront is what I am most proud of, and leaving a footprint in this ever changing city. It’s been a learning curve in terms of how to manage myself. I draw the designs, I print the t-shirts, I manage the shop, wholesale accounts, and continue to try to find ways to build my brand and its products. It’s been humbling in bringing my weaknesses to the surface, and trying to think more business-like about addressing the aspects of my job that I don’t like, but have to do – I’m better at holding myself accountable. Doing all this myself, its easy to get overwhelmed and put too much pressure on myself, so I’m learning to have better boundaries between my work and personal life, and also acknowledge it’s o.k to ask for help and lean on friends and family for support.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Part of the reason that I love LA, is for the over the top, stereotypical Los Angeles that people think of, so doing Venice Beach, drinks at the Chateau Marmot, a quick spin around Bel Air, the Griffith Observatory and other requisite tourist spots are all required, but I try and balance that with showing my everyday life on the east side around Echo Park, Silverlake and Larchment Village. I always have to hit up my favorite Italian, Osteria La Buca on Melrose, but one of the best things for me about LA, is what’s just outside of it – so getting in a car and heading up PCH for some sea breeze or up the 2 into the Angeles National Forest for a hike or camping is a must, and then be back to visit the Melrose Trading Post on Sunday – it’s one of the best outdoor markets on LA with a fantastic selection of vintage clothing, art, antiques and music – and where my business started. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My art teachr Mr. Sweeney was really encouraging in High School. My parents gave me the support and the freedom to pursue my dreams and study and live in the States.