We teamed up with the Los Angeles-based collective MOUTHWASH to reimagine the original Difficult Times t-shirt first released five years ago. Designed in Berlin and made in Los Angeles, this one features an oversized label with a middle fold. Excitingly, the drop sold out with minutes of going live—and so we’re able to make a handsome donation of all the profits to the LA Conservation Corps.
But why stop there. We’ve been admiring MOUTHWASH for quite some time now and it’s been hugely inspiring to exchange messages, Slack channels, and files with the team these past months. 🌺 That’s why we sat down with Alex, Ben, Abraham, and Mackenzie of MOUTHWASH for a quick chat, illustrated by images we pulled from their personal socials.
How did all of you first come together to start your collective?
Prior to MOUTHWASH forming, we were heavily involved in the creative community through Instagram, and the three of us became friends online first. While we were all from different cities in Middle America, job opportunities with design studios and agencies landed us all in Los Angeles, where we naturally started working together in the off-hours.
The MOUTHWASH brand ran as a side project from 2017 to 2019 while we were all employed elsewhere, and during that time, small commission projects came our way. Eventually, the small commission projects became big ones. We turned in our notices during the same month and the studio was formed in June 2019.
It’s been exciting to watch how you've grown everything so quickly these last years! What are the challenges of building and running a small studio?
It’s true! The studio started with only three of us, and over the last two years, we’ve added a fourth partner—Ben Mingo. Our team has now expanded to twelve people who work with us full-time, in addition to a huge number of freelancers who help it all come to life.
One of the most important and difficult aspects in the beginning was staying focused. We decided early on that there was a standard of work that we wouldn’t compromise under any circumstances. We often had to say no to projects that weren’t aligned with our goals and vision for the studio, even when we really needed the money. For us, time was the most valuable asset, and working on things we actually enjoyed was the reason we started this thing in the first place.
You have your studio, and then also your experiments in print, objects, apparel, etc., as well as the podcast. This is something we can really relate to with our own Hardware label! Can you tell us about how all these different areas connect for you?
There are a few elements to this:
● It’s important to us to prioritize our own curiosity. You can’t wait around for someone else to give you permission to try things. We realized early on that for us to get hired to make the things we wanted to make, we needed to just go ahead and do it ourselves.
● We believe that taste is developed through an exploration of mediums outside of the ones currently in your field of vision. The way we curate a playlist can inform our approach to design. And our explorations in clothing can steer the art direction surrounding photography. Everything is connected, and the more dots we can explore, the more lines we can draw between them.
● The world doesn’t need more, it needs better. We want to create a destination where everything is valuable, visually inspirational, or functional. The internet is so big, so we’re trying to find ways to make it a smaller, more useful resource for people who are like us.
What upcoming experiments and other future plans are you looking forward to?
Currently, we’re focused on a new initiative called MOUTHWASH Research Center. It’s a developmental program dedicated to experimentation. We want to use it to emphasize the importance of research as a methodical part of everyday life, which we believe has lost its weight over time as the world prioritizes output over input.
More simply, we’re cultivating this as a space for self-initiated experiments and giving back to the creative community. We want to help people in the ways we wish somebody had helped us in the early days, whether that’s a book giveaway including texts we wish we had read earlier in our careers or donating money to organizations that help remove obstacles for young people.
With that in mind, can you tell us about the charity that the profits of the Difficult Times t-shirt are being donated to?
The LA Conservation Corps provide opportunities for young adults throughout Los Angeles who are out of work and school to explore new pathways to meaningful career and education opportunities while improving the quality of life in Southern California. It serves as the largest conservation corps in all of America.
The decision felt natural and obvious to us. Both our studios have spent time investing in different forms of learning and education—through podcasts, teaching, workshops, student offers, etc. Providing opportunities for other people to build things like MOUTHWASH is a privilege for us. When something has been impactful to you, you often find yourself trying to equip others to experience it as well.
Thank you MOUTHWASH <3