Alright folks, here’s our interview with Andrés Lara, the founder and creative director of the brand Belial Clothing. We hope you’ll find it very interesting and insightful!
Alright, hi Andrés! What has brought you to the idea of creating your clothing brand? Did you have any background in fashion?
– Yes, I’m a fashion designer and I’ve graduated from one of the most prestigious fashion schools in Costa Rica. Back in school, I was drawn to the subcultures, alternative fashion, street fashion and their universe, also music, visuals, and style. My fashion school thesis was based on the anthropological aspect of the personal style development and how the new urban tribes always tend to give birth to a new style or a totally new subgenre. So I guess it was the natural way of things that I ended up founding the brand Belial Clothing Co. and designing the clothes in the beginning. My first attempt was Nasty Poodle, a small project I started back in 2005, and it took me until 2016 to be able to return to fashion and create Belial Clothing. We can say that the monster was in the womb all that time, just waiting to be born.
It seems a bit obvious, but just in case the name has a story behind it – why Belial?
– I guess that’s when you come to realize that you have way more in common with the devil than with any other mythological creatures. You accept the fact that the devil is man-made and it’s simply a projection of many aspects of the human nature. Based on my personal discoveries and also my path in the occult world, I became a kindred of Belial, as seen in the Hebrew myths all the way to LaVey’s Satanic Bible, and even Milton’s vision of the paradise lost. The one you see when you look at yourself in a mirror. I guess, many of the adjectives used for Belial have been used for me in both good and not so good way. It’s basically about accepting your alter-ego, but while applying more minion-demon dialectics. Many would expect an “IDK answer” because it’s a name-related story, but no, it’s not like I’d answer this question, because the story of this brand name is indeed deep and very personal. I wouldn’t say it’s very obvious, but surely intentional in a way.
What did your friends and family think of your business idea?
– Honestly, by the time I started I didn’t care what anyone thinks, and I guess my family saw it as one of the most normal things I have ever done in my life! Trust me this was something they accepted 100%, and they knew my ideas of the world, life, death, and religion long before I started talking about the brand. It was not something new for my family. Regarding my “friends”, well some got surprised, others not so much. There were those who couldn’t comprehend the idea of satanism and preferred to distance themselves from me. Others tried to talk me into a more “positive” path and there were people who simply interrogated me to know more about it. They began to see me as a new person as if all this time I was hiding this part of me from them. But in reality, I just started calling things by their real names, so it has always been in front of them the entire time. Some people can read between the lines, but as I said once I started it was too late for them to give me their opinions. And yeah, business-wise I had it all clear, so my family didn’t mind whether I’d sell hotdogs or black clothing as long as I succeed. And so far I do, it’s the era of retro-engineering so you can’t go wrong with that.
The idea itself is great, but what did you do next to move it from the starting point?
– I believe all business and production aspects have to be clear and set before you tell people anything about it. As I was sketching I started an IG (@belialClothing) and started posting my ideas and they got quite a good feedback so I started to take it from there and moving the project forward; But the most important thing is to get your production processes on point – once you got that, it flows. Of course, if you are driven and have a smart MO.
I really liked the illustrations you use for your apparel. Who made them?
– What do you mean who made them, I made them back in the day! I’ve done it all and despite the fact that Belial is sorta one-man company at some point we had collaborations with various artist, designers and now I have a small team aboard that I direct in all artistic aspects of the brand. But you can say they illustrate my vision, some garments are still 100% designed by me – in the garment, graphics, and the whole thing. Now, who is on that team, I can’t tell you that! Haha!
Looking through your designs I couldn’t help noticing that unlike many other dark brands you’re not a fan of simple illustrations. Belial has some plain slogan ones, but there’s a lot of really well-detailed illustrations there too. Which one is the most popular so far?
– All the apparel is very popular, the styles are in constant sold out mode and it’s great that people receive the artwork so well! All from the statement styles to the more artistic ones are doing well! “Life’s a witch”, “Bimba di Satana” on the elaborated side are popular and “Goth Bitch” and “Satanic Sex” on the more political statement side are also doing very well, overall the whole line moves very well with our target audience.
How hard was to get your first customers?
