My name is Mike Ternosky and I am from Los Angeles, CA, originally from Avalon, NJ, in South Jersey. I went to Philadel-
phia Textile, which is Philadelphia Univer-
What was it like growing up in a beach town like Avalon?
I grew up surfing, skateboarding, and in the summer time a lot of people came down from the Philadelphia area. That's where I was first introduced to graffiti and city skateboard style and hip hop music and all that stuff.
Tell us one of your favorite skateboarding memories.
When I was really, really young, after a long day at the beach, everybody on my street would have launch ramp sessions. We were probably eight or nine-years-old at the time, and the older guys were like 14 and 15-years-old, and it was the days of Spike's Skates in Philly, so these guys were coming down and building little kickers and launch ramps. Those were some of my earliest memories—trying to hang, keep up with the older guys.
Tell us a childhood horror story!
Oh, I got a classic one. Brotherly fights. Whatever argument it was, we would start fighting in the house, punching each other and all that stuff. One of my fondest memories was my dad going, "You guys wanna fight? There's no fighting in the house." It was January in southern New Jersey; there was sleet and snow on the porch. He would throw us out on the second story deck and lock the door and say, "Okay you guys wanna fight? You can fight outside. I'm not letting you back in until only one of you is standing." So we'd go out there and throw a couple punches in 24 degree weather and after a while get tired and go, "Come on, let us back in." He goes, "No, one of you guys are still standing." That's how disputes were settled in the dead of winter. We learned real quick that we didn't want to fight outside.
So, how did you get started with Obey Clothing?
I grew up working at skate shops and surf shops. As I got older in high school I started doing the buying for some of the stores. The summer of my junior year of college, I came out to California to stay with a friend down in the San Diego area, and I started interning at a bunch of different action sports companies doing freelance work. My senior year, some guys that I knew were going to break off to start a new company and it ended up they were talking with Shepard. I knew all the guys that had been doing stuff for Space 1026 who had gone to school with Andrew Jeffery Wright, Ben Woodward, and all those guys. I used to see them at Pearl Art Supply over on South Street. I was very familiar with the stuff and when it came time to do a clothing company, I said, "Oh yeah we could totally do something around that."
What is the best thing about working with Shepard Fairey?
His work ethic. He is definitely one of the hardest working people I've ever met in my entire life. He just carries on, carries through anything. He is very, very persistent and passionate about his work. I think it's a real example that if you put hard work into something, it pays off more than good luck. Success is a product of hard work and I think he's an example of it.
Do you guys ever disagree about stuff?
Oh absolutely. Absolutely. It's funny, we're in the clothing business so there's certain trends and you kind of analyze stuff. Do we want to address this trend or do we not want to address it? I vividly remember a few years ago when we started doing some tank tops he was like, "Tank tops? Oh god, that reminds me of Myrtle Beach." I said, "Shep, you've got to think about us growing up, like old school influences, like Christian Hosoi, and all those guys. '80s vert skating, people were wearing tank tops so let's approach it from that angle."
We hear your brother Steve works for Obey?
He handles marketing, a lot of the web stuff, setting up photo-shoots, buying products for the website, he does all the trade shows—kind of a jack-of-all-trades. (Phone rings) That's actually him calling right now! He's been a real asset over here.
How would you describe the Obey lifestyle?
I think this day and age, everybody wants to put something in a box: we're a streetwear brand, we're a high-end fashion brand, we're a surf brand, or a skate brand or whatever it is. The way I think Shep looked at it, and I did also, was we're really a product of all our influences, a lot of those being our friends, or the music we're listening to and stuff like that. So I think as a brand we represent so many different people. I grew up listening to hardcore music and hip-hop and all those things, now I like old-school country. Your tastes grow and evolve, and I think what we've done with Obey is take our early childhood influences, what we were influenced by in high school, and what we were influenced by during the college years, and refresh those ideas and bring it to a new audience.
What is a day at the office like?
I have two offices. I have an L.A. office which we call "The Bunker" which is a 200 square foot closet and I work out of there about two days a week. The reason for that office is one, it's close to my home in L.A. Number two, it's free of distractions. There's no phone there, no fax machines, none of that stuff. It's a place you can go and really focus on designing, storyboarding things, and collecting your thoughts and materials. Then, the other three days of the week I work down in Orange County. Down here, this is where the chaos happens. People think designing is you sit behind a computer all day and draw pretty pictures, make jackets and this and that. Really what it is is kind of the nuts and bolts of things. There's always about three to four seasons going on at once. It's a lot of logistics.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you're designing?
A combination of past life experiences—childhood memories, nostalgia from the things I grew up doing, skateboarding, and music. These days definitely whatever music I'm listening to. We just got back from Copenhagen and Stockholm and that was a big influence. And then, just being out and about. Going out to shows or DJ events or a bar or restaurant with friends. I'm big on designing from a feeling and sometimes at restaurants or a bar or a venue you get a certain feeling from it and you can really translate that into clothing.
What kind of music are you listen-
Musically right now I've reverted to the classics. I've been listening to a lot of old school Mobb Deep. On the country side: Townes Van Zandt, old Fleetwood Mac, things like that. It's a variety.
What was the last amazing show or party that you went to?
The last amazing show would have to be our show that we just went to in Copenhagen, which was Shep's show. God, it was an emotional roller coaster, really the highs and lows of stuff. There was a big show over in the city and he did a bunch of public murals, which ended up being very controversial in some of the places. We had the punks out defacing them, then met with the punks and got that all straightened out. One of the murals that caused all the controversy was where one of the old punk flophouses was. Then the show itself was at a great gallery called V1. The whole community came out: all the skateboarders in Denmark, all the fashion people (it was actually during fashion week over there), and art collectors. It took me back to old school Philly warehouse parties. They had a great after-party where a bunch of band plays. It was just great. It brought you back to that DIY essence when you're 15-years-old at some crazy punk rock warehouse party.
Who are your five favorite artists?
- 1. Shepard Fairey
- 2. Curtis Kulig
- 3. Eric Elms
- 4. Mint and Serf "MIRF"
- 5. Peter Sutherland
Your favorite cities?
- 1. I love Philadelphia, because you can live like a king—extra cheap.
- 2. New York City
- 3. I just recently fell in love with Copenhagen in Denmark. Those people love life.
- 4. Hong Kong in short doses. I call Hong Kong "New York 3000." Everything you want in the world is in one place.
- 5. Berlin. Berlin in the summertime is the best.
What are the most valuable things you own?
Is this like the Burning House? I love that.
- My wife Nikki and my son Sawyer—unconditional love and support.
- My sketchbooks. I have a nice stack of them dating back about 12 years.
- My camera. I love taking photos but usually never print them. I know this annoys my friends and family alike. I think I like just capturing the moment.
- My favorite M-65 jacket. I've had it since college. In my mind it seems kind of corny to love a jacket so much but this thing has treated me well.
Any closing thoughts?
To anybody that wants to get into the clothing business, I think in this day and age there are so many opportunities like with the computer, screen printing, and stenciling. If you're not happy with the product that's out there, instead of complaining about it on the Internet, more then ever you have the tools and ability to make your own stuff. You can do things on a small scale and be able to change stuff. Instead of being more vocal about things, be more active.