It was spring 2004 when GABE and I sat at the beach in Montego Bay. Watching the occasional airplanes flying on and off the island over our heads, our teenage brains were busy digesting the mind-blowing experiences we had made during the past three weeks. Traveling from Port Antonio to Negril via Kingston on our journey through Jamaica, we were lucky enough to visit a KILLAMANJARO dance in the hills of Portland, hold a dub plate session at Jon Baker’s gee jam studio and dig through every single record dealer’s archive in Kingston — from TECHNIQUES to TUFF GONG, from ONE LOVE HI-POWA to ROCKERS INTERNATIONAL. It was on that day that we decided to turn these experiences into T-shirt designs that would allow us to represent Jamaican culture — in our own fashion.
Back in Germany, SEEN was born. gabe started scribbling and I did some research on screen-printing, blank garments and ecommerce.
A couple of months later, we had a basic web shop up and running carrying the first four SEEN items. I had sewn in every single neck label myself and my university-time apartment had started to look like a little warehouse. We did photo shootings with my sister, a random good-looking bar girl we casted at a club in the Bavarian countryside and a former basketball team mate of us. We promoted the shirts with flyers and some corny online banners and thanks to the support of our friends, family and sound system colleagues, the limited editions sold out fairly quickly.
We took the little money we made to produce two follow-up shirts and returned to Jamaica in 2005. We fell in love with the country, its people and the culture even more and decided to move there for one semester in 2006.
There we were, two Germans in Kingston. One at EDNA MANLEY COLLEGE and one at UWI MONA. Studying during the days, working or partying during the nights and printing shirts on the weekends. We had the best time of our lives. We got to meet many people whose work we admire and who became both — close friends and collaborators — from then.
In 2009, we were hyped enough by collaborations with AFFLICTED YARD and PASSA PASSA to release the first real SEEN collection – consisting of seven items. We pushed the popularity of our website with the help of our friend TIM TURBO’s weekly podcast and shirt sales did well in the weeks after the launch. We got tremendous support by a local store as well as some online retailers. Our shirts were worn by artists like NAS, PROTOJE, WALSHY FIRE, KONSHENS and SCHLACHTHOFBRONX.
However, as time went by sales declined without us having broken even yet. Sitting on stash got frustrating but allowed us to reflect about what had gone wrong for us (and what probably goes wrong for many other naive ventures to the world of streetwear, too):
- We pre-produced products without knowing which designs people will like.
- We pre-produced products without knowing which sizes people will order.
- We took too long to earn back the money we spent and therefore couldn’t release follow-up collections without borrowing extra-money.
As a consequence, our activities with SEEN faded out to a level at which we have permanently thought about shutting it down.
Ten years after our first release though, we give it another shot. Rising again like NINJA MAN, we do it in a different style.
From March to December 2014, each month we present one SEEN product designed either by GABE or artists we partner up with on our web site.
For each product, people have 10 days to place their pre-orders. Only products with the minimum number of pre-orders set for each item are produced. We show you what we got and you can raise your finger if you like what you see and want to add it to your selection.
More than ever, what we do with SEEN is the people’s choice and we are excited to bring you X AMOUNT OF NICENESS.
Tobias and GABE, SEEN