– I came into the game when two mayor players bloomed immensely and took the whole niche. At the same time, a few indie businesses started to gain bad rep since they scammed some folks so it has been rough to gain the respect and demonstrate how we are a true and honest people driven company with high expectations of our values and personal beliefs professionally and in our mission and it still is rough with social media and their constant changing algorithms who benefit some… (remember we are an indie brand with no external financing, so the first buck we made we turned it into 2 and then 4 and so on). You have to earn yourself the respect and trust of the customers with good service, quality clothing, and a customer-focused vision, and that is the main idea. But is not that hard when you are a part of the people you want to share your designs with, I mean I design for them and also for myself, so it’s easy. Our first customer, her name was Kim from California – it literally took me 1 day to sell my first tee! When we just launched and everything was growing immensely from that first order we got our portion of hate. Some people want only see what the big businesses do (witches supporting the mainstream fashion look is kinda hypocritical to me, but whatever, it’s their life), others still refuse to trust the indie brands, but one thing we have so far is that our actual customers never talk shit about us, because we deliver our promises and if there’s an issue we simply fix it. Of course, you shouldn’t try to fool me with claims and stuff but if you come with an honest request I’d do everything to help because I’d want the same from any other company as a customer. I hope I make sense.
You told me you’ve got some hate from people. Was it a usual trolling or rather a form of protest from those who thought your dark imagery was sort of dangerous?
– We have it all man, from the religious ones to the trolls and the snowflake influencers, even other store owners, but I don’t get too caught up on the drama. It’s simply sad to see how a fandom can make really hollow people lead their audience in the wrong direction… Still I sleep very well at night you know! You have to focus on the good things and move towards your goals, the hate is a part of the gig in a way. I guess I try to overlook it, but trust me I don’t forget about it either…A true Satanist knows what I mean!
I’m not sure I know much about the alternative clothing market in Costa Rica. Could you please tell me about it? Is it big in the country? How much is it connected to the local and world music scene?
– No comments… It’s a small and unsupportive scene and market, people here focus on what’s happening outside to nurture their creative needs (not everyone) but yeah, it’s normal. Costa Rica fashion is mainly focused on the mainstream fashion and there are a few cool indie and underground projects, but we all need more investors to grow. Sadly there aren’t many investors willing to put money into the type of fashion we create and the market rather tends to purchase from the brands aboard, it’s also well knows that my country is one of the few left with an official religion so that said it all…
Do you have a plan to extend your product range? Any particular plans of doing something you’ve never done before?
– Yes, we keep trying to source the best providers and work in samples for future releases of accessories and other type of garments to expand the offer, but my priority at the moment is to do what we are doing now in the best way possible and when it’s settled we can move to our next milestone.
Keeping in mind that, as you say, the Costa Rica market isn’t that supportive, have you ever had a plan to move to Europe where the dark/goth/black scene is huge nowadays?
– We are already in Poland, Czech Republic and Germany, you can find our line in Wonderland 13 and MetalShop.Cz and Love x Pollution in the USA. I’m not sure about moving the company completely, what I’d rather do is to open new doors up for the retailers and expand the line to the new horizons. We will be participating in London Edge in 2020 or sooner and I’m certain that many doors will open once we hit the trade fair.
The new apparel brands appear every month, though I wouldn’t say a lot of them manage to survive their first year in business. What would be your most important advice to someone with a vision and a dream to create an own clothing brand?
– 2 words… Shameless & Retro-engineering! Now go do your home work!
Joke, I’d tell them it’s not only about the clothing or the graphic design, it’s the whole package, by that I mean marketing, attitude, the people you collaborate and work with. The essence is the main idea, people love genuine stuff and if you don’t have it they sense it and go away. It’s essential not to be 100% politically correct and always stand to those who’d try to bring you down. It’s a vile and hypocritical environment, the whole business aspect even in the alternative scene you’ll find it really hard to deal with some situations and people that will defend their “territory”, so be relentless and keep pushing your vision with a genuine heart and always read, learn and Investigate. It’s the unholy fashion business after all, and you need to study your market, trends, internal processes and more constantly to stay competitive. It takes time and passion, it is not about the pretty designs you are drawing for the t-shirts, I mean that’s cool too, but at the end of the day what you need to learn is how to monetize them so that’s another type of beast to tame…