Halloween is close at hand, and the internet is all abuzz with costume ideas and cosplay tips and reviews of the latest, greatest haunts—this blog included. But today, I’m going to step back from that, go a bit in the opposite direction even.
Here at GeekDad, we’re lucky enough to regularly feature interviews with creators from across the spectrum of nerd culture. We talk to musicians and actors, graphic artists and writers, but we don’t generally get the chance to interview clothing designers.
This post is different because Hero Within is different. It’s a new brand with a unique attitude and an irresistible style.
Tony Kim, the founder of Hero Within, was kind enough to both answer a few questions about his company and its design concept and provided a peek into the brand’s current lookbook, both of which I’ve shared below.
GeekDad: Hero Within is a relatively new venture; what’s its origin story?
Tony Kim: Being a nerd my whole life, I have been so frustrated with the lack of geeky fashion options for men. For too long have we been expected to keep our fandom in the closet when going to work, church, or out for a social event. So I wanted to create a line that was both subtle and sophisticated, yet bold at the same time. I tested the first prototype at different comic-cons since 2015 with overwhelmingly positive feedback. Many fans have expressed waiting for apparel like this for some time now. Earlier this year we became a company and launched the collection in July.
GD: Unlike a lot of comic- and con-inspired fashionwear, Hero Within apparel is officially licensed by DC Comics. What role does DC and Warner Bros. play in the design and/or approval process?
TK: Nothing too complex–just some basic quality control. WB has been an amazing company to work with. I love them.
GD: It’s impossible to look at your Justice League collection and not be wowed by its style and ingenuity. What’s your previous visual art/fashion background?
TK: Thank you. While I’m still a relative fashion novice, my background is in design and visual communication. I’ve been a designer, art director, and an interior designer over the years. Much of the elements of design are universal and transfer from art to fashion. Even the idea of integrating the symbols into the apparel is basic logo design principles. However, I have always been a fan of fashion and considered fashion design school at a young age. Over the years, I have crafted or commissioned custom pieces to fit my needs. GQ was my first non-comic book magazine that I fell in love with!
GD: Is there an overall design aesthetic that runs through the work at Hero Within? Is there some underlying guiding principle?
TK: Our three basic values are tied to the words integrated, sophisticated, and empowerment. I’ll speak to the first. Being integrated is one of our core values. We don’t just print a bat symbol onto our coats but we fully integrate the Batman logo into the construction of each piece. Why? Because our fandom is a part of us. This integrated design is a reflection that our love for the nerdy things permeates all aspects of our lives. I’m not a Batman fan at home or just on the weekends, but from my childhood, every moment of my existence.
GD: Aside from the heroes themselves, what inspires you?
TK: Good question. As a foster/adoptive parent, I am deeply moved by kids in our social service system. At a young age, many of these kids have suffered traumatic events or abuse and yet they still persevere. One of our “for the cause” efforts is to support these high-risk kids with support as well as sharing their stories. To me, they are the true heroes in our community. Like the origin stories of Batman, Superman, Luke Skywalker, and Spiderman, we can relate to the plight of kids in foster care.
GD: What are your favorites comics and characters? Are there any additional Justice League members (or those from outside series or continuities) that you’re itching to favor with your unique fashion treatment?
TK: Superman has been my favorite since my childhood. Like my own story, he is the ultimate immigrant. Hailing from another place and struggling to find his own identity, he has discovered his special purpose–to be a hero. He will always be my inspiration. As you can tell from our current collection, there are a few missing so, yes, plans are in the works. You will have to stay tuned to see what comes out! They will be pretty awesome.
GD: Which superhero has the best costume, and which would you love to restyle?
TK: Batman is definitely the most fun to work with. His symbol is one of the most iconic images in pop culture today–even with all of its versions, it still makes a statement. Out of all we have designed, his has been the most fun. I’m always rooting for Aquaman–he never gets enough love and his costume is not as iconic as his colleagues. But I think his popularity will boost once the Justice League movie comes out.
GD: Lastly, what can we expect from Hero Within in the future? Any cool new products we should be on the lookout for?
TK: Yes, we will be releasing something new this month and next so stay tuned! Right now we are open for preorders and will be delivering most of the items by December. We are partnering with some special personalities and cosplayers who will be offering special discount codes so be on the lookout for those. Follow us on social media to hear the latest! Our blog also has daily content on the latest news and pop culture trends.
You can learn more about Hero Within and purchase garments from the Justice League Collection via the brand’s official site. From casual hoodies to peacoats, blazers, and beyond, these items are available in sizes X-Small to 2XL and are expected to ship this holiday season. A sizing chart is also provided (for those of us who tend to fall between sizes).
I’d also like to take a moment to thank Tony for his time and for giving us a glimpse into the world of exquisitely refined geek clothing.
UPDATE: Hero Within will be featured in the Le Geek So Chic Fashion Show at LA Comic Con this October 29th. The clothing line will also be exhibited at the show itself, for anyone that wants to check out the collection up close.